“It is impossible to forgive whoever has done us harm if that harm has lowered us. We have to think that it has not lowered us, but has revealed our true level.” — Simone Weil
A gristly thought. With Weil you’re never quite sure whether she means that some harms are genuinely unforgiveable, or if we should pursue decreation to the point of actively appropriating the worst that can be said of us or done to us.
When I think, for example, of a child’s diminished self-esteem as a result of having to forgive a parent who has harmed them, I am inclined to see that forgiveness — under conditions of emotional blackmail — as a further wrong to the child, a deep injustice. I’m not sure how to get into the sort of metaphysical deep space where one goes past all of that into the kind of ego-less forgiveness I think Weil is ultimately aiming at; if it is possible at all, it must be an accomplishment of great maturity, and to press it upon someone who is not ready for it is to compound the harm that has already been done to them.
I’m minded to suggest “cheap forgiveness” as the correlate of Bonhoeffer’s “cheap grace”. Cheap grace is when we help ourselves to a feeling of exoneration that leaves everything as it is, a grace without amazement, without the toils of repentance; as if, as in Schopenhauer’s case, our accuser had simply fallen down dead (“obit anus, abit onus”). Cheap forgiveness is when we allow part of ourselves to perish in order to exonerate another: we “let it go” because it is too troublesome to pursue it, but in doing so must reconcile ourselves to not being worthy of greater consideration. This in turn can breed a sort of callousness, a wounded impatience with others’ noisy outcry: if I must diminish myself and silently absorb injury, then why can’t you? We must be capable of anger at our own yoke to be capable of sympathy with others under theirs.