These are very interesting distinctions worthy of further thought and discussion. For now, let me say this: When a person forgives another he or she does not necessarily cancel the need for recompense. Recompense is an issue of justice and so it seems to me to be perfectly reasonable to forgive and then ask for recompense. For example, suppose someone drove your car without permission and dented the fender. Your forgiving the person would not cancel the recompense of his/her now paying the body shop bill. Yes, there can be an aspect of pardoning if the forgiver chooses not to seek the recompense (such as not asking the person to pay the bill), but this is not part of the essence of what forgiveness is.
With regard to the final issue of forgiving offenders or offenses, forgiveness is always person-centered. Thus, we forgive persons and not offenses. We forgive persons because of offenses, but we do not forgive the offenses themselves.
702 ABC Sydney, Australia – Sarah Frazer was like any 22 year old woman. Dreams, aspirations and excitement. On a sunny February day, while on her way to Wagga Wagga to start college, her car broke down on the Hume Highway in the Southern Highlands. She called roadside assistance and a tow truck arrived some time later. Driver Geoff Clark began loading the car.
Some 10 minutes later, both would be dead. Hit by a truck.
Months later, Sarah’s father Peter Frazer travels the countryside speaking about the importance of road safety and treating everyone on the road like they’re family. “You never hear about what happens after an accident. What I’m doing is about standing beside the people and acknowledging their loss.”
Frazer also noted the healing process of forgiveness.
“When Kaine’s case was adjourned, my daughter Rebecca comforted his girlfriend,” Frazer said of Kaine Barnett who was driving the truck. “I saw Kaine banging his head, weeping. I hugged him, and said we forgave him.”
Frazer and his family intend to visit Barnett while he serves his 3 year sentence for manslaughter.
This week (May 4-10) is Road Safety Week and the SARAH (Safer Australian Roads and Highways) Group is asking motorists to tie a yellow ribbon to their car in memory of the 1,200 killed and 30,000 injured on Australian roads last year.
Read the full report: “Father says forgiveness was key to healing after accident.”
I recently was talking with someone who said that her therapist is helping her to accept what happened to her in childhood. When we have been traumatized, we should not expect ourselves to accept the situation. No one, for example, would expect an abuse victim to accept what happened.
Forgiveness is not about accepting situations. Why? Because forgiveness as a moral virtue is centered on persons and not primarily on situations. All moral virtues, whether it is love, justice, kindness, patience, or any other, is a form of goodness for other people’s good. We are not kind to tornadoes, for example.
When we forgive, we reach out to persons, those who did wrong. We work at accepting the humanity in that person, despite what he/she did. We do not accept what he/she did.
When therapists ask traumatized persons to accept unjust situations, they may be asking the impossible, which could lead to frustration and even guilt in the client. After all, if I am supposed to accept that I was brutalized, and then cannot accomplish that, I might feel inadequate. Clients need to know that it is not their job to accept situations, but instead to work on accepting the inherent worth of all persons, even those who are unjust. Even this thought takes time and effort, but is achievable with persistence and a good will.
It’s been 20 years since the Genocide in Rwanda claimed the lives of more than 800,000 people. You can hear survivors’ stories in their own words by watching Beyond Right & Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness.
Beyond Right & Wrong presents the stories of people who have experienced loss and the stories of people who have caused that loss. From the Rwandan Genocide to the Troubles in Northern Ireland to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, people from different sides of the violence have entrusted all of us with their stories—their anger or remorse, their pain, their paths to recovery.
In the stillness after conflict, after the blood dries and the screams fade, the memory of violence transforms survivors into prisoners of their own pain. How do whole societies recover from devastating conflict? Can survivors live—converse, smile, and even laugh—beside someone who blinded them, killed their parents, or murdered their children? Can victims and perpetrators work together to rebuild their lives? This life-changing documentary explores the intersections of justice and forgiveness as survivors heal from these tragedies.