Monday, 14 May 2012

God and Logic. Logic and God.


Harry was a practical man. Pragmatic, calculating and very very logical. He always thought things out thoroughly and his conclusions were logical and well worked out.

One day he asked Father Ignatius if he could spare some time for a chat. The always approachable priest took Harry to his office in the Parish House and after a cup of coffee and biscuits he encouraged him to speak.

“It’s something I’ve had on my mind for years Father,” started Harry, “I’ve never actually confessed it at Confession, which might be a sin in itself I suppose, but it still keeps niggling me at the back of my mind. So I’d assume this chat is a Confession in itself.”

The kindly priest smiled and nodded to encourage him to continue.

“Years ago,” Harry said, “someone hurt me very badly. It totally changed my life, and even today, my circumstances and my life are the result of that person’s action towards me.

“That person then moved on to another town far away and we haven’t seen each other since.

“I believe I have forgiven that person. Truly and honestly forgiven them in the sense that I do not seek any retribution, revenge and nor do I bear any ill will whatsoever towards that person. Even though, as I said, my life is still affected by what that person did. I even pray for that person sometimes, would you believe Father!”

The priest smiled and said nothing.

“But I tell you in all honesty Father,” continued Harry, “I hate that person. I don’t wish that person bad as I said, but I don’t like that person at all. I still get angry at times, thinking at what has been done to me. Even though I forgive again deep in my heart I still hate.

“That person never asked for forgiveness. And the likelihood is that the person doesn’t even care for forgiveness.

“Does my private hate negate … wipe away my forgiveness?”

Father Ignatius said nothing for a while; then, cautiously he said.

“When we forgive, our forgiveness should be total. Without any conditions and given in love.”

Harry interrupted.

“Yes I understand that. And strictly speaking Father I have forgiven totally. But how can I possibly love a person who has totally changed my life for the worse; and that of others too?

“My hatred, as I call it … my anger towards that person … is a private hatred and a private anger within me. The person does not know about it and is not harmed by my personal feelings in any way.

“That person has moved on to another life and doesn’t even care about forgiveness.

“How can a personal feeling, which technically speaking does not harm another person, be considered a sin? Surely God can’t accuse me of harming that person?”

Father Ignatius waited a while and then replied, “You say the person does not know nor cares about your forgiveness, and is therefore not harmed by your private thoughts and feelings towards them.

But … is your sin against God perhaps. In that your forgiveness is not total since you hold some hatred back?”

“But Father …” Harry continued, “I have done my utmost best to forgive totally in that I wish that person no ill-will whatsoever.

“I just can’t help disliking, and sometimes hating that person.

“Surely God knows how I am made up as a human. He created me and He gave me all these emotions we humans share.

“Dislike and hatred are such emotions. God knows very well that my hate is borne from anger and perhaps unhealed hurt and a sense of injustice within me. God gave me all these feelings and He can’t possibly blame me for reacting naturally to what’s happened to me.

“If my hatred resulted in harm and revenge towards the other person, then I understand it’s wrong.

“But my private hatred hurts no one. Neither that person, nor any one else, knows about it so how can it possibly hurt them or be a sin?

“If anything, the hatred is hurting me as it burns inside me … but I can’t help it. It’s the way I’m made.”

The priest prayed silently for a few seconds. He understood that the man was still hurting badly and yet, Harry used his impeccable logic to reason that his private feelings were no sin towards man or God.

“Let’s look at it another way” said the priest calmly, “you’re right Harry in saying that your private hatred is not physically or in any other way hurting the other person.

“You’re also right in saying that your hatred is an emotion given to you by your Creator together with all the other emotions we have as human beings.
  
“But God also gave us the emotion and power to love. In fact Christ told us clearly to love one another; especially our enemies.

“So by hating the other person, however privately, you are denying them your love. You can’t love and hate at the same time.”

“So is it a sin?” Harry interrupted again, “because I can’t help how I feel about this person. No matter how I try. I bear no ill-will as I said, but I just can’t like or love the person as you suggest!”

