The current fervor surrounding allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment, and intimidation by men of power and position in a variety of different industries and vocations highlights a situation that’s been with us since the beginning of gender relations.
Sexual misconduct is of particular interest to many in society, however as with all transgressions between people when harm is perpetrated, remedies are sought for adjudication and relief. While legal actions and resolutions are often conducted between the parties, for many there is a larger and more lasting consequential stake at issue.
Act(ion)s which require forgiveness most often involve a breach of trust. Regardless of the action(s) driving a wedge between the parties, at the core of our emotional damage or loss experienced is the abrogation of trust, not necessarily the particular act itself. The manifested act does expose the emotional betrayal that brings about a human response. However, it’s this breach of trust that severs the ‘spirit of connection’ between the parties.
Whether we are the transgressor or the harmed party, forgiveness is a both responsive and reconciliatory action. It’s both the process and the remedy to regain trust that has been damaged or lost. The steps in the forgiveness process are always the same: Recognition, Responsibility, Regret, Remorse, Redress, Repetition, and Repentance.
Forgiveness is always tied directly to the last step (Repentance) and is essential for reconciliation and any reparation of trust. A heartfelt renunciation of the act(ion) must be given by the transgressor in conjunction with actual changed future behavior in order for true forgiveness to occur. Only when Renunciation and Repentance have been initiated and accomplished can the parties expect reconciliation. The parties should both understand their relationship may never return to its ‘pre-action’ state.
Forgiveness and Repentance are part and parcel of the same process, however in this redemptive process all seven steps must occur. Repentance (as evidenced by actual future changed behavior) is the unequivocal step. Without it forgiveness should not be given and cannot be granted.
As the transgressor, nothing can happen until he/she is prepared to apologize and renounce the aggrieved act(ion) by; (1) Recognizing the offense. Once recognition takes place the process may continue. The transgressor must then take (2) Responsibility for the action or act(s) committed. Next comes acknowledged and heartfelt (3) Regret followed by (4) Remorse in order to formulate some form of (5) Redress and an understanding that (6) Repetition of the act(s), action(s) or offense(s) cannot take place in the future under any circumstances. Finally, (7) Repentance (as shown by actual changed behavior from the previous inappropriate and/or harmful actions.) Successful implementation of these seven steps requires and must deliver a secession of old pattern behaviors and act(ion)s. When changed future behavior is actually in evidence, forgiveness may be considered, given and received.
Repentance is imperative for it’s the new action needed to reestablish a modicum of trust. To truly be repentant the transgressor must actually change his or her future behavior in every new opportunity or similar circumstance. Without repentance the other six steps are for naught. Without actual and true change in future behavior there can’t be true heartfelt forgiveness.
The sole and separate difference between forgiveness among individuals, and between God and the individual is God’s unconditional love. His unconditional love allows forgiveness to be complete and total in spite of the transgressions (rebellious moral or ethical disobedience [sin]). Forgiveness is the consummate act of God’s unconditional love for each of us. Forgiveness of our mortal ‘sins’ is accomplished through His unconditional love, and compassion.
The goal in the process of forgiveness should be that we might grow spiritually to do all three; dismiss the act, accept the repentant transgressor’s remorse, and forgive (with [unconditional] love.) If we were to establish a spiritual state of unconditional love for those who have caused us harm, damage, or loss, we could better understand our spiritual selves as recipients of God’s grace and mercy.
In the “Forgiveness/Repentance” model recognition of a ‘transgression’ goes hand-in-hand with emotional remorse as preparation for completion of the steps previously described. God’s unconditional loving spiritual nature and character always makes His forgiveness attainable.
The physical and material world demand our daily attention and participation. Even when we have surrendered to a new spiritual relationship with God it doesn’t mean our tomorrows will not be peppered with temptations, moral and ethical tests or faith challenges to our new spiritually guided choices.
Spiritually grounded or not we remain influenced and assailed by the material world’s tempting offers. No matter our place on the spiritual path we each walk a tightrope between responding as encouraged or expected based on past experiences of need and approval, or guided by a new choice to respond more Christ-like.
Should these people of power and position be forgiven? That decision is best laid at the feet of those involved, however when we see the plank in our own eye before pointing out the speck in another’s we will better understand the link between forgiveness and compassion in our own lives.
All the best,
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