Forgiveness Culture vs All-or-Nothing Morality

Alternatively Titled: Why I will no longer be writing about my personal* life on this blog for the foreseeable future.

Well, if there’s anything that the last two weeks have taught me it’s that some things are better left unsaid. At least, unsaid on the internet.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at how many people told me Pup was a scumbag who I should never, ever talk to again, but I am. I mean, fuck. I didn’t know that many people even paid attention to me. (Granted, “that many,” was, like, four. But still.)

It’s frustrating, because only my sister had anything insightful, helpful, or supportive to say. Most of the other people who contacted me to “talk about it” were either vague (which I’m fine with) or straight up said he was the worst human being alive.

That last one. Hoo, that pissed me off. Which in turn spawned the following rant. Enjoy.

*”Personal”: Anything that would probably be better said in a therapist’s office. If I wouldn’t say it to my mom, I’m not gonna post it here, basically.

“What are your thoughts on forgiveness culture?”

That is what a friend asked me after I first posted my recount of my falling out with Pup. For those who aren’t aware, a very basic definition of “forgiveness culture” is the idea that a person (usually a victim of sexual assault) must forgive the person who wronged them so they can move on and be happy, and they will never really be move on and be happy unless they forgive that person.

I believe that’s a load of horseshit, and told him as much (in much more polite terms).

“Good,” he replied.

I don’t believe that I am somehow required to forgive Pup for what he did to me in order to live a happy, healthy life (which I am trying to do). I will probably never truly forgive him for what happened. I’ll certainly never forget it.

But that doesn’t mean I have immediately eliminated the possibility of Pup ever being considered a good person from my mind.

“Call-out culture” (or “sharing receipts” as the kids like to say; the act of dragging up a person’s former moral failings to “call them out” as being a horrible person) is a pervasive parasite which has found a foothold in our culture. I hate call-out culture as much as I hate forgiveness culture. I probably hate it more, actually.

Call-out culture couldn’t exist without what I call “all-or-nothing morality.” It’s the idea that a person’s damning behaviors can never change. “Once a [blank], always a [blank].”

All-or-nothing morality is the beating heart of the pseudo-righteous, and it needs to fucking go. For starters, it doesn’t even make any sense. If a person can never change, then why do we have people getting out of prison? By all-or-nothing logic, no amount of incarceration, rehabilitation, parole, or therapy will ever change the fact that that person is a criminal.

But, people don’t say that. In fact, there are people who actively fight on behalf of former felons, trying to get them more rights than they currently have upon release. Because those people know that change is possible.

My second issue with all-or-nothing morality is just that it flat-out scares the hell out of me, because it means that I am and always will be a horrible person.

I am not without regrets. I am not without my own unforgivable sins. I know there are people who would say that, “Oh, you were young back then,” but I was still old enough to know better (and I have to wonder if the people who would say that to me wouldn’t change their tunes if I had been a teenage boy, rather than a teenage girl). And, while I’ve never done anything with malicious intent, there were instances when I was a bit older as well which fall into the realm of Bad Shit and I’m lucky I didn’t hurt anyone.

Unsurprisingly, I’m not incredibly fond of a point of view that says I’m only as good of a person as my worst act.

But, I like to believe that I’ve changed, because I realized that what I did might have hurt someone. I don’t want to be judged by my worst crime, because that’s not who I am anymore. I’m grateful that people have given me the chance to prove that I’m a good person (or at least a better than I was).

And wouldn’t I be a hypocrite if I were to deny another person that same chance?

It doesn’t mean that I have or will forgive Pup for what he did. It doesn’t even mean that I have or will decide that I want to keep him in my life (although at this point that’s the direction I’m leaning, because I still believe he’s a good person).

What it does mean is that I’m not going to just disregard the last three years of support, loyalty, and kindness because he made a really bad mistake when he was in a really fucked up frame of mind.

And I will be damned if I’m going to let anyone bully me into making the decision they think is “best” for me. Because I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who can decide that, thanks.


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