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"Forgive and you'll be forgiven" taken out of its context

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Forgiveness is one of the things that people ask, but have a hard time giving.  Forgiveness is also easier to ask when you're little than when you're an adult. As we grow up we learn that forgiveness is not easily granted, so one day we stop even asking for it. But these are not the only case scenarios. People also ask for your forgiveness just so they can get away with things. However, the scariest of all the cases is when others tell you that Jesus said "forgive and you will be forgiven."

So "forgive and you will be forgiven" can be used in different contexts. For example "forgive those who repent and you will be forgiven too... when you repent" or "forgive yourself for your own mistakes and others will forgive you too." In both of these case scenarios, if we would have a better picture as to what the context was, we can see that these possible conversations could have ended with "forgive and you will be forgiven."  I will take each of these case scenarios and elaborate them in order to get a better picture as to when this saying could apply. But before I do this I would like to take a better look at the way this saying was first intended to be used by the Christian community.

From many documents written one hundred to two hundred years after the actual events took place, they were interpreted as "forgive and you will be forgiven when the Day of Judgment comes."   Could Jesus have mistakenly thought he was predicting the end of the world two thousand years ago? Well, since the end did not come, one could say that whatever he was preaching regarding the end of time was wrong. 

Others tried to hide this fact by making up different stories and saying that Jesus was talking in a figurative way about the end of the world being near. Whether Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet or not is another subject, but let's assume for a moment that Jesus' words really meant what he said, that Jesus was talking about the Day of Judgement. In that case it seems like "forgive and you will be forgiven" will be used as a good measure for judging. But is it? If we accept that God one day is going to judge his creations why would God base this judgement on whether one fellow forgive the other fellow? How would a father forgive the killer of his own daughter? I am trying to come up with any reason as to why Michael Rafferty sexually abused and then killed the 8-year-old Tory Stafford, but I can't. Even if I accept that this young man is mentally ill, I cannot forgive him for this action, until I see that he is cured and accepts the responsibility. I am glad that the killer is given to justice. I don't think God will not forgive me and I do not think God will not forgive Tory's father for not forgiving his daughter's killer at this time.

Cases like the one I just mentioned are even more sensitive in other parts of the world, when the whole family is exterminated in front of one's eyes. How could this person grow up and forgive his enemies? Psychologists and doctors would agree that these events would cause too much damage to a person's emotional and mental state. To forgive? Impossible! We are asking humans to act inhumanly. God created us with emotions and this is the best part of us. We enjoy love, desire, beauty, we would jump into a fire to save our fellow human just because we are humans. We act unpredictably based on our emotions. So God cannot punish us for something He Himself created. It's like the owner punishes a dog for barking. It is this fear that dogs feel about strangers that make them worthy to guard the house. So, obviously "forgive and you will be forgiven" is not meant for the final judgement. 

However, if we change the context a little bit and add "forgive those who repent, and you will be forgiven", this could be used as a good way to judge. Why? Let's see. If someone asks for forgiveness, and you understand that this act is sincere, then if you still hold grudges and you still want revenge your action will be judged. It is clear that continuing to keep a hatred situation alive by not forgiving a sincere apology will only bring more revulsion, more hurt feelings, and, as a result, more anger. In this case you are initiating more conflicts, which will result into more hurt. On the other hand, when someone hurts you and doesn't even ask for forgiveness you rightfully cannot forgive. But what can you do in order to not continue these arguments any further? What can you do when you cannot forgive? (And remember it is quite human to feel that way). The best action in these cases is to remove yourself from that anger and hate environment. Separating yourself from people who abuse you is the best that you can do when you feel victimized or unfairly treated. As long as you are not initiating any more anger on your side, more hurt or conflict, then you will be forgiven, even though you cannot forgive your abuser. If Jesus really meant "forgive and you will be forgiven" it is in this context, emphasizing that "an eye for an eye" is not the solution.

In my life I have tried it so many times, to forgive others before they even asked to be forgiven. Instead I got insulted even more. Why? Because this simply doesn't work the way it has been introduced to us until now. It simply doesn't work because it is taken out of its context. When you forgive someone that doesn't really feel remorse for what they have done to you, all they understand from your act of forgiveness is that they were right and you were wrong. With this mentality they continue to abuse you and treat you the same way as before, which is, hurting you. Like me, many others also have tried to forgive others who do not deserve it. Like me, many others also got hurt in return, again and again, until one day this saying "forgive and you'll be forgiven" had no more value.

So let's ask ourselves this question: Is it possible that many of Jesus' sayings are taken out of their contexts at the time the gospels were written, in order to make them unworthy, somehow? To me the answer is obvious. Yes, misinterpretation is done with an agenda in mind. We cannot deny that Jesus himself believed that Satan exists and would want to mislead humanity. Many believe, myself included, that this is exactly what has happened during the time the new testament is written. Jesus is one of the most misquoted figures with the most obvious reasons to be targeted. Taking Jesus' words out of their context, making Jesus divine, something he was not, it is all done with a long purpose in mind: to deceive humanity. Making humanity believe that Jesus was not human, therefore we are now waiting for a saviour that will have such magical powers and will save us from Satan, so that we don't have to do anything in the meantime but wait. The reality might be quite different from what we expect to happen. 

In the reality, if we do nothing to discover the truth and prepare ourselves for the big day, the second coming of Jesus, then that will be Satan's glorious victory. So, as Rene Descartes, one of the 17th century's most famous philosophers and mathematicians, once said, "If you would be a real seeker after the truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things." Jesus too was talking about understanding the truth about God and the kingdom of God; he did not talk in slogans, as organized religion does, he tried to explain and make people understand why things should be in certain way. Therefore again we can reach the conclusion that if there isn't any story related to this saying then it must be taken out of its context, which for some reason must be hidden.

Another case scenario as to when this saying could have been used is "forgive yourself and others will forgive you too." This might sound a bit too selfish at first but once you understand its meaning then you would agree, too, that this is taken out of its context. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article when we are little we ask for forgiveness when we make those little mistakes. In fact if we didn't say "sorry" we were constantly reminded by our parents to apologize. Later on, this forgiveness is not granted every time we want so we start judging ourselves. The more we judge ourselves for our own mistakes the harder we fight to justify our errors. Until we accept the mistakes and forgive ourselves we will never stop this fight inside us and we will never be in peace with ourselves.

The solution is quite contrary from the case when others abuse and judge us unfairly. The solution to this problem is not to escape from it but to face our own mistakes. It is not easy to accept being wrong. But the more we run away from our mistakes the more they hunt us down. So the only solution in this case is to accept wrong doings and forgive ourselves. Once we learn to forgive ourselves it is much easier to forgive others (when they repent).

But let's not make excuses for our mistakes, because excuses are not forgiveness. If we continue to hide the truth at any cost, because we feel embarrassed to accept it, how can we ask others to forgive us then? The process of facing our own mistakes and then forgiving ourselves is a hard process, because it requires us to feel guilty for our actions. But let's face it we are all humans, and so we all make mistakes. If we feel guilty to the point that we want to hide our errors at any cost, then this cost will be a cause for judgement. So, now you understand that "forgive to be forgiven" might indeed be a necessity for humans, but not in a way we thought that meant.


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Ardiana Bani Cohn, author, life coach, and a college instructor. Teaching math and science for 22 years, continuisly reading and taking courses in psychology, philosophy and metaphysics all these created the ground for discovering laws of living, (more...)
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