Has someone close to you ever given you a random request like this?
“I’m really sorry for so and so fifteen years ago. Please forgive me.”
After racking your brains for a few seconds, you admit that you have no memory of the alleged incident. Forget about it, you don’t need forgiving.
I don’t know if that happens to other people, or if it’s just an evangelical thing. I’ve got it a few times recently, as my family are making redoubled efforts to clear themselves of demonic spiritual inheritances, sins of the forefathers, and sins of our own lives which they feel are putting a heavy black blot of ink over the pages of their books of spiritual accounting.
And I replied in that way. How can I forgive you if I’m not holding it against you? Sorry to disappoint, but you won’t find forgiveness here.
After a long and healthy break away from Christianity, I haven’t come across the word forgiveness too many times. What you find in Buddhism and Taoism is acceptance. It’s different.
When people look for forgiveness, they are looking for some kind of justification. They want their ink blotches erased, removed, vanished completely, leaving only pure white. The gospel of sin management is really all about this.
Acceptance, I suppose, works more like this: I know you did something hurtful, and I accept it; I accept you, without needing any accounting for that action. And certainly I wouldn’t make you changing a condition of this acceptance. What kind of acceptance asks for change? Incomplete acceptance.
Acceptance is maybe less satisfying, because the hurtful actions still exist in the metaphysical ether-they haven’t been washed away. But there is a hidden power to it. If a friend can accept and love me even with my tendency to be an arrogant and proud, I don’t have to worry about being like that in the future. If I’m arrogant again tomorrow it doesn’t matter; my friend accepts me. I don’t need to be forgiven all over again. My good friend has eaten the whole apple, even the bruised bit, and said “that’s OK. Apples are like that sometimes.”
Forgiveness tries to separate sin from sinner and says: “You are okay! Your sin is gone.”
Acceptance swallows the whole lot. “My arms are open to every part of you. Those ugly bits are you, at least for now, and you are my friend.”
These are thoughts-on-the-run; nothing is set in stone. Please let me know if they connect to you or if you have something to add by commenting.