Monday, December 16, 2013

By Editor
Sun 03 Nov. 2013, 14:00 CAT

IF Michael Sata is able to forgive those who were hired or had hired themselves out to claim he was a Tanzanian and not a Zambian, who is Wynter Kabimba not to forgive Robert Chikwelete?

If Michael easily finds it in his heart to forgive those who were hired or had hired themselves out to beat him up at Ichengelo Radio Station in Kitwe, who is Wynter not to forgive Chikwelete who was hired or had hired himself out to denounce him, humiliate him and accuse him of all sorts of things?

Wynter says if he is going to be a disciple - a true disciple - of Michael, he must practice his virtues. We agree. We should not forget that the name Christian means like Christ, follower of Christ. Now, Jesus Christ was humble, most pure, poor, meek: how can his disciple and imitator be proud, dishonest, angry, greedy and unforgiving?

Alexander the Great once said to a soldier who also had the same name but was sluggish, mean and cowardly: "Either change your name or change your behaviour."
Forgiveness is the only way to inner peace. A Chinese proverb says, "One who pursues revenge should dig two graves."

There are people who do wrong things because they do not have sufficient knowledge or freedom. If they are not guilty, what is there to forgive? The tendency to behave in a particular way is so deeply rooted in our nature as a result of childhood and adult experiences.

This obviously raises the question of free will. We know that we have free will and that human beings are not totally at the mercy of the past. Yet how much influence free will has on us is a moot question. Human experience shows that it is very, very fragile. Though the concept is hard for us to accept, it seems to be well-founded on the Bible and human experience, taken in a wider perspective.

True, the evildoer's action is bad or wrong. It hurts us. He knows what he is doing. But how much does he know? Does he know all the implications of his actions on himself or on others?

To realise that there is nothing to forgive is true forgiveness. There is nothing to forgive because he acted out of ignorance, he was misled, he was manipulated. To forgive just because the other apologised or admitted his mistake or out of condensation, is no true forgiveness. Forgiveness is an act of love and in love, one does not put another down. The interaction has to be on the basis of 'win-win'.

When I forgive because the other apologised, it is like saying, "Okay, now that you have realised your mistake or admitted it, I forgive you." Here obviously one is in a one-up position. On the other hand, when one says, "oh, what is there to forgive? I probably would have done the same thing if I were in your shoes," both are winners.

Hence the words: 'It is easier to forgive an enemy after you have gotten even with him.' True forgiveness is as rare as true greatness. "Unless your justice exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom" (Matthew 5:20).

Forgiveness is difficult, especially for those who have been brought up in an atmosphere of harshness and resentment. But forgive we must, if we are to find peace of soul and health of body. It is said that life is an adventure in forgiveness.

Nothing clutters the soul more than remorse, resentment, recrimination. Forgiveness is a gift we need to give not only to others but to ourselves also, freeing us from self-punishment and enabling us to see wider horizons. There are times when we feel wronged, betrayed, deceived, humiliated.

It would be unhealthy not to react against the outrage. Certainly, we ought not to grant others the right to give us ulcers.

But we shouldn't think that forgiveness is only a precept of Christ or of religious teachers, it is also a law of nature. Forgiveness helps health. Non-forgiveness, holding a grudge, resentment and various forms of anger, all perform the same task - they keep us protected from perceived danger and away from the pain of loss.

Much psychic and physical energy is needed to keep up this defensive attitude. Most of us have experienced how resentment fatigues us. Forgiveness, on the other hand, puts us in contact again with people. This relaxes us, saving a lot of energy.

Forgiveness is easy when the violators see the pain they have caused us and sincerely apologise for their wrongdoing. The trouble is that they may not always apologise. Some people just don't realise how much pain they cause us.

Some of the careless, untruthful and malicious things people say about us can indeed cause us a good deal of pain. Yet others may feel that they have pained us, but are too proud to apologise. They feel that if they do, they diminish in our estimation, forgetting the truth that admitting a mistake is a sign of greatness.

Forgiving is not easy and sometimes we may find it too hard to forgive. Some may try different means and yet not succeed in forgiving.

Christ tells us three things we can do, as a last-ditch effort, which can help us towards forgiveness, provided, of course, we want to forgive and are ready to do what he asks of us. He says: "But I tell who hear me: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you" (Luke 6:27-28).

If we want to forgive and love our enemy, we need to do good to them, bless them and pray for them. These are all acts within our power. Forgiveness, like love, is not so much a feeling, as a decision to act in a particular way.

Feelings are not directly under our control, but actions are. We may have to do these actions almost mechanically for some time before we begin to experience feelings of forgiveness, namely the absence of resentment and certain degree of closeness to or freedom with the other person.

The first requisite to reconciliation is that we do good to those who have hurt us. This is what St Paul means when he says: "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge: I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: if your enemy is hungry, feed him: if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head" (Romans 12:19-20).

The second is to bless them. "Bless them", as its Latin root "bene dicere" means to speak well of the other. Avoid all criticism, slander and gossip about the others and say good things about them.

The last prerequisite is to pray for them; pray, not that they may realise their mistakes and come to apologise to us, but that God grant them their wishes and all things that would make them happy. It is remarkable how those who do these things get rid of their resentment and come to forgive others. Some might object that it is hypocrisy to behave towards others as if we love them when we really don't.

There is no hypocrisy here, because we admit that we don't have feelings of forgiveness but we are doing these acts precisely because we want to forgive. Hence the saying, "Enemies are not those who hate us, but rather whom we hate."
We usually say 'forgive and forget', as if to mean that when we forgive someone, we also forget the incident that caused us pain.

Forgiveness does not imply forgetting. As long as our memory is reasonable good, we will remember most of the things of our pasts, both good and bad. So remembering a painful incident does not mean that we have not forgiven. The test whether we have forgiven or not is whether we behave lovingly towards the other and speak well of him. One indication of such forgiveness is that we do not get emotional when we think or speak of the event that pained us.

However, to forgive does not imply that we are as close to the other person as we were earlier. This could happen; but not necessarily. It is perfectly okay to forgive one and at the same time decide not to have the other around too much, if that is possible or desirable. If from previous experience we know that temperamentally we do not get along too well with the other, it would be in the interest of both parties, to keep a respectable distance without, of course, alienating the other.

To such as those who thus forgive will peace be given: "Therefore as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body, you were called to peace. And be thankful" (Corinthians 3:12-15).

It is in this light that we look at Chikwelete's apologies and Wynter's forgiveness of him. There are great lessons for us all to learn from this.

Those who were using Chikwelete will see his act as one of betrayal, of selling out to Wynter. Others who are of goodwill will see Chikwelete's act as a good thing and in line with Christ's teachings and the behaviour expected from a good citizen, especially one who aspires to be a political leader of his people at any level.

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