Michelle Obama is in the news this week because of the publication of her book, “Becoming”. In the book, she makes the statement that she will “never forgive” Donald Trump because he pushed the “birther conspiracy”. For those wondering, that was the claim that Obama was actually born in Kenya.
It’s clear from the context that she sees never forgiving the President as some kind of moral stance, a victory over Trump. Sadly, it’s nothing of the sort—not because of anything to do with President Trump, but because forgiveness is not for the benefit of those whom we forgive.
It’s for our own benefit.
Now, I used to hold Michelle Obama’s opinion. I would refuse to forgive people because I thought that if I forgave them, it meant that what they did was somehow OK. It meant that they were right to do it, or that they were not at fault for doing it. It meant that I was letting them off the hook.
But forgiveness has nothing to do with any of those things.
A man much wiser than I am once explained forgiveness as follows.
If you could push a button and make a person experience immense pain for what they’ve done … forgiveness is where you choose NOT to push the button.
It doesn’t mean that you’ve forgotten what they’ve done. It doesn’t mean that what they did was acceptable in any sense. It doesn’t make them into good people.
It simply means that you don’t want to see them punished. It means that you no longer see yourself as the avenging angel put here to make their life miserable.
And when he said that, I realized that I didn’t want to be that guy. I didn’t want to be the guy who wants to cause pain to other people. Wanting to be that guy made me as bad as they were. Instead, I wanted to be the guy who decides not to push the button.
Now, am I able to follow this at all times with all people?
Of course not. I’m your standard-issue humanoid, full of all of the usual foibles and failings that we are all heir to.
But it has given me an ideal, a goal against which I can measure myself—can I be the man who refuses to push the button, the man who is willing to forgive, the man who doesn’t want to see other people suffer for what they’ve done?
So that is my wish for today, in these most divided and divisive times—that we can all learn to forgive each other for the other person’s faults, both real and imagined.
Today, I’m on the eighth floor of a bayside hotel in San Diego, because my gorgeous ex-fiancee is attending a medical workshop here. The sun is shining, the bay is sparkling, life is good. Some photos below.
That’s the “Star of India”. I knew about it because it used to run salmon from Alaska to San Francisco in the 1920s, but I’d never seen it except in photographs. It’s still sailing, doing bay cruises. It’s an amazing old ship, the oldest iron-hulled vessel still sailing.
That’s the “HMS Surprise“, a replica of a Royal Navy frigate which was used in the film “Master and Commander”. The film was made from several of the books by Patrick O’Brien called the “Aubrey-Maturin Series“, some of my favorite reading.
A couple views of the “Ruby Princess”, one of the Princess cruise ships that came in for two days and has now gone on again. I can never get used to the immensity of the modern cruise ships.
The view from the hotel window. In the distance, there is the USS Midway, the World War II ship that is now a museum.
Aircraft carriers old and new. In the distance is a modern carrier being refitted. On the right is the USS Midway.
Yeah, I know … all my photos are of ships. Hey, I’m a swabbie, a surfer, a diver, and a commercial fisherman, what can I say? I am enamored of all the vessels used by us poor fools that put to sea …
My best wishes to all, for love, for life, for sunlight glittering on calm waters, and for forgiveness for all of our trespasses,