FORGIVE AND FORGET. OR GRIEVE FOREVER
Today I did a google search on "collecting injustices" a fabulous old psych term Dr. Bergler used to describe people who try to get a negative payoff off blaming some evil doer. They go around grousing about evildoers at the same time sniffing down even imagined slights and virtually collecting a stack of injustices which they repeat zealously to anyone who'll listen!
And then my boss told me I was an idiot. And
here's one where my ex wife told me she loved
another man and wanted out! And here's a real old one
where my father left me alone in the sandbox..
Searching online for this term was hard! One page I googled promised an article on how PRIMARY NARCISSISM was the cause of this syndrome. I agree, but I couldn't read the piece, that page being a membership only SITE with rich psychiatrists in mind. PEP its acronym meaning PSYCHIATRISTS EVEN PAY for articles like that...however, narcissism is a darn good hint. When one is a narcissist one only thinks of ones self and one's own point of view, so every betrayal looks like a big deal. It will never be forgotten and there will be a great deal of anger over it. Women don't get angry of course. they get HURT, wounded. Men get angry but under the anger there is a lot of primal wound you cannot reach without a lot of therapy. (Read PRIMAL SCREAM THERAPY, the BIG CAN OPENER! ) Women are more in contact with their 'hurtness..' But both have primary narcissism to not see that hey, you picked that hurtful person as part of your universe, you are to blame! Taking responsibility is the mature view. And deciding never to let a betrayor INTO your universe and to watch carefully for signs of selfishness or flightiness in our life choices...(bosses, sweethearts,) is our second, mature step.
Now, in searching for an article on COLLECTING INJUSTICES, without the search term BERGLER along with it, I found this on a Jewish website.
On Forgiving and the need for YOM KIPPUR.
In the weeks preceding Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday of 'forgiving,' I visited the shore house of a friend. I had a wakeful night so I went looking for a book to read to help me go back to sleep. There wasn’t much of a choice, but I thought that Age Erasers for Women would do the trick. It is a publication of the Rodale Press, which specializes in nutrition-related health information. If you have ever stood in a supermarket checkout line you have probably seen, and maybe flipped through, their Prevention magazine. Rather than put me to sleep, it woke me up, and I spent most of the rest of the night writing. Why? Because sandwiched between an article on fiber and one on hormone replacement therapy, there was an article on forgiveness.
That was the time of year when rabbis look for inspiration for their HHD sermons. Inspiration can come from the most unexpected places. And I have to say that this year I found it in a book that said the failure to forgive could cause wrinkles. Actually, it can, but it is not the cosmetic consequences of failing to forgive that I want to discuss today.
We are all victims of life’s injustices, those of commission (you are a good husband or wife and yet your spouse wants a divorce) and those of omission (you got passed over for promotion even though you are well-qualified). Some injustices are small, and some not so small. Sometimes injustice happens to us as individuals—for example, not being invited to your cousin’s wedding. Sometimes injustices happen to us as part of a group: we are denied opportunities or we are chosen as victims because of our religion, or our race, or even our height.
Injustice knows no age barrier. Even the very young are attuned to injustice, perceived or real. How often have you heard a child say, “It’s not fair.” It’s not fair that he got the bigger cookie, or he got taken to the zoo and I didn’t. And some of us who are older wonder why we have become seriously ill at a too young an age, especially when we took good care of our health—we ate well and we exercised.
When faced with injustice, most people get angry for a while and then they get over it. But what happens when we hold a grudge, when we do not forgive?
1. Were we really wronged?
With the coming of YK we are at the end of a period of what should have been an intense self-scrutiny. The emphasis in this period has been on introspection, asking forgiveness and resolving to live more responsibly. When we review our behavior privately, how easy it is to look at things we did that were not so good, and to find extenuating circumstances for them, and to forgive ourselves. If we can find extenuating circumstances for our own behavior, we should consider that the behavior of the person whom we believe has wronged us, may also have extenuating circumstances. The heart and mind are private places. Unless we are explicitly told, we cannot know what mitigating circumstances may explain another person’s harmful behavior toward us.
We might also ask ourselves if we are too quick to take offense. Do we pass judgment hastily without asking for or giving the other person an opportunity to explain? If so, we should change.
Do we make a habit of collecting injustices? Some people “get off” on being wronged. If so, we should change.
Have we lost our sense of proportion? If we look at the totality of behavior of the person who we believe has wronged us, do we let the one way in which that person has wronged us outweigh all the rest of his or her good behavior toward us? If so, we should think about it. Also, is our pride being hurt, or do we have reason for righteous indignation?
