Thursday, June 2, 2005

Forgiveness and the Indignant Man

This past weekend, I went to a restaurant, and while paying the bill, I didn't compute the tip right. I don't know why, maybe I was distracted by my lovely girlfriend, who was visiting for the weekend. In any case, I realized my mistake while looking at the receipt. I felt really bad, it was half of what I meant to give. On Monday, on the way home from work, I stopped by the restaurant and gave our waitress the rest of her tip, after explaining briefly what I was doing there. She was so happy that I had come back that she gave me a hug. That was pretty unexpected, but it's a good reminder that tips mean something to people. I'm sure that the fact that I came back meant more, though.
I was telling Anna about it, and she said I did a good thing. "But it would have been better to give her the right tip in the first place," I said. But Anna pointed out, perhaps not. I think Anna's right, and I think that the waitress was happier that I came back than she would have been at just the tip in the first place. Maybe she felt bad last night when she didn't get a good tip after doing a good job.
This was a great experience, which I wanted to share, but it has a deeper message. I'm not saying that it was any great thing on my part to go back; it was on my way home from work and everything, but I did something wrong, I made a small mistake, and I tried to correct it, in a small way. It's not surprising to me, as a Christian, that somehow in some difficult to explain way, it is actually better that I made the mistake and sought to correct it. But I think that this is the nature of sin and forgiveness (or mistakes and setting them right) for everyone, not just Christians... We Christians probably just think about it too much ;)
But let's relate this nice incident to the ugly matter of politics. I read on that, "Vice President Dick Cheney today said he was offended by Amnesty International's condemnation of the United States for what it called 'serious human rights violations' at Guantanamo Bay."
He says he was offended. He was, you might say, indignant. Nietzsche might say "No one is such a liar as the indignant man." Amnesty International says, "He doesn't take torture seriously; he doesn't take the Geneva Convention seriously; he doesn't take due process rights seriously; and he doesn't take international law seriously." I would say that he is unrepentant.
Admitting that you were wrong is hard. Asking forgiveness is hard; much much harder than the little task of stopping by the restaurant on my way home from work. Nietzsche's quote is about how an indignant attitude is often the mask of a lie. I believe the Bush administration knows that what it's doing is wrong.
It would be politically very difficult for the Bush administration to confess its mistakes to the world, and to begin to set them right. It should, though. It's the right thing as well as the Christian thing to do. It should be done in order to begin the healing and reconciliation process. If it's not done, I believe that the evil it has caused will continue to grow.

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