I have challenged the importance of forgiveness in my previous questions. Thank you for your thoughtful replies. I have one final question for you regarding my skepticism about forgiveness. It seems to me that as I try to forgive, the other receives all of the “getting” and I, stupidly, do all of the “giving.” Am I correct in saying that there is no balance here?

Because forgiving is centered in the moral virtue of mercy, you, as a forgiver, do have an interest in alleviating the other’s pain or even misery, caused in part by the unfair behavior. Thus, you are right that in forgiving you are “giving.” Yet, here is where I think your reasoning has a fallacy. You are thinking in “either/or” terms. By this I mean that you seem to be reasoning this way: Either I forgive or I seek fairness, but I do not do both. Under this circumstance, yes, you are right, to forgive is to be a giver who may not get anything back. Yet, I would urge you to think in “both/and” ways. As you forgive, then seek justice. In this way, you are both giving and seeking to right a wrong, or get something back that is important to you and possibly to your relationship with the other person. This balances forgiving and justice and thus you are not “stupid” when you forgive.

For additional information, see: Forgiveness: An Offshoot of Love.

Man Forgives New Zealand Mosque Shooter Who Killed His Wife

Metro.co.uk; London, England, UK – Fifty people were killed and another 50 wounded when three gunmen entered two different mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch and opened fire on March 15. Three days later, a disabled man who lost his wife in the horrific mass shooting, insisted that he holds no ill feelings towards the killers and that he has forgiven the man responsible for his wife’s death.

“I lost my wife, but I don’t hate the killer,”59-year-old Farid Ahmed declared, referring to the Australian man arrested and charged with murder after the rampage. “As a person, I love him. I cannot support what he did. But I think somewhere along in his life, maybe he was hurt. But he could not translate that hurt into a positive manner.”

Farid’s wife, Husna, 44, died a hero after helping worshippers escape from the mosque and then being shot in the back when she returned to help her husband who is wheelchair-bound. Farid is a leader at the Mosque where Husna taught childrens’ classes.

When asked by a news reporter how he felt about the person who killed his wife, Ahmed said. “I love that person because he is a human, a brother of mine. Maybe he was hurt, maybe something happened to him in his life … but the bottom line is, he is a brother of mine. I have forgiven him, and I am sure if my wife was alive she would have done the same thing.” 

“I don’t have any grudge against him,” Ahmed added. “I have forgiven him, and I am praying for him that God will guide him.”


Comments praising Farid Ahmed for his grace and courage have been pouring in on Facebook and other social media outlets:

“Wow, you are inspiring sir, we need more people in this world like you,
The power of forgiveness is more powerful than hatred.”


The Christchurch mosque shootings were actually two consecutive terrorist attacks at mosques in New Zealand’s largest city. The attacks began at the Masjid Al Noor Mosque in the suburb of Riccarton at1:40 pm and continued at the Linwood Islamic Centre 15 minutes later. Nine of those shot are still hospitalized in critical condition, including a four-year-old girl.

Candles arranged in a heart shape, at Christchurch’s Botanic Gardens, burn for victims of the mosque shootings. Image: The Globe and Mail

The attacks, launched during Friday Prayers when both mosques were packed,  were livestreamed via a camera strapped to the perpetrator. Horrific images of bloodshed and people desperately trying to evade the gunman were copied and shared on social media sites including YouTube. Facebook  has said it removed 1.5m videos of the attack in the first 24 hours.

Thousands of people gathered in Christchurch last Sunday to listen to prayers, songs and speeches at a vigil to remember the 50 people killed in the terrorist attacks. City officials estimated that 40,000 people attended.

Read the entire story: Extraordinary forgiveness of man whose wife was killed in New Zealand mosque terror attack.

Additional News Coverage: ‘I am Praying for Him’: Muslim Man Who Lost His Wife in Christchurch Shooting Forgives Murderous Attacker.

Watch Time magazine’s video news coverage of the vigil, survivor interviews, and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s call for a ban on semi-automatic rifles in New Zealand.

You say that one reason why forgiving is good is because it could get the attention of the one who acted wrongly. Yet, what if the forgiveness never does get the other’s attention? It then seems to me that you have wasted your time in forgiving.

Forgiving when properly understood and willingly chosen to practice is never a waste of time. This is the case because, as a moral virtue, forgiveness is good in and of itself. In other words, when a person finds the strength and courage to be respectful, kind, generous, and even loving toward other people, even when they behave badly, this is a heroic act. Of course, we have to make a distinction here between forgiving and reconciling. Automatic reconciliation which could be dangerous for the forgiver is not wise. To unconditionally forgive, offering goodness while “watching one’s back,” is good because all moral virtues are good.

For additional information, see: Why Forgive?

What Is the Difference: Our Forgiveness Proposals vs Social Justice Proposals for the Imprisoned?

Plato reminds us in The Republic that justice is giving people what is deserved.  This can include both rewards and punishments.  If Person A offers $100 to Person B for building a table, the receipt of the $100 by Person B upon the successful completion of the table is fair or just.  If Person C is guilty of a traffic violation and the rules of the city require any violator of this kind to be fined $100, then it is fair or just if Person C gives up $100.

