Forgiveness and the Impact it has on Pain and Suffering

The etymology of forgiveness comes from old English “for” meaning completely and “giefan” meaning to give or to receive. It is defined as to give up resentment against an offense. In psychology forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person who has harmed you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or denying the seriousness of an offense.

Forgiveness can help repair relationships and bring reconciliation. Forgiveness can bring the forgiver peace of mind, free the forgiver from destructive anger, and a desire for revenge that poisons the entire being. It can lead to feelings of understanding, empathy, and compassion for the one who caused the pain and hurt, enabling a way to go on with life. For the one receiving forgiveness the first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs done in order to admit and correct mistakes that have been made.

Receiving forgiveness can give the forgiven the ability to stop continued self criticism and self judgment, offer healing, instill a sense of gratitude, relieve pain and suffering, and overcome one’s wrongdoings as long as they can also forgive themselves. Forgiveness can be given conditionally or unconditionally. It can be asked for one’s self, or in favor of someone. It can be given for wrongdoings without the offender asking. It can be a new start. However true forgiveness can’t be forced and others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. The books covered this semester are: The Iliad, Unbroken, The Old Man and the Sea, The Crucible, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. In each of these books forgiveness and the impact it has on pain and suffering is a main topic.

The Iliad is about revenge, pain, and forgiveness. It begins when Achilles is unable to forgive Agamemnon for taking away Briseis and quits fighting for the Greek in order to ease his pain and revenge this offense even though Agamemnon offers him many gifts and treasures. It seems as if Achilles never forgives Agamemnon but this resentment is overcome by a bigger pain and quest for revenge when Achilles’ beloved cousin Patroclus is killed by Hector.

Achilles fights and kills Hector but it does not bring him peace. He tries to make sacrifices to the gods, honors Patroclus with games, and even drags Hector’s dead body behind the chariot and leaves him without proper funeral rights, but nothing can take his pain away. Similarly King Priam is filled with pain and grief over the loss of his son Hector and Hector not being able to cross over to the next world without proper burial. He goes to Achilles at night and cries for Hector’s body, seeking forgiveness for  Hector’s slaying of Patroclus.

Priam says to Achilles “have pity on me, remembering your own father, yet I am more worthy of your pity, for I have endured to do what no other mortal on earth has done: to raise to my mouth the hand of the man that killed my son.”

Achilles pities King Priam gives King Priam twelve days of peace to prepare and bury Hector’s body. Giving this act of forgiveness finally brings Achilles peace and forgiveness given to Priam gives him peace. Also Priam forgives Achilles for killing his son, so in the end, after seeking revenge for most of the book Achilles himself finds forgiveness from his enemy.

Pain, forgiveness, and redemption are topics in Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Louis Zamperini endured immeasurable and nearly indescribable pains, sufferings, and humiliations in the Japanese prison camps and by his preeminent tourterer The Bird Watanabe. The bird never sought forgiveness for his wrongdoings. The post war nightmares caused Louie’s life to crumble, he fell into alcoholism and it nearly destroyed his marriage. He wrote a letter to the Bird:

“As a result of my prisoner of war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment, my post-war life became a nightmare. It was not so much do to the pain and suffering as it was the tension of stress and humiliation that cause me to hate with a vengeance.”

This strikes similarities with Achilles as for pain calling for vengeance. Eventually, Louie found God and committed his life to Christ and the message “Forgive your enemies and pray for them.”
Louie returns to Japan and forgives all the Japanese war criminals including Watanabe, who was not present. To recover from his trauma of war and rebuild his life he had to let go of the destructive anger that was poisoning his entire being. Forgiveness become the most powerful resource for achieving redemption. By forgiving Louie found the inner peace that he couldn’t find in the years after the war. The Bird however didn’t find the inner fulfillment and redemption of forgiveness for his wrongdoings.

Pride, pain, and forgiveness are topics in The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. Santiago, an old fisherman, has gone eighty-four days without catching a fish so he sails out farther than ever before, far beyond the other fisherman, to the deep waters, where the biggest fish are to be found. It is not only a matter of survival but also of restoring his honor and pride and proving to himself that he can still do it.

