What would forgiveness mean?
Someone wrongs me at work, such that I can’t bear to be in the same room. There is no way to complain about the wrong, and I have to continue working with them. I grit my teeth, or I “let it go”- I swallow the feelings of rage and resentment, and get on with the job. I have to.
Or my friend does something I might find objectionable. I learn they are not reliable. My self-esteem is so low that I just suck it up. Or I balance pros and cons, finding that despite this let-down friendship with them is still worth the effort. These are separate experiences, but in both the objectionable act is new information about the world and my place in it. In one, I see myself as worth little, and a little less after the experience. In the other, I see that I can trust my world less than I thought.
Or, I do not forgive. I decide I am worth more, and the world has better possibilities, and write the person out of my life. Which is best depends on which is right. Wisdom to know the difference, and all that. It is the same with that work situation: is it better to slog on, or can I find something better?
All this is happening within me, but it is possible that the other has feelings of remorse, and has learned a bitter lesson about themself. They will not be like that in the future. They apologise. Possibly, they really can change. That is something to add to the calculation, that it is worth still bothering. If I can enjoy helping them change that is my classic understanding of forgiveness, which is repentance and amendment of life, so that there is no need for punishment.
My experience of forgiveness is mostly from childhood too, though, bickering or fighting and being told to make up. Possibly experience of being forgiven colours ones understanding of forgiving.
Society is set up for the privileged. Are the police, social services, etc, on your side, or are they there to stop you stepping out of line? Are the rules of society there to make your way through life easier, or to advantage others over you? The privileged might find “forgiveness” easier, the resentment of the others might be too great. Or the put-upon have no illusions, make clear-eyed calculations, and waste no time or energy on resentment.
Coming back to that work situation. You have no alternative. You have to continue working with that person. You cannot get another job. Yet it is all too much, it sticks in your craw and you cannot do it, so lose the job.
Forgiveness- what is virtuous, or sensible, or creative and generous- depends on circumstances. Desmond Tutu writes, There have been times when each and every one of us has needed to forgive. There have also been times when each and every one of us has needed to be forgiven. And there will be many times again. In our own ways, we are all broken. Out of that brokenness, we hurt others. Forgiveness is the journey we take toward healing the broken parts. It is how we become whole again. If I have found some way to resent the world less, or “forgive” it, that is letting down a burden of powerless emotion, “giving up the hope of a better past”, benefiting myself.