A presentation given at the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region Light of the East Conference, 01-02 March 2013: Following Jesus: The Power of Forgiveness Theological, Psychological and Practical Suggestions for Growth Hosted by: St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine, CA
So there is no doubt that we too are called to hate and not choose to sin. Sin is an illness and infirmity by which we succumb to our passions and make an evil choice. St. Maximus the Confessor (Philokalia II) calls evil "a privation of good." St. Symeon the New Theologian (Philokalia IV) expands our understanding:
Expulsion from ParadiseAt the very least praying for the good and welfare of all who have wounded us, or those whom we love and cherish is the first and minimum step we can take in forgiveness. (Morelli, 2007b,c). The icon of Forgiveness Sunday depicts Adam and Eve's expulsion from Paradise, by God, because of their disobedience and pride. But it also depicts God's readiness to forgive them.We are called to interiorize God's eternal readiness to forgive in our own lives.
Following Jesus: The Power of Forgiveness
ARCHPRIEST GEORGE MORELLI, PhD
The Divine Persons and their communicative interrelationship in love are intrinsic to the Divine Nature. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit cannot be conceived apart from each other, in as much as the Divine Essence will lead to Divine action (Divine Energy) and the creation of the cosmos and mankind itself. Mankind was created to be in communion with God and with one another. The depth of the Trinitarian communion of love, which is descriptive of their essence and which also will serve as the purpose of mankinds creation…
St. Paul writes: "But all things are from God Who reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not reckoning their transgressions to them, and He put in us the word of reconciliation." (2Cor 5: 18-19)
When God brought into being natures endowed with intelligence and intellect He communicated to them, in His supreme goodness, four of the divine attributes by which He sustains, protects and preserves created things. These attributes are being, eternal being, goodness and wisdom. Of the four He granted the first two, being and eternal being. to their essence, and the second two, goodness and wisdom, to their volitive faculty, so that what He is in His essence the creature may become by participation. This is why man is said to have been created in the image and likeness of God. (cf. Gn 1: 26). . . .only the good and wise will attain His likeness."(St. Maximus the Confessor Philokalia II)
The great spiritual perception of St. Maximus is that the being and eternity of mankind is simply given to us gratis. While God is unbounded, He freely binds Himself not to take this being and eternity from us. But goodness and wisdom is another matter completely; it is up to our volitive faculty. We have to recognize goodness and wisdom; we have to desire goodness and wisdom, and we have to work at being wise and choosing to do good.
`I desire mercy, and not sacrifice. For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.“ (Mt 9:13) And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.“ (Mk 2: 17)
In the book of Revelation Jesus (in the guise of an angel tells St. John:"Yet this you have, you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." (Rev 2:6).
Sin is an illness and infirmity by which we succumb to our passions and make an evil choice. St. Maximus the Confessor (Philokalia II) calls evil "a privation of good."
Baptism does not take away our free will or freedom of choice, but gives us the freedom no longer to be tyrannized by the devil unless we choose to be. … We are created good by God — for God creates nothing evil — and we remain unchanging in our nature and essence as created. But we do what we choose and want, whether good or bad, of our own free will. Palmer, G.E.H., Sherrard, P. & Ware, K. (Eds.). (1995). The Philokalia, Volume 4: The Complete Text; Compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain & St. Makarios of Corinth . London: Faber and Faber.
Tolerance is intrinsic to the Love that is God: "how compassionate God is, and how patient; and how He loves creation, and how He carries it, gently enduring its importunity, the various sins and wickedness, the terrible blasphemies of demons and evil men.” (Alfeyev, Bishop Hilarion (2000). The Spiritual World of St. Isaac the Syrian. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications).
"all living creatures exist in Gods mind before their creation." What this implies is that their place in the structure of the cosmos is retained even if someone falls away from God.[Alfeyev, Bishop Hilarion (2000). The Spiritual World of St. Isaac the Syrian. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications]
A compassionate person is the physician of his own soul, for, as if with a strongwind, he chases away from his inner being a dark cloud. Brock, S., trans. (1997). The Wisdom of Saint Isaac the Syrian. Fairacres Oxford, England: SLG Press, Convent of the Incarnation .
