Last night, I thought about forgiveness and making things right. I think in general it’s assumed that when Party A forgives Party B, that Party B is in some respects let off the hook (so to speak) and that Party A releases any hurt feelings. And that attitude is sometimes an impediment to forgiveness because in our hearts, we don’t want to let a serious offender go scot free.
We’ve discussed this before on the blog (and always ended up with a thousand comments because it’s contentious) but I believe it’s fully possible in a criminal matter to forgive someone while expecting him to be held accountable for his crime in court. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean refusing to testify against him or asking the DA to dismiss the case. It means that you stop wishing harm against him because of what he did to you. That in some respects, you want what’s best for that person (and most of the time, I would argue that a criminal standing trial and facing justice for the crime is what’s best for everyone.)
But last night, I had a different perspective, and because I found it soothing (and because I needed a blog post) I’ll share it. I think this works for the everyday hurts and “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.”
Imagine a beach. It’s been walked upon, sand castles built, trash left, and the sand is pitted by use. Perhaps someone went through with a four-wheeler when that’s forbidden, deep gouges left behind.
We would like the shore to look flat and smooth again, so we could get on all fours with a plane, or we could blow the sand with huge fans, or we could drive a steam roller over it.
Or, alternatively, we could let the tide come through and smooth the sand in one sweet motion, sweep in, sweep out, stir up the sand and lay it flat again as it pulls back out to sea. The deeper gouges and the taller piles may taken longer, but over time the relentless in and out will smooth it flat. The trash will get covered over. The shore becomes beautiful again.
Justice is an action we take in order to right the wrong. Forgiveness would seem to be the action of letting the waves make it smooth again.
In my mind, I imagined the rush of the water, the incursion of the tide, the smoothness of the sand.
It’s not easy to forgive, but maybe sometimes it’s easier to forgive than to restrain the ocean while the construction crews move through with rakes and rollers.