Are we victims of the snowball effect? If we do not forgive little wrongs, they tend to mount up geometrically and we are left with a massive grudge.
When members of families end up not speaking to each other, they may blame it on a specific incident. But more likely, that is just the final straw in a history of holding smaller resentments and grievances against each other. It’s sad.
I had great uncles who were twins who did not speak to each other for almost fifty years, until they both discovered that they were dying of cancer. Their children missed knowing each other as they were growing up, and they would have liked each other. They even went into similar professions. Each twin produced a doctor and a social worker. Why should we wait until death approaches for reconciliation?
On Yom Kippur we say the confessional Al Cheit seven times. Included in the list of 54 sins is, “v’al cheit sh’chatanoo lifanecha b’sinat chinam”—“and for the sin which we have sinned before You by causeless hatred.” Perhaps there is a very real reason for the hatred, but to hold on to it for a very long time is a sin. Remember that Judaism accepts that people can do teshuvah (repentance), that they can return to a state of goodness, and consequently, they should be forgiven if they truly repent.
2 Are all things forgivable?
You may ask, are there wrongs that are not forgivable? In recent history, we have to ask that question about the Holocaust. Today, Germany has good relations with Israel. The German people and the Jewish people are friends. Is this right? After all, the Bible does speak of visiting the sins of the parents on the children. In the second book of the Torah, Exodus 34:6-7, it says: “Extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin; yet He does not remit punishment but visits the iniquity of parents upon the children and children’s children, upon (i.e., up to) the third and fourth generations.” The “third and fourth generations” of post-Holocaust-era Germans are now alive. Shouldn’t the iniquity of their parents also be laid on them?
No. Listen to the following daring midrash (rabbinic legend):
Moses addresses God. “Sovereign of the universe, many are the wicked who have begotten righteous men [and women]. Shall the latter bear the iniquities of their parents?
Consider Terach who worshiped idols, yet Abraham his son was a righteous man.
Or Hezekiah, a righteous king whose father, Ahaz, was a wicked king.
Or King Josiah, a righteous ruler, whose father Anon was cruel. Is it proper that the righteous be punished for the iniquity of their parents?
The Holy One answered Moses, “By your life you have taught Me something. I shall cancel My words and confirm yours.” (Num. R. chapter, par. )
And so it is written in the fifth book of the Torah, Deuteronomy (24:16): “The parents shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the parents. Every man shall be put to death for his own sin.”
Germans under the age of 80 are not responsible for the Holocaust sins of their parents. As for those Germans over age 80, only someone who suffered at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators can possibly forgive that category of people. I, and almost all of you, are not among them.
Personally, I do not see how murder can ever be forgiven.
But most hurts that we have suffered can be forgiven, if the offender is truly sorry, compensates us for damages (should they be called for), and pledges to refrain from similar misbehavior in the future. Wouldn’t we want to be forgiven for our hurts to certain individuals?
3. Forgiveness v. reconciliation
There are notable examples of forgiveness in the Bible. Esau seems to forgive Jacob for stealing his birthright. After an estrangement of many years, they meet at Jabbok (after Jacob has wrestled with the angel during the night). Esau greets Jacob with chivalry. The Bible tells us that Esau “ran to meet him (Jacob), and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” (Gen. 33:4) Then there is Joseph who forgives his brothers for throwing him in a pit and then selling him off to traders. (Gen. 45).
Both these examples illustrate forgiveness accompanied by reconciliation.
But sometimes, forgiveness is one-sided and it doesn’t mean that the other party has changed in any way. The words of forgiveness may not even be spoken aloud to the other party. Forgiveness is something you sometimes do for yourself, not only for someone else.
Alexander Pope, an eighteenth-century English poet, wrote:
“To err is human, to forgive divine.” Elaborating on these words, a twentieth-century rabbi, Morris Margulies, wrote: “To err is human, not to forgive is inhuman. There is nothing divine about forgiveness. There is something distinctly bestial, devilish, and sadistic about inordinately prolonged anger.” (Morris B. Margolies, in “A Word or Two,’ in Beth Shalom Congregation’s synagogue bulletin of 1/11/63, Kansas City, MO)
In the Talmud (Yoma 23a) it says: “He who forgives…will himself be forgiven.”
On this day of Yom Kippur, let us resolve that we will forgive others, those who are truly repentant, and may that forgiveness be as much for our sake as for theirs. Holding on to grudges means making a choice to suffer. Judaism does not require us to suffer, but it does require us to improve for our own sakes and for the good of others. So let us improve by forgiving. Let us put aside behaviors that lead to unhappiness. Let us choose to be happy (and healthy, and wrinkle free) in the coming year 5768.
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