Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I Think It's About...Forgiveness

"...We might try to understand exactly what loving your neighbour as yourself means. I
have to love him as I love myself. Well, how exactly do I love myself?

Now that I come to think of it, I have not exactly got a feeling of
fondness or affection for myself, and 1 do not even always enjoy my own
society. So apparently "Love your neighbour" does not mean "feel fond of
him" or "find him attractive." I ought to have seen that before, because, of
course, you cannot feel fond of a person by trying. Do I think well of
myself, think myself a nice chap? Well, I am afraid I sometimes do (and
those are, no doubt, my worst moments) but that is not why I love myself. In
fact it, is the other way round: my self-love makes me think myself nice,
but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself. So loving my enemies does
not apparently mean thinking them nice either. That is an enormous relief.
For a good many people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making out
that they are really not such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain
that they are. Go a step further. In my most clear-sighted moments not only
do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I
can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing. So
apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do.
Now that I come to think of it, I remember Christian teachers telling me
long ago that I must hate a bad man's actions, but not hate the bad man: or,
as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner.

For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting
distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But
years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been
doing this all my life--namely myself. However much I might dislike my own
cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been
the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the
things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to
find that I was the sort of man who did those things. Consequently,
Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for
cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. Not one word of what we have
said about them needs to be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the
same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man
should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that
somehow, sometime, somewhere, he can be cured and made human again...

I admit that this means loving people who have nothing lovable about
them. But then, has oneself anything lovable about it? You love it simply
because it is yourself. God intends us to love all selves in the same way
and for the same reason: but He has given us the sum ready worked out on our
own case to show us how it works. We have then to go on and apply the rule
to all the other selves. Perhaps it makes it easier if we remember that that
is how He loves us. Not for any nice, attractive qualities we think we have,
but just because we are the things called selves."

--from "Forgiveness," Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis.

1 comment:

Brer said...

Sorry about the wonky spacing; it rather makes it look like an odd experiment in free verse.