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An article donated by Contributing Editor Susan Humphries:

"Forgive us our Trespasses"

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A trespass involves a person doing something (or saying something) that is wrong, not nice, insulting, rude, unjustified, or in "bad taste."

Virginia Governor Dr. Ralph Northam (D) was discussed in the news during early 2019-FEB because of a old photograph of him and another man that was posted in their medical school yearbook. One man was in black face; the other was in a KKK gown and hood.

Many, including members of his own party, are calling for him to resign.

A year ago a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Brent Kavanaugh, was accused of sexually assaulting a young woman in High School. His nomination was approved and he now sits on the highest court in our judicial system.

Many other politicians and corporate leaders have been accused of racist comments and other negative behaviors from their past.  There are others who are currently saying or doing things that are wrong, not nice, rude, unjustified, in “bad taste."

Why should one person get a pass on their "bad behavior" while the other person (or persons) is held accountable for theirs, and be forced to resign? I don’t know if other people think that there is something seriously wrong here, but I do. I think it is an issue our society needs to discuss.

This issue involves hypocrisy and double standards. Does Kavanaugh get a pass from Evangelical Christians because he is one of them, while Gov. Northam is being called by leaders in his own party to resign because he isn’t one of them? Does Louis Farrakahn get a pass on his anti-semitic remarks and allowed to keep his job while Gov. Northam is held accountable for wearing black face in college -- something he has apologized for? Are these double standards: one set for the one who is like us and another for the one who isn’t?

A year ago I wrote an essay about “Healing, Mending, and Forgiveness.” In that essay I mostly discussed what an individual can do to forgive those who have harmed them directly.

Here, we need to talk about what society does to those who have done something or said something that is wrong, not nice, rude, unjustified, in "bad taste," when they were younger.

Religions and social systems are based upon a belief that people can "grow up," that they can "learn from their mistakes," that they can be “repentant” and feel sorry for what they did or said, and ask for and receive forgiveness.

Without forgiveness, people would never speak to each other. We all do or say things from time to time that offend or hurt other people. Where does society draw the line and say one act is forgivable IF the person apologizes, and another act isn’t whether the person apologizes or not. Who gets the “get out of jail free” card and who doesn’t? And for what offenses are we willing to give a person that “get out of jail free” card and what offenses are so heinous that we refuse to give someone a pass?

Do we really want a society with a “one strike and you are out” sense of morality, where the sins and foolishness of your youth are held like the “Sword of Damocles” over your head for the rest of your life? Or, do we want a society where the man  (or woman) of 18 or 24 can “grow up”, “turn his/her life around”, “become a better person”, admit guilt/error and pledge to do better in the future -- and actually have the chance to show that they have "changed their ways!" If future actions don’t count for anything why would anyone ever change, improve themselves, or ever "grow up?"

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An apology is a personal expression of regret for words or an action committed. It requires one to admit and take responsibility for what he/she did or said that was wrong, not nice, rude, unjustified, in “bad taste”. Also, I think, it requires some honest remorse. We can usually tell when someone is sincere and when someone isn’t.

Again I ask: what words or actions are forgivable with an apology, and what words or actions are NOT forgivable with or without an apology?

It is important to point out that forgiveness doesn’t mean that one has to forgo seeking "justice" in a court of law when laws have been broken, or seeking restitution for damage to property or personal injury.

Forgiveness is really about refusing to hold a grudge. A grudge is about holding a feeling of ill will: wanting to hurt another as in an "eye for an eye" sense of justice. It is about getting "even," or "doing them one better." It is also about being sullen against another: giving someone "the cold shoulder," and/or refusing to ever speak to them again.

In 's article from the Huffington Post “5 Myths About Forgiveness in the Bible” Lewis Smedes, a theologian, is quoted as saying:

"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."

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Author: Contributing Editor Susan Humphreys
Originally posted on: 2019-FEB-12
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