Forgive: Now more than ever

Chaplain’s Corneroliver edwards

Padre Oliver Edwards

Action films have never been more popular. People stepping up and taking matters into their own hands, people dishing out violence in all kinds of forms from the cartoonish punch-ups of the Marvel films to the bloodbaths of the John Wick movies. People love it. It has a timeless quality, because it taps into a universal desire inside all of us: the desire to see justice done. In previous decades, action movies featured heroes of authority – soldiers, sheriffs, cops, and so on. In the last 30 years, legitimate authorities have largely given way to vigilantes and “mavericks” rebelling against corrupt systems and organizations. But their motivations and outcomes remain the same: justice.

And we eat it up. Because all of us at some point in our lives, have experienced injustice. Someone somewhere at some point (or most often in many points of our lives) has done us dirty. Watching someone else serve up justice to wrongdoers (come on! Who kills a man’s dog?) gives us a vicarious thrill, even satisfaction. It doesn’t take long for this quest for justice at any cost to be internalized, without even meaning to.

If we are honest with ourselves, we all should know that while we would love to see others get justice, to see them get what they deserve, to reap what they sow, to experience a little “eye for an eye”, we don’t actually want justice for ourselves. We do not want to face up to where we ourselves fall short. Because we know we have. We know that sometimes, even a lot of the time, we don’t live up to our own standards let alone the standards of the world we live in – whether it’s creating exceptions for ourselves behind the steering wheel, or in a million ways we interact with others and put ourselves and our comfort ahead of what is good for someone else… or even everyone else. The truth is: we want others to get what’s coming to them, but not ourselves. We’re special. We have reasons. We have excuses.

There is only one way out of this. There is no relative way to rationalize our own selfish biases. There is no way to explain away how it is that we accept that we aren’t perfect, but expect it from others, all the time. That path is through forgiveness. Through finding a way to give grace – undeserved kindness – to those who have hurt us, hurt those we love, or hurt what’s important to us. This is so important in today’s climate of rising tempers, social media fire-stoking, and tendency to simply cut and run rather than work through what can be worked through and come out the other side stronger.

Forgiveness is a subject that is bigger than a few hundred words in a column can encompass. It isn’t as easy as pretending an offence never happened, nor does it mean you set yourself up for re-victimization. Forgiveness is a process. If you don’t understand how to forgive, or would like someone to help you navigate the process, reach out. 4 Wing has a whole office of people in Mental Health who can help, there is a conflict resolution team here as well, and as always, the 4 Wing Chaplain Team is here for you whenever you need. Don’t wait on forgiveness. Holding onto anger and bitterness only punishes you – most times the object of your anger doesn’t have any clue the pain you are inflicting on yourself. Reach out and begin the process of forgiveness today. The only regret you will have is that you didn’t start sooner.

oliver.edwards@forces.gc.ca