As St. Isaac understands it we must have relentless repentance: "continual and mournful supplication by means of prayer filled with compunction draws nigh to God in order to seek forgiveness of past offenses, and entreaty for preservation from future [offenses]." And for what purpose? St. Isaac answers for us that "they [sinners] will be perfected in love for Him, with a perfect mind which is above any aberration in all its stirrings.“[Wensinck, A. J. (ed., trans.) (1923). Mystic Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh. Amsterdam, Holland: Koninklijke Akademie Van Wetenschappen.]
Everyone has a single place in [Gods] purpose in the ranking of love, corresponding to the form He beheld in them before He created them and all the rest of created beings.... He has a single ranking of complete and impassible love towards everyone, and He has a single caring concern for those who have fallen, just as much as for those who have not fallen.
But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, You fool! shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny" (emphasis added) (Matthew 5: 22-26).
When someone who offends God or us they must repent. God, and we in imitation of Him, should embrace the repentant sinner with Gods own love, in order to forgive him. We have to pray that we or anyone who has offended us or God, be reconciled to God and to us through His Church. The foundation of this repentance is a sense of his unfaithfulness to God and offense to us, contrition of heart, and determination to amend and have ametanoia, a fundamental change of mind and heart so as not to offend again.
“Or how canst thou say to thy brother: Brother, let me pull the mote out of thy eye, when thou thyself seest not the beam in thy own eye? Hypocrite, cast first the beam out of thy own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to take out the mote from thy brothers eye.” Lk 6: 42) Trisagion Prayer for the Deceased: "for there is no man who liveth and sinneth not."
The Prodigal Son Parable reads: "having come to himself" ( Lk 15: 17)." But is this true repentance? No! He wanted to get something out of the return to his father. Note what he says he will tell his father: "... make me as one of thy hired servants.”‟ This wouId be an impure confession. The Prodigal son has a motive: as a servant he can get paid and start to regain status.
Later in the actual return comes the real metanoia. The Prodigal drops the self serving motive: “And the son said to him, „Father, I sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no longer worthy to be called thy son.‟( Lk 15: 21). No strings attached: a pure confession with no expectation of self-gain.
The Father (who in Jewish culture would have absolute authority, demand servile respect, remain aloof and would summon his son at his will. Is this what the Prodigals father did? No! The Father breaks tradition and initiates reconciliation “But the father said to his slaves, „Bring forth the robe, the chief one, and clothe him, and provide a ring for his hand and sandals for the feet. And bring the calf, the fattened one, and slay it; and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; and he was lost and is found.‟” (Lk 15: 22- 23) [Gods forgiveness]
"But all things are from God Who reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not reckoning their transgressions to them, and He put in us the word of reconciliation." (2Cor 5: 18-19)
The lessons: the father (Father, the true picture of God as Father) shows unexpected self- emptying love, the son (us) confess complete unworthiness (humility) and sets no conditions and simply rejoices in sonship (theosis- “may be made partakers of the divine nature.” 2Pt 1:4) in the Fathers house (heaven).
Because of the brokenness of mankind, the individual who has been slighted is angry and frequently wants "blood" retribution. Gods conditions for repentance, on the other hand, are so merciful, as to almost go unnoticed. Consider St. Lukes report of the two thieves, on their crosses next to the crucified Jesus:
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise (emphasis added) (Luke 23: 39-49).
Current research psychology has helped us understand dysfunctional emotions such as anger have a cognitive theme and distorted irrational cognitive structures initiating them [Beck, A.T., Rush, S., Shaw, B. & Emery, G (1979). Cognitive Therapy of Depression. NY: Guilford Press.];Burns, D. (1980). Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. NY: The New American Library; Ellis, A. (1962). Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy. Secaucus NJ: Lyle-Stuart.] Beck, for example found the theme of anger is significant intrusion. The angry individual perceives some one has intruded on them or on someone or something they love and possess that he considers to be an extension of himself. The value of what they consider significant is such, that they feel they have a "right" to be angry. This is an exalted state of self-importance by which people define themselves which gives them this "right." It reveals an underlying postulate of self-definition that allows all anger to be justified.
