How forgiving are you?
This morning I had breakfast with my dear friend Lana, and over scrambled eggs and porridge we discussed forgiveness. Why and when and how do we forgive? And is it possible to forgive too easily?
I have people in my life who have hurt me down time and time again, and yet I'll forgive them repeatedly, because I know that they have 'issues'. They might have serious problems, or an illness, or have had a difficult childhood, and I feel that this affords them a certain leeway on my part.
But then there are people who will disappoint me once, and I will wipe them from my life forever. And it's not because the transgression is so great; it's because I cannot excuse their behaviour on any grounds.
But why? Why can I forgive some people and not others?
I guess I see people as having a certain degree of emotional handicap, similar to the system used in golf. If you have a serious handicap - depression, for example, or trauma or addiction - then I will give you far more leeway than someone with a very mild handicap. What this means, effectively, is that I may forgive way too much if I perceive you as being very damaged, or needy.
Lana is extremely forgiving (I know this because she is still friends with me), however she disagrees with my notion of emotional handicap. She argues that adults need to be responsible for themselves. Being damaged or having problems doesn't give you the right to be a bad friend, a nasty colleague, an abusive parent, a cruel boss.
So where do we draw the line? Can empathy and sympathy stretch too far? And when does forgiveness undermine our own self-respect? Are there times when it's best to refuse to wipe the slate clean?
I don't know. But you might. Thoughts?