To Err is Human; to Forgive, Devine

to err

This quote from Alexander Pope’s poem, An Essay on Criticism has become something of a proverb, the author largely erased from ownership and the line becoming something of a moral truism. Collectively, we take this line of poetry as scripture telling us to forgive mistakes of ourselves and others because forgiveness brings us closer to god. But while we espouse this very quasi-religious sentiment, we act in the totally opposite manner.

As a culture, we understand that it is very human to make mistakes: we all do it. But forgiveness is the provenance of the gods. We act as if forgiveness can and should only be metered out by the heavenly host in the afterlife and that by forgiving someone ourselves we are condemning ourselves to an eternity of hellfire. Somehow, we have deemed it blasphemous to forgive others because we believe only god should have the power to forgive and by forgiving we are trying to usurp god’s power. So stay out of our way. We are quick to love our enemies as ourselves but even quicker to kill them.

Am I totally off base here, or do you agree with my assessment of society?

Can you come up with any other proverbs that illustrate the divide between beliefs and actions within our society?

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