TO FORGIVE is HUMAN
HOW TO PUT YOUR PAST IN THE PAST
Michael E. McCullough, PH.D.
People in Western civilization have been trying to learn how to forgive for at least thirty-five for at least thirty-five hundred years.
According to Jewish tradition, God obligated himself to a covenant with Israel because of which he would forgive and sustain Israel as a nation, despite the nation’s periodic transgressions and unfaithfulness. In response the Israelites resolved to honor God by forgiving one another.
According to Christian tradition Jesus took the Hebrew vision of forgiveness a step further. He proposed a radical new culture that would not be limited by ethnic, religious, political or economic boundaries, a culture in which our relationship with others would be defined and regulated by our continual recognition of God’s forgiving love for each of us and for the entire world. In this radical culture our relationships with others----family, friends, strangers, and even enemies----would be guided by our attempt to live out our forgiven-ness!
Based on these initial Judeo-Christian roots, good and wise people wrote theology, philosophy and political theory that would shape Western civilization and insure that forgiveness would be an ideal for how we led our lives.
There efforts paid off!
Thousands of year later , forgiveness is still highly prized. Research by the Gallup Organization found that 94 percent of Americans have prayed for forgiveness at some time. (Life Survey on Prayer - 1993) If what we pray for points to what is important to us, then forgiveness appears to be important to nearly all of us. In another study, 45 percent of a random sample of Americans indicated that they regularly tried to forgive as a response to being hurt by the actions of others. (Forgiveness in Psychotherapy: A Comparison of Younger and Older Therapists. Frederick A. DiBlasio, 1990)
Concerns about forgiveness are not limited to the United States, for around the world people want to forgive and to be forgiven.
Humans have a moral sense. We regularly praise or criticize people on the basis of moral standards that may be inconscious. “He is so rude” and “She is incredibly kind” are not just comments about the contours of a personality. They are statements about vices and virtues.
James Q. Wilson, a psychologist at the University of California—Berkeley, suggests that the reason we do this is that human beings have a moral sense.
Almost everyone starts making moral judgements about right and wrong at an early age. These judgements may differ in complexity, but they usually develop into social habits that we us to evaluate ourselves and others. Wilson points out that our everyday conversations are filled with the “language of lorality” clocked in psychological terminology. Our discussions of what id bad and what is good in relationships reflect our assumptions of how relationships should to be: sincere, fair, loyal, and the like. That does not mean that humans are innately morally good or that the moral sense is the only sense that influences behavior. It simply means that most people around the world—and in virtually every culture----sense a moral oughtness and distinguish good from bad.
Church of the Science of God
La Jolla, California 92038-3131
© Church of the Science of GOD, 1993