Plato’s The Republic is a “Socratic dialogue” concerning justice, the just city-state, and the just man. Written in 380 BC, The Republic essentially consists of its main character—Socrates—discussing the meaning and nature of justice with his upper-class Athenian (Greek) friends. The central takeaway from The Republic, and the one that still resonates to this day, is that justice is desirable because of its consequences.
• Click the illustration to read The Republic.

Social justice, while not always defined in the same way by all advocates of this approach, basically centers on equality of outcome.  For example, suppose a pizza establishment will not deliver in a neighborhood in which there is high crime and two of their delivery people were killed trying to make deliveries there in the past year.

Because innocent people in that neighborhood are not treated the same as people in safer neighborhoods, this may be considered unjust by social justice standards.  Why?  It is because the innocent need an equal outcome, successful delivery of pizzas, compared to those in safer neighborhoods.  That the risk for the deliverers is not deserved is not an issue here.  For the classical sense of justice, what do the deliverers deserve?  They deserve to be safe in terms of laws of probability for being safe.  For the new social sense of justice, what do the deliverers deserve?  Actually, the deliverers are not the focus now.  The focus is on those who have no equality of ordering pizzas.  There is a decided shift to one particular group and the emphasis on equality of outcome for them.

Now we are ready to show the difference between social justice for the imprisoned and forgiveness interventions for them.  In social justice and in forgiveness, we both might focus, for example, on the childhood of Person D, who was abused by his father and now Person D has abused three children, for which he is arrested.  Social justice, in focusing on his childhood, might have people see that Person D is not fully to blame for his actions, but instead his unfortunate background must mitigate the length of his sentence so that he is not unequally behind bars compared to others who were not abused and are not behind bars.  The quest in this particular case is to alter the sentence and thus the time served.

For our forgiveness program, as we, too, focus on Person D’s horrendously unjust childhood, we try to help Person D, if he chooses, to forgive his father for his deep injustices.  This process of forgiveness might reduce Person D’s rage and thus reduce his motivation to hurt others in the future.  We do not suggest that justice now be altered.  We focus on inner healing and not on altering the time he is to serve in prison.  Justice in its classical sense is served in the forgiveness programs, while that classical sense of justice is not served when social justice is considered, at least in the example given here.

There is a substantial difference between forgiveness as a rehabilitation strategy for those in prison and the call to alter the sentence in social justice.  If there is a call to reduce sentences without the concomitant attempt to eliminate rage, one has to wonder how just this solution is.  Perhaps it is time to fold forgiveness interventions into the quest for social justice so that these work together.  When a reduced sentence is going to occur, then it seems wise that the rage within first is reduced.

Robert

Would you please explain what you mean by “wishing the person well” in the context of forgiving someone?

When you “wish the other well” you are not necessarily planning to go to the person and proclaim that you have forgiven (at least not yet).  You are not necessarily planning (at least for now) to reconcile with the person.  Instead, you are engaging in a cognitive exercise in which you hope that the one who hurt you does well in life, even if that person is doing well in life without a relationship with you.  For example, you want the person to have a good job.  You hope the person has good health.  The point is this:  Your thoughts about the person are not condemning ones but instead are positive thoughts for the person’s well-being.

Learn more at How to Forgive.

I kind of feel that if I am forgiven, then what I did will be long forgotten.  At this point, I am afraid of that because, if I am forgiven and all is forgotten, I might commit the offense again. Any suggestions?

It sounds to me that even if others forget what you did, you are not going to forget.  So, others’ views will not change yours.  May I suggest a balance here.  I know you do not want to forget what you did so that you do not engage in that behavior again.  At the same time, you might consider forgiving yourself if you are clinging to the memory of what you did and thus continue to condemn yourself for this.  If you forgive yourself, you still are not likely to forget, but instead to remember in new ways.  In other words, when you look back on the situation, you will not condemn yourself and feel excessively guilty as you recall what you did.  Your worry that you will completely forget will not materialize because, when you forgive yourself, you tend to remember in new ways rather than literally blotting out the transgression from memory.

Learn more at Self-Forgiveness and Learning to Forgive Others.

Is it even wise to try to build up trust again when the person already has betrayed that trust?

This will depend on whether or not the other who has hurt you shows what I call in my book, The Forgiving Life, the “three R’s.”  Does this person show remorse (or inner sorrow), repentance (coming to you with a sincere apology), and recompense (trying to make it right, within reason)?  If the three R’s are in place, then you can begin to try to re-establish trust, which can be earned one small step at a time.  See if the person can handle the particular kind of responsibility that did not materialize in the past.  If, in the small steps, the person shows a good will and sound behavior, then you might trust in more substantial ways.  If the person cannot handle finances, but you give the person now a small responsibility with finances and this is handled well, you might consider a little more financial responsibility, and then a little more.  Trust needs to be earned and is often built up slowly.

For additional information, see The Forgiving Life.