I’m sorry you’re not better than you, like I am

Is forgiveness just a “I’m sorry” and an attempt to not do it again?
I don’t believe it’s that simple. I actually don’t think that the concept of forgiveness that we have really exists. I don’t think that we can just hear a “I’m sorry” and determine how sincere a person is and then in our hearts say “Ok, you sound like you feel really bad about yourself and your actions, your suffering is all I really wanted and needed as payback for the suffering you caused me, now you’re forgiven.”
What is forgiveness? Why does the concept of forgiveness, whether it’s true or not, exist in the human collective conversation?
Humans have the capacity to think outside the rules of reality. Setting aside theological and philosophical debates about reality and its existence, we know for sure that human beings are able to transcend whatever reality is in their minds. We are creatures who are largely incapable of looking at reality as it is. We add meaning to it unnecessarily, and largely negative ones. A lot of the time we’re incorrect in our evaluation of how things are. And we then add how things should be. Using our ability to transcend reality, we rationalize how events in the world and universe should have happened based on our emotional responses to the meaning we place on those events.
An avalanche isn’t an avalanche anymore, it’s a disaster. An earthquake killing hundreds of human beings is tragic. We then have this interesting trait of taking out the emotional frustrations we feel towards an event that we decided to judge as negatively on someone we feel is more powerful than us, who could have prevented it. Blame the President, he could’ve prevented it. Blame the scientists, they could’ve foreseen it. Blame God. He could’ve stopped the world from having avalanches as soon as he placed human beings on the world.
All that we deem as “mistakes,” are in some way a defiance of what’s-actually-so that led to a negative result. We falsely misjudge things and that leads to actions and behaviors that results in offending ourselves or offending someone else.
Offense is not based on reality either. It’s difficult to have an objective offense, so most people are offended by subjective things based on how they interpret reality. The interpretation of reality is largely based on the values that a specific person upholds. Values are beliefs on what is good and what is wrong. So a person who values peace and calm will look at war and violence as wrong while a person who values honor and prestige won’t mind roughing it out with someone to save face.
So, when you have one person misjudging reality and acting based on that misjudgment, and you have another person (it could be the same person) who’s values are offended by that specific action, the you have the equation that leads to a possible need for an apology.
For the aggressor, the person who committed the act of misjudging reality, it’s pretty easy to just re-evaluate reality and decide on whether there was a mistaken action taken or not. The person might find that there is nothing to apologize for, “no, I don’t see any other way to re-interpret that man punching that other man as right. So my action of punching the man who punched that other guy was right.” Or the person might find that there is something to apologize for, “you know what? She’s right, I AM a real dick sometimes.”
But it’s the person offended who needs to do most of the hard work. How is the offended person supposed to go about not being offended anymore, even after being apologized to? There are a few options available:
1. Continue being offended
2. Forget about it
3. Re-evaluate the set of values and beliefs
Option 1 is usually a painful option and most people wouldn’t choose it willingly. Option 2 would be nice if we knew how to forget things. If we continue telling ourselves what to forget, we’ll never have problems remembering it. Maybe over time if we keep our minds occupied with something else the memory will slowly fade. But chances are that if it’s really something offensive, like a broken trust, then it’ll stick around for a really long time. And we may be able to keep from remembering for a long period of time, but eventually something reminds us and then it feels pretty bad.
So Option 3 seems to be the only solution that we can actually act on as soon as possible. Re-evaluation of beliefs and values is a very intricate and complex process. But we humans have this “easy” button inside of us. Kind of like hitting the computer monitor when it’s flickering to fix it, which happens to work fairly often for whatever crazy reason, we humans can sort of “knock some sense” into ourselves. Whenever you hear of things like a “paradigm shift,” or “life changing experience,” that is what I’m talking about. These events seem to shake our very being to the core and that emotional and mental violence causes us to loosen our grasp of the beliefs and values that we subscribe to. Moments like this allows us to reset our wiring in different ways.
Is that the only way? For the bigger things like lost trust, probably. Is there any other way? Sure, but that’ll take hard work and that’s sort of lame.
So if you are having a hard time forgiving someone, my advice to you is to go have a really horrible life threatening moment. I promise you that next to a near-death experience, that person insinuating that your mother isn’t the most virtuous woman won’t seem like a big deal.


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