Thoughts about Forgiveness

For Weeks 6 and 7 of Ongo Online

In the buddy practice and solo practices for these two weeks, The Ongo Book dwells on forgiveness rather heavily. The three of us have lots of issues with the way that word is often used and we’re guessing some of you might too.

Forgiveness is often thrust on people with the word, “should.” You should forgive _____.” As Marshall Rosenberg says in Nonviolent Communication, should is a violent word that can cause shame and guilt.

One context in which that happened to us was when supporters of a religious leader who had committed many acts of sexual misconduct were telling us to forgive so that the leader would have no consequences, no accountability, for his behavior.

We like the Ongo definition of forgiveness on page 134:

Forgiveness means being able to acknowledge, love, and empathize with the human needs behind a thought, word, or action even if we don’t necessarily agree with the thought, word, or action itself. Ultimately, it means deeply seeing the human-ness in our self and others.

Forgiveness, like letting go, actually happens by itself once we have done the work that enables us to empathize with ourself or others when our needs haven’t been met.

Another NVC exercise that is focused on doing this work is Dissolving Enemy Images.