When he hooks the largest marlin, a fight of life and death filled with pain and suffering between him and the fish follows. Both him and the majestic fish are equal rivals displaying qualities of pride, honor, courage, resourcefulness and endurance. It is an epic battle. Santiago fights aches and pains, cramps and cuts in his hands, hunger, thirst, and exhaustion, just as the fish strains against the line, fighting to shake loose, without food, and also battling exhaustion. Santiago says:
“You’re feeling it now fish, and so, God knows, am I

The old man compares his pain to the pain of the fish, and this is what allows him to see a brotherhood between them. When the old man finally kills the majestic marlin, who had roamed the deep seas free and without fear of predators, they start their way back home. On their way sharks repeatedly attacked them and devour the best meat of the fish. As the sharks shred the Marlin to pieces, Santiago feels remorse and regrets that he traveled so far out to bring in such a beautiful fish to such a pitiful ending.

He reminds himself that he didn’t kill the marlin simply for food, but that he killed it out of pride and love. He wonders if it is a sin to kill something you love. His pride took him so far out, but now he wishes that he hadn’t killed the marlin. He acknowledges the wrongs done in order to admit the mistakes he has made. He apologizes to the dead marlin for the mutilation it has suffered by the sharks and the pain he caused. He admits, “I shouldn’t have gone out so far fish. Neither for you nor for me. I am sorry fish”. He realizes it did neither of them any good. Ultimately he hopes for forgiveness for his misdoings.

In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, personal felt pain and forgiveness or unforgiveness are dealt with in the characters of John and Elizabeth Proctor. John has an affair with Abigail Williams and Elizabeth becomes suspicious. When he admits his wrongdoings to her, she must learn how to forgive him and overcome her hurt and resentment. But John blames her that she has not forgiven him and continues to blame him. John says:

“I confessed, some dream I had must have mistaken you for God that day. But your not and let you remember it. Let you look sometimes for the goodness in me and judge me not.” She says: “ I don’t judge you, the magistrates sit in your heart that judges you.”

John think if God forgave us, we need to be able to forgive others, but Elizabeth thinks that only God who knows your heart can judge you. When one is hurt, one does not easily forgive, and it seems as if Elizabeth can’t forgive. John is pained by his mistake, feels guilty before God his wife and himself. He blames Elizabeth that she can’t forgive him but he also can’t forgive himself. When Elizabeth is accused of witchcraft by Abigail Williams, he accuses Abigail in court of being a whore and admits his adultery before the court in an effort to save Elizabeth. She never did anything wrong but he has wronged her.

When the court asked Elizabeth about John’s affair, Elizabeth lies to cover him, which might show that she did forgive him and loves him still. John dreads admitting his adultery in court since he is already pained by guilt, but he sacrifices his name to protect her, and now his good name is also lost. In the end, the court offers him a conditional forgiveness if he would confess to witchcraft and accuse other citizens. He refuses and so has a possibility to redeem himself and protect the integrity of his name and honor. He could escape death, but it was not worth living the rest of his life on a lie. Elizabeth’s forgiveness and regaining his good name and self respect enables him to forgive himself and find peace even on the ways to the gallows.

In The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, lies, loss of trust and forgiveness are central topics. When Chritsopher’s mom abandons him and his dad, his dad is devastated and tells Chris that she died. This might be because he was trying to protect Chris’s feelings from the pain of abandonment. Then In his frustration about Mrs. Shears leaving also him and Christopher, in a burst of emotions he kills Wellington.

He should have considered Chris’s obsession with the truth, so when Chris finds out that the mom is alive and that his dad killed Wellington, his dad’s lies are worse than his mom abandoning him. This almost breaks their relationship because for Chris these lies are nearly unforgivable and he doesn’t feel safe anymore in the presence of his dad. Chris and his dad need to work to restore their relationship. Honestly acknowledging his mistakes, his dad asks him for forgiveness as the first step to save their relationship.

His dad says:

“ Christopher, look, you have to learn to trust me, and I don’t care how long it takes because this is important, more important than anything.”

Chrisopher has to learn to forgive his dad, and to learn to trust him again. This forgiveness will take his and his dad’s pain away and bring reconciliation. Forgiveness will restore their relationship and rebuild trust.

In conclusion, demonstrated by the examples above, the quote holds true: “It takes a strong person to say I am sorry but an even stronger person to forgive.

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