In the comments to What is “Just Pacifism”, the topic of retribution came up, as well as alternatives to violence. I believe that part of the picture is forgiveness. I want to be careful here because I see forgiveness as just one element rather than a universal cure-all. Sometimes victims of injustice are told (explicitly or implicitly) to “forgive and forget”, which seems not far from being told to “get over it!”
When it comes to forgiveness, I think that people’s actual experiences should be central. Some remarkable stories can be found at the website of The Forgiveness Project:
The Forgiveness Project is a UK-based charitable organisation which explores forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution through real-life human experience. Many of those whose voices are celebrated in our exhibition and on this website, also share their stories in person. We work in prisons, schools, faith communities, and with any group who want to explore the nature of forgiveness whether in the wider political context or within their own lives.
Another interesting website is for a documentary called The Power of Forgiveness, a presentation of South Carolina ETV:
Researchers are now examining the psychological and physical effects of forgiveness on individuals and within relationships under an amazingly wide variety of conditions, ranging from petty insults to sexual assault. Clinicians have developed interventions that help guide people through a structured process that allows them to forgive transgressions and get on with their lives.
The Power of Forgiveness explores this important work … The broadcast is only one part of a national outreach effort that includes a community conversation campaign, this website, a national screening tour and a companion book. The focus is on the emergent understanding of contemporary clinical and academic research that shows forgiveness is validated as having real potential for personal and spiritual transformation. At the same time the film points to the centrality of forgiveness as a virtue in many of the world’s great religions and the struggle that people of all faiths have in honoring it.
The film combines character-driven stories of dramatic transgressions with those of more commonplace annoyances, examining the role that forgiveness can play in alleviating the resulting anger and grief and the physical, mental and spiritual benefits that come with forgiveness. These stories assure us that there is hope if we are open to seeking it and accepting it.
The film includes stories and interviews with people from many faith traditions: Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel on forgiveness in the Jewish faith; Azim Khamisa on forgiveness and Islam; Rev. James Forbes, pastor emeritus of Riverside Church in New York, on forgiveness from a Christian perspective. And best-selling author Thomas Moore (Care of the Soul) speaks on forgiveness from a spiritual dimension.
There are stories on forgiveness research, The Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut, Lebanon, building a Garden of Forgiveness at Ground Zero and the Amish teaching on forgiveness. And we hear from doctors, psychologists and psychotherapists who present the measurable benefits of forgiveness and the hidden costs of un-forgiveness.
What are your thoughts and experiences relating to forgiveness? What role do you think pacifism plays in forgiveness?