Forgiveness or Absolution?

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The subject of forgiveness has often been raised to me and I think that I need to explain what I have learned about the subject of forgiveness over the last 3 years. One thing that I have learned is that when people discuss “forgiveness” what they are really discussing is “absolution” so maybe that is where to start.  What is the difference between forgiveness and absolution?

“Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”

“Just as important as defining what forgiveness is, though, is understanding what forgiveness is not. Experts who study or teach forgiveness make clear that when you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.”

“Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.” (The Greater Good)

I guess the short answer to forgiveness is whether I am ready to let go of the anger….not yet.  It is what allows me to approach yet another person about the petition and to call yet another politician or reporter to try to educate them about the sad state of Impaired Driving in Canada.  With each person that truly listens and learns, I lose a little of that anger and with each new person I meet that has had a loved one stolen, I guess I gain a little of that anger back.

Really what most people want to know when they ask what it would take to forgive him should be what would it take for me to grant him absolution.

Absolution is forgiveness of a person’s act or sin.  And, in order to grant absolution, there needs to be a full confession of the sin. I guess that is what it would take.  Not some half-baked, “I’m sorry” that the courts and media would accept but a true “Catholic Church death bed worthy” apology for what he did.

“I’m sorry that I drank so much that I was twice the legal limit and absolutely was not in control of my faculties or my ability to drive.  I’m sorry that I was speeding down the road.  I’m sorry that I was too drunk to take my foot off of the gas pedal, even after I hit your car.  I’m sorry that my Criminal act killed your daughter.  I’m sorry that I stood by and let the courts system lay the blame at your feet when you were in absolutely no position to defend yourself.  I’m sorry that I have continued to lie about what happened that night and allow the community, in which you have to live as well, continue to assume that it was in any way your fault.  I’m sorry that you will have to live every single moment of your life without your precious daughter.”

But even if he said all of that, I would still not be able to absolve him because only  God and Gracie can do that.  I guess like me, he will have to wait a lifetime for any peace.  That’s if he even wants it.

2 Responses to Forgiveness or Absolution?

  1. My dear friend,
    I too battle with this curse. Although my situation did not involve an impaired driver, I face this challenge on a daily basis. Forgive? Not sure if I can. My mind tells me to, but my heart has trouble. Forgiving to me says letting go too. When I read the definitions of forgiveness and absolution it made me feel better about my feelings. Well said. After all was said and done… he never said “I’m sorry”. I’m sure he lives with regret, and I know it was an accident. But he never, ever told ME he was sorry. Coming to visitation and the Funeral (with permission), was one thing. He showed remorse. I’m sure your “guy” is remorseful as well. They have to live each and every day for the rest of their lives remembering how they were responsible for taking a child’s life. I truly hate feeling the anger. But it’s very hard to let it go when I don’t know for sure that he is “sorry”.
    Love you, you’re an amazing Mom. Don’t ever get discouraged <3

    • Hi Kelley.

      I wish that know one had to lose a child. That alone is difficult enough and I know that losing a child to an accident also comes with it’s own challenges. I know this because my best friend lost her daughter 2 months before you lost your sweet Dani. I didn’t lose Gracie to an “accident”, by definition an accident is “an event that occurs due to unforeseen or uncontrollable circumstances”. If he had done anything that he could to avoid killing my daughter, I could probably drum up some sympathy for his situation but that wasn’t the case. In my case, he was twice the legal limit and never managed, in 200 feet, to take his foot off of the gas pedal. The Crown Prosecutor didn’t think that was enough room to react – forget that the same Crown Prosecutor just prosecuted a bus driver for not being able to stop a bus in less than space. As for remorse, I actually happen to know that my “guy” has absolutely no remorse for what he did. He committed a crime and got away with it scott free. That’s what he knows. That’s why I write this blog…to make people realize what we go through as the victims of this crime. It is the only acceptable form of Homicide in Canada. As such roughly 2000 Canadians are killed by Impaired Drivers each year. 20% of those are children under 16. That’s 400 of our children every single year. And we do nothing about it because we classify it as an accident. Except by definition an accident is “an event caused by unforeseen or uncontrollable circumstances.” Being hammered then getting behind the wheel of a car and sailing along the road at 120km/hr is certainly not uncontrollable and in this day and age it should not be unforeseen when you kill someone. The man who killed Dani clearly showed some remorse because he asked to attend the funeral, the man who killed Gracie did not even try to correct the media when they got the details of the case wrong, nor did he accept his original punishment and tried to have it negotiated by the lawyers. Someone who feels remorse accepts their punishment right off the bat. I know that this is a long and convoluted reply, Kelley and my intention is in no way to diminish the pain that you have experienced. I understand from meeting way too many parents that, “losing a child, is losing a child, is losing a child.” There is no other pain like it. The main difference is that we have our children stolen during a criminal act and then we get “victimized” by the same system set up to fight for our children. To reiterate, if our driver truly felt responsible for what he did and any kind of remorse, then he would have taken his punishment as set out by the Criminal Code of Canada instead of hiring one of the most cutthroat attorneys in the region to fight his charges and get them reduced to a slap on the wrists. He would not have allowed the Crown Attorney to publicly lay the blame at anyone but his own feet.

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