Forgiveness and Being Forgiven


LIFE’S LESSONS

HENRYLITO D. TACIO

Mr. Tacio, who hails from Davao, is a correspondent of the Asian edition of Reader’s Digest. He is the first and only Filipino journalist to have been elevated to the Hall of Fame in science reporting by the Philippine Press Institute. In 1999, the Rotary Club of Manila bestowed him the Journalist of the Year award. He is also East Asia’s contributing editor of the People & the Planet based in London.

For comments, henrytacio@gmail.com


“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” – Mahatma Gandhi

In 2010, Benigno Aquino III became the president of the Philippines because of his anti-corruption platform.

Four years since Aquino came into power, some journalists wondered. “What is the state of his campaign against corruption?” asked Siyasat, a special report from the radio station DWIZ. “Is his administration really staying on the straight and narrow path?”

Corruption exists because Filipinos tend to forgive easily. That is the gist of Siyasat’s special report. It quoted Professor Jeffrey Alfaro Lubang, cultural historian of De La Salle University in Dasmariñas, Cavite, who said that Philippine culture never had a tradition of abetting wrong deeds.

Corruption still thrived; Lubang was quoted as saying, because of the strong Filipino culture of forgiveness. “Except for former President Joseph Estrada, no big fish has been convicted for corruption or plunder in the country’s history,” the report noted.

“In fact, Estrada didn’t spend a single minute in an actual jail because he was eventually pardoned by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” added the special report.

Why do most Filipinos easily forgive those who have wronged them? Is it because of its religious affiliation? In Asia, the Philippines is the only Christian country. In the Holy Bible, Jesus Christ taught His followers to forgive a person seventy times seven. If you care to know, seven is the number of infinity.

If you have been watching telenovelas, you will observe that the story is soon going to end because the leading characters have already forgiven the antagonists. The same is true with most Filipino movies.

But on second thought, most viewers feel aghast when the “kontrabidas” (antagonists) are forgiven and not punished in the end. There should be blood for blood, an eye for an eye, so goes a familiar adage.

“Yes, you can require tooth for tooth in retaliation,” wrote David Augusburger in his book, “The Freedom of Forgiveness.” “But what repayment can you demand from the man who has broken your home or betrayed your daughter? What can you ask from the woman who has ruined your reputation? So few sins can be paid for, and so seldom does the victim possess the power or the advantage to demand payment. In most cases, making things right is beyond possibility.”

Repayment of what has been done to you is indeed impossible! “What of revenge?” asked Augusburger. “If you cannot get equal payment or restitution from the offender, at least you can get vengeance. Pay back in kind, tit for tat. Serve the same sauce.”

Is that what you really want – to bring yourself to the same level with your enemies? But remember one saying which goes this way: “Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging an injury makes you but even; forgiving it sets you above.”

Revenge is not the solution, indeed. “Revenge is the most worthless weapon in the world,” Augusburger wrote. “It ruins the avenger while confirming the enemy in the wrongdoing. It initiates an endless flight down the bottomless stairway of rancor, reprisals, and ruthless retaliation.”

Revenge is a never ending story. But forgiveness is another story. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus said: “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

“I’ll never forgive you,” General James Oglethorpe, a British general, member of Parliament, and philanthropist, as well as the founder of the colony of Georgia, told John Wesley, one of the most influential Christian leaders in history. “Then I hope, sir,” Wesley replied, “you never sin.”

“One that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which all must pass if they would ever reach heaven; for everyone has need to be forgiven,” George Herbert once pointed out.

Forgiving and being forgiven are all of one piece. “It is not a matter of which comes first,” Augusburger explained. “There is no sequence of time or priority. The two are one. Anyone who loves God must also love his neighbor. Anyone who hates another does not and cannot love God.

Forgiveness and Being Forgiven 2“Love of God and our neighbor are interlocking and indivisible,” Augusburger continued. “We only learn to love as we learn to know God. And we truly learn to know God as we learn to love our brother and sister. It’s all of one piece. The life that is open to the love of God is loving to others. The person who truly receives the forgiveness of God is truly forgiving of others.”

But what are the wrongdoings that can be forgiven? “Not just the small things, the trivial irritations, the tactless, thoughtless mistakes others make,” Augusburger declared. “But everything, even the hurts that cut and sear. There are no exemptions. Seventy times seven!”

But the question is: Can you forgive the person who has committed wrongdoings to you even if he or she is not asking for it?

Another question that is hanging before Filipinos these days is whether the late Ferdinand E. Marcos, who died in 1989 in Hawaii, should be allowed to be buried at the Heroes’ Cemetery in Taguig City. It was scheduled on October 18, but was cancelled.

Wikipedia shares this idea as to why the late President wasn’t allowed a hero’s burial: “The burial of Marcos has been a controversial issue as critics particularly victims of human rights violations during the Martial Law era and participants of the People Power Revolution opposing attempts to bury Marcos, who they deem as unfit to be buried at the particular cemetery due to his policies which were deem dictatorial.”

Will the forgiving Filipinos allow Marcos to be buried at the Heroes’ Cemetery in the coming years?

The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. come in handy: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

November 2016 Health and Lifestyle

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