Added to the interpretive perception are evocative cognitive distortions such as selective focusing: disregarding some nice things someone has done while centering on an error they made; mind-reading: concluding, without proof, the reason for someones improper action was to "get at" the angry person and/or was directed to the person; fortune telling: predicting only unseemly things will happen to you and this will continue in the future; and catastrophizing: evaluating the errors, improper actions and unseemly behaviors of others as more that 100% bad. These distortions enable the individual to create ongoing irrational mental scenarios that fuel the anger emotion. (For further explanation of how these distortions trigger and interact with anger. Morelli, G. (2005, October 14). The Beast of Anger http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/MorelliAnger.php. & Morelli, G. 2007, December 02). Forgiveness is Healing http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/OT/view/morelli-forgiveness-is-healing )
The root cause cannot be made more clear than what St. John of the Ladder (1982) has told us: "Pride is a denial of God, an invention of the devil, contempt for men. ... the source of anger, the gateway of hypocrisy." (italics mine). St John Cassian calls the demon of pride " ... most sinister, fiercest of all ... " (Philokalia I).
The ultimate model of humility is Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. This was told to the Philippians by St. Paul who said: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Philippians: 5-8).
The reasoning mind, for example, will reject the commandment "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1) as nonsensical, urging that the faculty of being able to judge is a distinctive quality in man, making him superior to the whole world and affords him the power to dominate. [Sophrony, Archimandrite. (1999). St. Silouan the Athonite. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimirs Seminary Press.]
Pride makes us forget our sins ... the remembrance of them leads to humility." Thus we must heed the further words of St. John: "He must not allow the memory of things that afflict him to be stamped on his intellect lest he inwardly sunders human nature by separating himself from other man although he is a man himself. When a mans will in union with the principle of nature in this way, God and nature are naturally reconciled. (St. John of the Ladder (1979). The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery)
“…the person who has attained to knowledge of his own weakness has reached the summit of humility.” (Brock, 1997) Brock, S. (1997). The Wisdom of St. Isaac the Syrian. Fairacres Oxford, England: SLG Press. To bear a grudge and pray, means to sow seed on the sea and expect a harvest. http://www.roca.org?OA/137d.htm
Staniloae (2003) calls humility "the highest and most inclusive of all the virtues." Staniloae, D. (2003). Orthodox Spirituality: A Practical Guide for the Faithful and a Definitive Manual for the Scholar. South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhons Seminary Press
Recently psychologists (e.g. Exline, Baumeister, Zell, Kraft, & Witvliet, 2008; Powers, Nam, Rowatt, & Hill, 2007) have begun to study and found support for a relationship between humility and other prosocial behaviors such as forgiveness. Psychologists such as Enright, 2012 and Gassin, 2001, have developed have developed psychotherapeutic interventions based partially on cultivating humility. Enright, R.D. (2012). The Forgiving Life: A Pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating a legacy of love. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Exline, J.J., Baumeister, R.F. Zell, A.L., Kraft, A.J., & Witvliet, C.V.O., (2008) Not so innocent: Does seeing ones own capability for wrongdoing predict forgiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 495-515. Gassin, E.A. (2001). Interpersonal forgiveness from an Eastern Orthodox perspective. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 29, 187-200. Powers C., Nam, R.K., Rowatt, W.C. & Hill, P.C. (2007). Association between humility, spiritual transcendence, and forgiveness. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 18, 75-94.
“Philotimo according to Elder Paisios, is the spontaneous self-sacrificing love shown by humble people, from whom every trace of self has been filtered out, full of gratitude towards God and their fellow men. Philotimo comes from a deep, abiding connection with God, so that one is constantly moved to do and seek that which is good, right and honorable. Out of spiritual sensitivity, such people try to repay the slightest good that others do for them." Footnote from Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, (2011). Spiritual Counsels, Volume I: With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man. Thessloniki, Holy Monastery, Evangelest John the Theologian.
