An essay on Forgiveness
Forgiveness is vital to the idea of atonement; without it, justice cannot be served. For example, if a thief stole something from you or, even worse, killed someone you loved, would you ever forgive them? Could you possibly trust that individual again? Through forgiveness, an offender can receive mercy and be given another chance by their victim.
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” -Paul Boese
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that an offender simply gets away with what they have done to another person; instead, it requires action on behalf of both parties. Perhaps if the offender apologises sincerely enough and shows true remorse over their actions, then there is room for discussion between both parties about how best to right their wrongs. Without forgiveness, an offender cannot move on from their criminal past and the victim will never get closure from the situation, no matter how hard they try to forget or put it behind them.
In order for true change to happen within an individual, there needs to be an acknowledgment of wrongdoing through some sort of accountability. This does not mean that an apology is required before someone can be forgiven, but it does allow a space for resolution between both parties. While one person may have actively participated in the offense, and more than one party may have contributed to its occurrence, I would argue that everyone involved should want forgiveness in order to restore what has been broken by their actions.
“If we insist on punishing those who interrupt us with crime, perhaps we should consider whether we can ever interrupt our own complicity in crime.” Angela Davis,
While some might argue that an offender should be held accountable for their actions regardless of whether or not they have been forgiven, I would say that it is the intent behind one’s words and actions that matters most. If a person truly has regret for what they have done, then true remorse needs to be shown through action. How sorry one might feel doesn’t matter if there is no willingness on behalf of the individual to make amends with the victim. In my opinion, a sincere apology will allow room for discussion about possible resolutions, although this does not mean forgiveness will happen straight away. All I believe anyone can do is recognise where they went wrong and accept responsibility for their mistakes in order to become a better person in the future.
Admit it! You are guilty of doing something to another person that you do not wish to acknowledge. How can you expect forgiveness if you can’t even learn from your own mistakes?
“Forgiveness is the economy of the heart.” Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits. -Hannah More
Forgiveness has emotional costs associated with it, but there are also benefits, chief among these being redemption. By allowing someone to move forward in life without their past coming back to haunt them, this allows both parties a fresh start free from resentment or bitterness. Instead, they will be able to focus on what lies ahead rather than dwell upon things gone wrong.
In my opinion, people who are incapable of forgiveness are those who refuse to grow up emotionally. For personal reasons that have little to do with the individuals themselves, they will live their lives constantly fighting with others and hating those around them. Instead of wasting energy on things that don’t matter, it is much healthier and more rewarding to let go and move forward, accepting responsibility for past mistakes as well as those currently being made.
“If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.” -Louis D. Brandeis
Forgiveness requires justice in order to be effective; otherwise, it is just a band-aid over a bullet hole. An offender needs to feel as though they truly deserve forgiveness before receiving mercy from their victim, or else there will always be resentment between both parties. If you are incapable of forgiving someone for what they have done, then it is unlikely that you are willing to make the changes necessary to turn your life around. Instead, there will always be an unhealthy power struggle between both parties that does nothing but cause further damage in the long run.
“Everyone believes that forgiveness and redemption are good, but no one believes they are easy.” -Peggy Noonan
At the moment when a victim chooses to forgive someone who has severely wronged them, there is often a sense of relief felt on behalf of the offender. After all, if the victim had chosen not to show mercy or compassion towards their attacker, then how would anyone ever change for the better? Sometimes people need to hit rock bottom before they can begin rebuilding their lives with a newfound purpose. Without the ability to change themselves, there is little chance of them growing as a person. Forgiveness is just one step on their journey of self-discovery and growth, something that should be celebrated rather than condemned by those around them.