Forgiveness does not Erase Consequences

I hate to generalize, but in this case, I will.

This is not a knock on people of faith. I was raised one and continue to be one.

Call it tough love.

Every now and then, a politician finds an advisor who knows the secret code words for activating people of faith.

These secret code words create a combination of selective amnesia, selective blindness and a sudden willingness to allow a little moral flexibility.

Sometimes it’s invoking the Supreme Court (there is still bitterness over lost battles, particularly in the 70s and 80s, but even a few recent ones).

Sometimes it’s raising the specter of future religious persecution or restriction.

Sometimes it’s about accusing a political opponent of moral weakness.

Sometimes it’s about invoking the “no one’s perfect” incantation. (Never mind that we should be trying to be despite the fact that “most nearly perfect” is the best anyone would ever get).

There is a long list of these, but you get the point.

Lately, there seem to be some astute advisors who have gotten in the ears of presidential candidates about the magical powers of invoking “forgiveness.” Say your sorry and all past sins are wiped away until the next one. The amnesia trigger is flipped on and fury rained upon anyone who does not absolve he who forgives.

It is true that when an apostle asked Jesus as to whether someone should forgive someone who wrongs them seven times, the answer (paraphrased) was “no, it should be seventy times seven.” It is also true that for followers of Jesus, unconditional forgiveness is offered as an example of God’s forgiveness of humans despite our constantly erring ways.

Nowhere, however does it say that forgiveness erases consequences.

Forgiveness is a good thing. It does not automatically repair trust. It does not mean the lessons learned about a person’s character based on the nature and frequency of their offenses. Forgiveness is all about the spiritual, physical, emotional and mental health of the forgiver. It’s about letting things go inside of oneself so one can move on with making him/herself better.

It is not there to make the forgiver stupid. Nor is it there to make the forgiver easily manipulated.

Jesus also admonished his followers to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Notice the first part of the statement. I fear that religious voters are forgetting wisdom and rejecting harmlessness.

Lately, it seems there’s a sense is that an ‘I’m sorry’ [we can debate the genuineness of an apology and evaluate the proper structure of a true apology, but let’s leave that out] means a candidate shouldn’t face consequences for what they’ve done, and everything goes back to ‘ol buddy, ‘ol pal.

I disagree.

[originally posted October, 2015]