But I say, if the merciful one is not also beyond justice, he is not merciful. That is, not only from his own part will he be merciful to others, but also he will endure injustice gladly and voluntarily. He will not establish and seek full justice in his dealing with his companion but will be merciful to him; because when he overcomes justice with mercy he will weave for himself a crown, not of those who are just according to the Law, but of the perfect according to the New Covenant
Go then and learn what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the just, but sinners. (Mt 9: 13) If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath any thing against thee; Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift. (Mt 5: 23-24)
St. Silouan tells us: "God is love, absolute love embracing every living thing in abundance. God is present in hell, too, as love. By allowing man to know this love, in so far as he is able, the Holy Spirit reveals to him the path to the fullness of being." A short account, related by the saints biographer and cell attendant, Archimandrite Sophrony, of an exchange between the St. Silouan and a visiting hermit monk It shows the unfathomable depth of love God has and we should have toward all who have offended us: The hermit "declared with evident satisfaction that God will punish all atheists. They will burn in everlasting fire." Obviously upset, the Staretz said, "Tell me, supposing you went to paradise, and there you looked down and saw someone burning in hell-fire - would you feel happy?" "It cant be helped. It would be their own fault," said the hermit. The Staretz answered him in a sorrowful countenance. "Love could not bear that," he said. "We must pray for all."
Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never falleth away.” (1Cor 13: 4-8)
Political Outrages: a different class of offenses.. This included not only politicians, political parties, but even the citizens themselves of some countries. It is as if the realm of government and politics is on a completely different domain or level than that of one to one individual interaction. It is as if our Lords teaching on forgiveness should not extend to groups making up the political arena.
Research psychology gives some insight about about why applying forgiveness to groups may be more difficult than to individuals. Individuals in groups are often de-individuated . [Diener, E., Fraser, S. C., Beaman, A. L. and Kelem, R. T. (1976). Effects of deindividuation variables on stealing among Halloween trick-or-treaters. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 33(2), 178-183.] We do not see them as individuals but as group members. They are without individual personhood. By definition groups are an abstraction. Violent, destructive acts, and surely unforgiveness therefore, is more easily applied to groups and by members of groups to each other.
What is forgiveness? Forgiveness cannot be understood without understanding the nature of sin and its effects. St. Matthew (22: 37-40) records the words of Jesus: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." Sin is a breaking of Gods Laws to love Him and to love our neighbor, despite and in the face of His infinite Love for us.
Forgiveness does not mean we forget, excuse, condone or demand some payback. Forgiveness does not mean we have warm fuzzy feelings toward someone who may have offended us. It also does not mean we automatically trust anyone to act appropriately. Trust is a process and has to be earned in time by experience. It also does not mean that the perpetrator of for offenses shown by scientific research that may to have no cure or have a high recidivism rate should be re-established in the community in the same status, (occupation, style of life, etc.) the offender had before the offense. We have heard the expression hate the sin but love the sinner.
But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaites, which I also hate. (Rv 2:6)
St. Dorotheos of Gaza [Wheeler, E.P. (1977). (ed., trans.), Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications.]is able to describe this beautifully: "Condemning a man is saying: he is a wicked liar, or he is an angry man, or he is a fornicator. For in this way he judges the condition of his soul and draws a conclusion about his whole life, saying it is of such a kind and condemns him as such. This is a very serious thing.. For it is one thing to say, He got mad, and another thing to say He is bad tempered ... .." [emphasis mine]. He got mad, is a problem to be and issue to be addressed. He is bad tempered is a label of and condemnation of his being.
If any man say, I love God, and hateth his brother; he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother, whom he seeth, how can he love God, whom he seeth not? 1Jn 4:20)
The words of Christ on the cross are very telling in this matter. Our Lord said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Jesus was able to put himself in the mind of those calling for His death and actually crucifying Him. Each had their own reasons for participating in His death. Our Lord was able to take the perspective of his killers: they knew "not what they do."
Enright (2001) reports on research indicating taking the perspective of the persons who have offended has been shown to be a significant aid in leading to forgiveness. He recommends his patients to reflect on such questions as: "what life was like for him or her when growing up; what life was like for him or her at the time of the offense; what he or she is like when you ... (see) him or her in a spiritual, religious sense." This process which Enright calls taking perspective is similar to the psychological process of empathy, which may be defined as "thinking and feeling what the other is thinking and feeling."Enright, R.D. (2001). Forgiveness is a Choice. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Research by Hoffman, 1988; Eisenberg & Mussen 1989; and Greenberg, Kusche, Cook, & Quamma 1995; has linked increase in empathy to attenuated aggression. Cunningham (1985) has reported on successful application of empathy to forgiveness in a pastoral setting. Cunningham, B.B. (1985). The Will to Forgive: A Pastoral Theological View of Forgiving. Journal of Pastoral Care. 39:141-149; Hoffman, M.L. (1988). Moral Development. In M.H. Bornstein & M.E. Lamb (Eds.), Developmental Psychology: An Advanced Textbook. (2nd ed., pp. 497-548). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum; Eisenberg, N., & Mussen, P.H. (1989). The Roots of Prosocial Behavior in Children. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press; Greenberg, M.T., Iusche, C.A., Cook, E.T. & Quamma, J.P. (1995). Promoting Emotional Competence in School-Aged Children: The Effects of the PATHS Curriculum. Development and Psychopathology, 7, 117-136.
