Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fox's "House" raises some interesting questions about forgiving

Last night's (Feb. 14th) episode of House featured a patient who could remember every moment of her life. (No spoilers here as to the eventual diagnosis).

This raised interesting questions about how her super memory influenced her ability to relate to others, especially those who had hurt her in the past.

She seemed unable to forgive, which led a doctor to wonder if she was choosing to give greater weight to bitter memories than sweet ones.

What if our memories were, indeed perfect? Would that make us objective and rational in our judgements, or would other forces in our makeup be able to slant our interpretations of accurate memories?

Jesus speaks one of his many emphatic commands to forgive in one of today's lessons:

‘Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.’

St. Benedict applied this passage to the preservation of community life in his Rule for Monasteries (Ch. 13),

The Morning and Evening Offices
should never be allowed to pass
without the Superior saying the Lord's Prayer
in its place at the end
so that all may hear it,
on account of the thorns of scandal which are apt to spring up.
Thus those who hear it,
being warned by the covenant which they make in that prayer
when they say, "Forgive us as we forgive,"
may cleanse themselves of faults against that covenant.

Hannah Arendt, a post-Holocaust political philosopher and not a Christian, nevertheless heard in Jesus' teachings the power to forgive and set humanity free from the "irreversibility" of actions and consequences. "Irreversibility and the Power to Forgive" was a chapter of her book The Human Condition, nicely excerpted by another blogger,

"Without being forgiven, released from the consequences of what we have done, our capacity to act would, as it were, be confined to one single deed from which we could never recover; we would remain the victims of its consequences forever, not unlike the sorcerer’s apprentice who lacked the magic formula to break the spell...The discoverer of the role of forgiveness in the realm of human affairs was Jesus of Nazareth. The fact that he made this discovery in a religious context and articulated it in religious language is no reason to take it any less seriously in a strictly secular sense."

What are the forces within us that rebel against the liberating potential of forgiving? Always a worthwhile question for our troubled world.


Anonymous said...

On the one hand, my happiness and my very survival depends upon my not perseverating much of what happened in my childhood. Survival is our first instinct.
But, imagine if I were a doctor and could remember every remedy I tried, or a lawyer who could remember clearly the laws I've read about, or clergy who could remember scripture so as to be able to help others?
Well, if I couldn't survive my childhood, none of that would matter, would it. As much as I try, I cannot completely "Let Go, Let God". I opt for the imperfect memory. To forgive means to let go and I do that as best I can, yet it tries to haunt me. (I just fight back when I wake up from those dreams.)
To remember and to forgive is the greatest blessing. God forgives us. We must forgive others so that we can move on, even when they have no remorse.
And by the way, I believe it is OK to forgive ourselves when we, too, aren't perfect in forgiving others. IMHO

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article, it was what I needed to read this evening.