“I understand …” Father Ignatius said gently, “the world has seen many evil leaders do many evil things over the years. It is not always humanly possible to love them and forgive them as Christ did on the Cross.

“He is God … and we are not.
“But at the very least we should try as best as we possibly can to forgive wholeheartedly, even though, in human terms, our hearts can’t always genuinely love as He commanded.”

14 comments:

  1. I love your story-telling, Victor:-) This one is so sad. It makes me realise how hate spreads and how it can deceive people into a false sense of security.

    Does this story continue, Victor? I'm wondering, now, how Harry solves his dilemma.

    God bless:-)

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  2. I love your story-telling, Victor:-) This one is so sad. It makes me realise how hate spreads and how it can deceive people into a false sense of security.

    Does this story continue, Victor? I'm wondering, now, how Harry solves his dilemma.

    God bless:-)

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  3. Hi Vicky,

    Thanx for your kind comments. Yes, this is a sasd story. The thing is Vicky ... sometimes deep inside we truly forgive. We don't wish the other person bad or ill-will. But we just can't help disliking them, or hating them ... or perhaps hating the situation they put us in.

    That's the dilemma for Harry. He does not wish his wrong-doer any harm and has truly forgiven and prays for him. Yet ... whenever he thinks of his daily situation, and changed life for the worse, he hates the wrong-doer. Privately, personally, he still hates.

    Is that a sin?

    I don't know. Perhaps some readers could share their views.

    Fr Ignatius says that hating and loving don't go together. So by hating, Harry is not loving the wrong-doer as Christ commanded.

    But Harry says he can't help it. Hate is a natural emotion within him. Like all our other emotions.

    I hadn't planned a continuation story, Vicky. It's a dilemma I have not sorted out yet ... if ever.

    God bless you.

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  4. This is a great story because it taps into an area where many of us probably have questions. Sometimes people really DO do things that change one's life forever and they never get closure or an apology. They never know the "why" of it and may not know until heaven.

    Love is a choice I think. Even if the feelings don't match we can still always choose love. The will is more important than the emotions, don't you think? I know I can't depend on my emotions, they seem to be as unpredictable as the wind from day to day.

    God says pray for your enemies. It makes sense because the truth is that they are not really your enemies but your brethren in Christ (though some may not realize it yet.)

    I'm interested in what others say about this situation. This is a VERY good post, Victor. Thank you.

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  5. Thank you Mary for your kind words.

    Our priest said in the sermon on Sunday that love is a commitment.

    We commit to love. Even our enemies.

    But is this possible Mary? Can we truly love someone who has hurt us and continues to do so?

    Christ loved His enemies on the Cross. But He is God. We are not. And cannot love as Him.

    Fr Ignatius says in this story that the world has seen many evil leaders carry out atrocities. Can we really love them? We may forgive them; even though the pain persists. But can we really love them?

    And is it a sin if we don't? Albeit we forgave them; as Harry in this story?

    Like you, I look forward to other peoples' views on this.

    God bless.

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  6. I think hate is a sin whether you say or do anything about it. But maybe what Harry is describing as hate isn't really hate. I think hate always carries a sense of malice. I do know that our human nature makes it impossible to love our enemies. We can only give our hatred to God and submit to his Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who loves through us when we choose to love our enemies.

    Excellent story, very thought provoking.

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  7. Victor,

    Maybe we can't help disliking someone but we can always wish the best for them regardless. We can pray for them if nothing else. There are some people I dislike and they haven't had the least effect on my life. I just avoid them. Is it a sin to dislike them? But dislike isn't the same as hate. I agree with Sarah that hate carries with it a sense of malice.

    Also maybe forgiveness happens gradually, going deeper each time. I think I have whole heartedly forgiven someone and then new pain washes over me. It is necessary to reaffirm that forgiveness, to keep asking God to heal my heart. It's not a one off event but a continual process, turning to God constantly to stay on track.

    Thought provoking!