Love of God, means to love Him with all our heart, mind and soul. Love of neighbor plain and simple means to use all our heart mind and soul to desire and work for the good and welfare of our neighbor.
We are reminded of the wisdom of St. Isaac the Syrian (Brock, 1997): "Just because the terms wrath, anger, hatred and the rest are used of the Creator in the Bible, we should not imagine that He actually does anything in anger, hatred or zeal. Many figurative terms are used of God in the Scriptures, terms which are far removed from His true nature. Among all Gods actions there is none which is not entirely a matter of mercy, love and compassion: this constitutes the beginning and end of His dealing with us." May I add this should be the beginning and end of our relationships with all mankind in which we are all made in Gods image. Those who have offended most egregiously and performed the most horrific of offenses are to be loved the most. In this same spirit we have to be reconciled in love to those whom we have offended.
Love is not a feeling. Love does not mean we condone or excuse or minimize evil acts. Love does not mean we have to be blind to the brokenness and sinful predilections of mankind. Did not Our Lord Himself tell his disciples: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10: 16). We have to use our intelligence and be wise.
As indicated above in discussing what forgiveness does not mean, applying even the simple wisdom of our God given intelligence and experience, love (and forgiveness-reconciliation) does not mean for example, allowing an alcoholic to go back to his former occupation as a bartender, or a pedophile to be a child caretaker. This can be applied to many examples of inclinations that humans have that through modern scientific research have been found can be of potential harm to self and others: abuse, use of drugs, sexual problems, etc.
Forgiveness does mean we make sure the offending individual, who has repented and shown sorrow for their sin or offense towards us is given physical, mental, and spiritual care. Even if some offender has not shown repentance and sorrow we are required to give them basic physical, spiritual and an even greater abundance of spiritual care. All are to be looked on as sons and daughters of God. All are given respect and courtesy. They are to be prayed for and approached by us in an attempt to reconcile. Repentant offenders, are given the Holy Mysteries of the Church so they can grow in grace and be in union with all the blessed in paradise. All at the very least are to be prayed for with all our heart, mind and soul that all who offended us can reach paradise
It is crystal clear that humans do not start their physical, psychological or spiritual lives in a "perfect state." The scientific study of human development suggests psychological growth occurs in stages and involves gradual bio-social-behavioral shifts and growth Cole, M., Cole, S. & Lightfoot, C. (2005). The Development of Children. NY: Worth. The writings of the Church Fathers reveal that spiritual growth also takes place in steps or stages. The title of one of the classics of Eastern Orthodox spiritual wisdom, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent" by St. John of the Ladder (579-649) bears out that spiritual development takes places as in Jacobs dream: "And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!" (Genesis 28:12).
Behavioral psychologists use a technique called "shaping" to bring about appropriate behavior. It involves rewarding small increments in desirable behaviors that are similar and lead to the correct appropriate behavioral goal [Morelli, G. (2005a, September 17). Smart Parenting Part 1. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/MorelliParenting. Morelli, G. (2005b, October 14). The Beast of Anger. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/MorelliAnger.php.] It is important to start out with the level a person is capable of performing then rewarding the next step. For example, the parent of a child who tosses all their clothing on the floor might reward their child for picking up one clothing item, followed by another reward when the child picks up two items, until an entire messy room was cleaned up. The same principle holds true in both asking for, and giving, forgiveness. Not everyone will be able to start out with the desirable straight talking described above and must approach the process incrementally.
