Monday, July 26, 2010

Unpopular Virtues: Forgiveness

Making Monday

A willingness to forgive is often listed among the top Christian virtues. It's also a fundamental maker virtue.

"What," you may ask, "could a notion usually associated with ethics or theology have to do with making tings?"

First, consider what it means to forgive.

A simplistic definition might go along the lines of letting something pass. That's not entirely off the mark, but it does lack precision.

To forgive has a precise definition in accounting: when a debt is forgiven the accountant takes it off the books and expends no further effort tracking the amount. Expending no further effort is the key to understanding forgiveness on a practical level. In ethical terms, then, to forgive means that you stop carrying the burden of the injury.

"Fine," you may say, "but what does that have to do with making?"

Debugging, something you may have heard most often in the context of software development, is fundamentally the process of correcting the gap between your expectations and the reality of the thing you've made. Until such time as we possess enough magic or science to bring a thing into being the moment in which we conceive of it, the process of transforming raw material into a finished thing will take some amount of time. During that time, the thing being made will not meet your expectations because it's not finished. Some people find that gap supremely frustrating, even debilitating.

Put another way, in order to make, you must constantly forgive the thing for not yet being what you want it to become.

 Image: Bill Longshaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net