Over at the maverickphilosopher.typepad.com website, we read a thoughtful post on Friday, December 4, 2015 in which the writer makes a compelling case that the “pacific” virtues have no place in the public sphere, in civil discourse, as compared with the private sphere of the family, for example. Why? It is because if one turns the other cheek, then those bent on destroying you will gladly take that cheek and all else which you have to offer.
So, then, given that forgiveness is one of the pacific virtues, does it have a place in the public sphere, and especially when societies are at war? I think that the answer is a yes. Please let me explain.
Let us suppose that Society A has done all that it can to suppress the voice of those in Society B. Further, Society A is oppressing those in Society B to such an extent that the people in Society B cannot make a living wage, own a healthy horse, or purchase a plot of land that is not rocky and barren.
Does it make sense to talk of forgiveness for the people in Society B? Justice first, otherwise, forgiveness could be the opiate of the people (as Marx said of religious faith) and lull them into a spiritual stupor, a disastrous situation from which they may never recover. And thus, centuries of ennui and passivity and continued oppression occur. . . .albeit with a smile on the faces of those oppressed because at least now they are having happy thoughts about their oppressor.I could not disagree more with the ideas in the paragraph preceding this one. Here is why. Yes, the people in Society B have suffered a great injustice. Do you realize that they have suffered a second injustice, which too many fail to see? Go ahead, I dare you: Find the second injustice. I will wait for you.
The second injustice is this: The people in Society B have now been given a disease by those in Society A and that disease is resentment, the persistent sense of ill will that can live within a person until it takes his or her life and then, like the virus it is, it jumps to another host to avoid extinction. And thus, the disease of resentment can be passed from generation to generation to generation to. . . . . .
Society A, if its intent is to oppress, has now done so twice, once in the original oppression with its unjust laws and treatment and second in its giving a disease to Society B.
Forgiveness will not solve the original injustice. Only justice can do that.
Yet, forgiveness is a cure for the second kind of injustice, the disease of resentment. Forgiveness cures the disease of resentment. So, you do not believe me. I am not asking you to believe. I am asking you to examine the science on this issue. Go to the “Research” page of our website (by clicking on the “Research” link at left). Then read the many (but not exhaustive) peer-reviewed studies showing that forgiveness gets rid of resentment. It cures the resentment.
And thus, we are no longer left with the burden of two injustices, but now only with one, the first one described above. Free of disease, the people in Society B now can have more energy, see and think more clearly, and act more wisely to persevere and persevere and persevere in righting the first wrong.
If we fail to see this, then we are engaging in an injustice ourselves—the failure to see and to act definitively in helping Society B to heal from a crippling disease.
By the way, do you know of anyone caught in a Society B situation? Here is your quiz for the day: What can you do to help rid that person and that society of a disease that can kill and keep on killing across time and across people?
Our failure to act is unjust and we want to be virtuous people. We need forgiveness education and forgiveness therapy in contentious regions of the world………..now.