Maria Stylianou, Sociologist
Intimidation’s a word that encompasses a painful social reality, since it condenses a range of behaviors which affect the human person and wound people’s dignity. Above all, however, they affect those who deliberately (or unconsciously) employ intimidatory methods in their behavior as part of their response to life’s various challenges.
The present article doesn’t aim to expand into an investigation of the precise nature of intimidation or the factors which produce and sustain it, but rather proposes a solution which might sound innovative and often ‘unachievable’ for people today: forgiveness.
But what is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is perhaps the most wonderful, the most ‘outside the box’, the most novel answer to the serious social problem of intimidation, in an era when virtues, ideals, ethos and morality have all been completely devalued and revised as regards their value and content.
And yet, forgiveness contains within itself the forgotten but much-desired miracle: the healing of our soul and the mending of our failing interpersonal relations. This is because forgiveness is a movement of love from our soul towards the person who’s injured us with their unseemly, hostile, insulting or humiliating behavior towards us. Forgiveness is a balm which we first offer as a gift to our own soul, in order to free it of all the negative sentiments of anger, rage, vengefulness, sorrow, disappointment, hopelessness and despair which were engendered in our heart by an act of intimidation, hostility or injustice. At the same time, it’s a gift to the other person, who, in any case, is also tormented by the wounds, spiritual weights and burdens from their own past, their genetic inheritance and, very likely, their inability to function properly in a social context.
In no way does forgiveness mean that we welcome the deleterious action and behavior of the intimidator as natural or socially acceptable or pleasing. Forgiveness doesn’t mean enforced reconciliation with the person who injured us, if there’s no restoration of the interpersonal relationship in a healthy, functional manner; if the psychological wound caused by the intimidatory behavior hasn’t been healed; if the shadow of intimidation is ever present (even after an atonement or apology) and if there’s a risk that it’ll be sustained for a long period in one form or another.
The benefits of forgiveness
Provided it happens in secret and in the heart, and always with God’s help, forgiving the neighbor who has hurt us, is the most wonderful gift of all to ourselves, because we learn to really love, because we mature spiritually and psychologically, because we learn to humble ourselves, to face the fact that human measures have limits- be they regression or progression-, because we learn to distinguish the person from the action, because we can see that in each person there’s light and darkness in a continuous struggle for dominance, and, finally, we learn to make a conscious choice to give the medicine of love and kindness to fatigued humanity which is thirsting for love but which is often given ‘gall and vinegar’ instead.
Let’s make a start, then, in the here and now by learning to love and forgive genuinely, because beauty (love and benevolence) will save the world, as Dostoevsky once wisely counselled us.
So let’s listen to him and embrace the fragility of modern, fragmented people who want, more than ever before, to love and be loved and so emerge from behind the high walls of their narcissistic individualism and unbearable loneliness, but don’t know how to achieve this.