Examples: restarting friendly communication; doing something nice that unexpected by the other; offering to help on a problem; telling a humorous story; or suggesting resuming a previously halted activity. When someone reaches out even indirectly and is ignored, it usually is perceived as aversive by the person who has initiated the imperfect but desirable reaching out action. This decreases the likelihood the person will continue to grow and develop into either asking or giving forgiveness (Morelli, 2005a). For example, after some disagreement but before actual forgiveness is asked, one of the individuals may suggest going out for a walk. No doubt the ideal is straight talking. Yet, most people cannot jump to the top rung of the ladder. It is psychologically sound, and more importantly Christ- like to go along with our brothers and sisters in Christ - as well as all mankind (i.e. Jews, Moslems, atheists, etc.) -- who are climbing the ladder one step at a time.
The example above is based on one to one personal or family interaction. However political parties and nations themselves often act in similar ways. We see examples of nations that took years, decades, even centuries to either straight talk wrongs committed by themselves or to forgive the repenting nations. Many times small steps are taken even before this goal is reached such as increased trade, debt alleviation, medical or food supply help, disaster aid, etc. Other important first steps may be groups solving common problems [Sherif, M., Harvey, O.J., White, B.J., Hood, W.R. & Sherif, C.R. (1961). Intergroup Cooperation and Competition: The Robbers Cave] Experiment. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.and dissemination of favorable information about the groups to each other [Worschel, S, (1986). The Role of Cooperation in Reducing Intergroup Conflict. In S. Worschel & W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of Intergroup Relations. Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall.] These may be small, but significant steps in the forgiveness process..
For a Christian viewing all mankind, despite intra-national or international group affiliation, as "children of God, made in His image and called to be like Him" is the most favorable information that could be received
God tolerates sinners eternally because he is waiting for them to return to His eternal love. Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev Alfeyev, Archbishop Hilarion (2009). Christ the Conqueror of Hell: The Descent to Hades from an Orthodox Perspective. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimirs Seminary Press. references a verse from the 6th Ode of the Holy Saturday Orthros (Lamentation) Service. In the Antiochian Orthodox usage the verse reads: Verily, Hades ruled the race of man, but not forever; for thou, O mighty One, when thou wast placed in the grave didst demolish the locks of death with the palm of thy hand, O Element of Life, proclaiming to those sitting yonder from the ages a true salvation, having become, O Savior, the Firstborn of the dead. . . . He then goes on to explain how the verse proclaims the boundless eternal mercy of God as understood by St. Gregory of Nyssa (and, by implication, St. Issac of Syria; Alfeyev, Bishop Hilarion (2000). The Spiritual World of St. Isaac the Syrian. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications.
The short answer is that God is waiting for us to love Him in response to His Love for us. The longer answer is given by St. Isaac of Syria: So then, let us not attribute to Gods actions and His dealings with us any idea of requital. Rather we should speak of Fatherly provision, a wise dispensation, a perfect will which is concerned with our good, and complete love. If it is a case of love, then it is not one of requital; and if it is a case of requital, then it is not one of love. Love.... looks to what is most advantageous in the future: it examines what is to come, and not things of the past. (quoted by Alfeyev, 2000)
Expulsion from At the very least praying for theParadise good and welfare of all who have wounded us, or those whom we love and cherish isWe are called to the first and minimum step weinteriorize Gods eternal can take in forgiveness. [Morelli, G.readiness to forgive in (2007a, February 4) The Spiritual Roots of Altruism:our own lives. The Good Samaritan.http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/OT/view/mo relli-the-spiritual-roots-of-altruism-the-good-samaritan; Morelli, G. (2007b, April 03). The Psycho-Spirituality of Forgiving People and Nations.http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles7 .]The icon of /MorelliForgiveness.php Forgiveness Sunday depicts Adam and Eves expulsion from Paradise, by God, because of their disobedience and pride. But it also depicts Gods readiness to forgive them.
St. Silouan has pointed out that, "those who dislike and reject their fellow-man are impoverished in their being. They do not know the true God, who is all-embracing love." St. Peter in his second epistle tells us what God has given us: "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness ... and become partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:3-4). We know this is not participation or becoming God in His Being or Essence but sharing in the warmth and light of His "Divine Energy" Staniloae, D. (2003). Orthodox Spirituality: A Practical Guide For The Faithful And A Definitive Manual For The Scholar. South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhons Seminary Press
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. Wherefore he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the contrite of heart.“ (Lk 4: 18) He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” (Jn 12: 40).