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  8. Hello Sarah and Sue,

    There's a good point being made here in that hate involves malice. Harry does dislike, or despise the individual who hurt him, especially since the results of that act still affect Harry daily in his life. He has forgiven him and wishes no revenge or retribution. But he can't help the feelings he has towards the wrong-doer.

    Is that feeling a sin? Or just a natural reaction to the hurt and perhaps slow healing that is yet to take place.

    Let's look at it another way.

    What is love? How can Harry "love" the person who hurt him? How do we "love" our enemies?

    Is forgiveness and not seeking retribution and revenge "love"? Is praying for the wrong-doer "love"?

    Can you have love and still despise the person?

    Fr Ignatius thinks not. He sees lack of love as disobedience of Christ's commandment to love our enemy.

    But can we really love like Christ did on the Cross?

    God bless you and your families Sarah and Sue.

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  9. Wondrful story and a story most of us can relate to. Maybe we aren't defining love in the right context. Maybe Jesus meant that Harry should value this person as a human being verses those mushy feelings that we normally equate love with? Thank you. This is a very thought provoking post.

    Thank you for your kind comment you left on my Mother's Day post. God bless.

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  10. Thank you Beautiful Whispers for your kind comments.

    You make a very good point. Maybe we're not defining love too well. Perhaps Christ is asking us to forgive as best we can and to recognise the wrong-doer as a creature of God who has gone astray. As the hurt person, we should hand them over to God in all confidence that He will deal with the situation in His way, in His time, and in His love and mercy.

    Thank you Beautiful Whispers for a new perspective on this.

    God bless you and yours.

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  11. Victor,

    Beautiful Whispers brings up a good point! Surely loving someone means wanting the best for them (for them to get to Heaven) and Harry is not required to have a warm and fuzzy feeling towards the person who wronged him?

    I am wondering if Fr Ignatius should have shown more compassion towards Harry. Deep scars can be left when we are hurt, depending on the situation. These scars can actually make life very difficult. Even if we can forgive, we still have to live with scars. Fr Ignatius didn't ask Harry if he'd like to talk over his situation. Harry might end up feeling guilty because he is unable to love like Jesus. He really is the victim here, and given love and understanding and empathy, he might be able to heal and actually look at his wrong-doer in a better light.

    Victor, I just noticed your Feedjit. I can see I have been here for over a minute and also I visited about 3 hours ago. But you know that already because of my comments!

    God bless.

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  12. Hi Sue,

    You're of course right that Fr Ignatius should have shown more compassion towards Harry; and no doubt in real life he would have. When writing, I have to keep my stories tight and short so they don't go on. I agree, Harry is still hurting ... many of us often do in real life when we've been severely wronged.

    You make a very good point about Harry not being required to have a warm and fuzzy feeling towards his wrng-doer. Perhaps, we don't really understand what Christ meant by "love your enemy". I know, I don't.

    Did He mean love him like we love our children? Like we love our friends and colleagues at work, or our neighbours? If so, I know that I can't ... Of course one can forgive; but how can one "love" as if the person is still a friend?

    Or how can one love as Christ has loved us? That's surely impossible. Christ is God and He loves like a God does; not like a human.

    It's nice to see you visiting again. Whether it's three hours ago or sooner even. Please visit again.

    God bless.

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  13. Another wonderful post, Victor. I congratulate Harry for even considering the question honestly: "Am I doing what Jesus taught and expects?" There are a lot of people who refuse to even try to forgive. They hold onto past hurts that have devolved first into grudges and finally into resentments. A sure sign that we haven't truly forgiven someone is if we have a resentment about him or her. Some unknown and truly wise person said, "Holding onto a resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die."

    Father Paul Wharton http://heartsonfire33.wordpress.com

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  14. Thank you Father Paul Wharton for visiting my Blog and for taking the trouble to comment. I very much appreciate it.

    It is often difficult to let go of the hurt Father. Yes, in our hearts we may have forgiven in as much as we don't wish any evil to our wrong-doer. But the pain remains and rekindles resentments which should have died long since.

    Your quote about drinking poison is so right in this respect.

    Thank you Father for your kind words and advice.

    God bless you always.

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God bless you.

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