Forgiveness is the answer – but what is the question?

Forgiveness is the answer – but what is the question?
  • Thursday 9th May -

Forgiveness is the answer – but what is the question?

Ever since Marian Partington came with her colleague Marina Cantacuzino to deliver the Annual Lecture at Bleddfa Centre, I have been turning the idea of forgiveness over and over in my mind. And I still don’t have a definitive view, still just lots of questions.

Is forgiveness for the forgiver or for the forgiven? Imagine you had committed a damaging crime; now, imagine that your victim forgave you – what would that feel like? Could you repudiate that forgiveness if you felt so guilty that you believed yourself unworthy of being forgiven?  

Can one forgive oneself if the harm you have caused remains and you are unforgiven by anyone else? Does an act of atonement facilitate self-forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a central tenet of the Christian religion on one reading; “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But the Church can appear to be a harsh and punitive organisation in some manifestations. For just one example, I was recently reading about the notorious Magdalene laundries in Ireland. What can forgiveness mean in the context of religion?

Is forgiveness the opposite of revenge? If someone is forgiven, might they also still be punished? Or in offering their forgiveness, has the victim himself expiated the harm they have experienced? Does forgiveness sit alongside justice?

Does forgiveness offer a route to some sort of peace? Is forgiveness a way for a victim to relinquish their status as a victim and to reclaim something – if only a memory – of what was altered, stolen, destroyed or damaged by their aggressor? Could forgiveness ever be a defiant act, a refusal to be overcome?

Is forgiveness an act of will - or a state of mind? Or an emotional and mental journey involving both? Is forgiveness necessarily a spiritual achievement, or can it be enacted in a secular way?

When Oscar Wilde famously said that living well is the best revenge, might he have had something not unlike forgiveness in his witty mind?

More seriously, Marian Partington has said “Working towards forgiveness seems to be the most imaginative way of becoming free and offering freedom. It is only something you can line yourself up for; you can’t make it happen. But I know it’s the only creative way forward…”

Marian, who is both a Quaker and a Buddhist, has worked with the ideas and the actuality of forgiveness though her work with the Forgiveness Project, through her personal journey through grief, through her engagement with people in prison. Using stories, she explores forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution. Here is a video of a talk she gave in 2017 on the topic.

On Saturday 18th May 2019 Marian is facilitating a workshop at Bleddfa Centre.  Offering a safe and positive space to explore and experience the complexity of becoming For-giving, participants will engage with contemplative silence, meditative movement and creative sharing. “By facing the darkness within ourselves and others, we begin to realise the radical, imaginative liberation of forgiveness which allows the healing spirit of love.”

The course costs £50, and you may either add £8 for a cooked lunch, or feel free to bring your own food.  The day starts at 9:30 with registration, coffee and introductions, with the workshop formally starting at 10:00am.  The workshop will finish by about 4:00pm in the afternoon.