Is Forgiveness Dangerous?

In a March 15, 2012 editorial in the Athens (Georgia) Banner-Herald Newspaper, a writer, the Rev. Thomas Tom Camp, said this, “Is our development beyond revenge into forgiveness and reconciliation dangerous? Yes! But staying where we are is unacceptable and even more dangerous.”

The idea of “dangerous” challenged me. Is forgiveness dangerous and if so, for whom? There are two ancient stories that suggest a certain danger for those who see others forgive. Take, for example, Joseph in Hebrew scripture, who forgave his 10 half-brothers and one brother in Genesis 37-45. When Jacob, Joseph’s father, heard of Joseph’s forgiveness toward the half-brothers/brother—and that he was alive—he fainted. The Christian story of the Prodigal Son tells us that when the father forgave the prodigal son for his wanton living in a distant land, the older brother got upset. He could not understand how the father could be so generous to the rebellious son. Forgiveness can be upsetting to those who observe it because the mercy underlying it is so shocking and because the observers are not yet ready to embrace it for themselves.

Perhaps forgiveness is dangerous for the forgiver, who is now faced with an identity change. Upon forgiving, he or she is no longer a victim but a survivor and perhaps even someone who is now thriving.

Forgiveness can be dangerous for the unjust one who now must come to grips with the reality that, indeed, he or she did act unjustly.

Yet, in all of these examples, is there really danger, in the true sense of that word? There is upset, there is challenge, there is development, and there is the facing of reality. I do not see any real danger here.

Is there danger in acting justly? There was for Socrates. His standing in the truth cost him his life, as it did Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thomas More and others who were killed for acting justly.

Can you think of anyone who was actually killed for standing in the truth of forgiveness? I cannot, but I am open to correction on this.


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Categories: Misconceptions, Our Forgiveness Blog


  1. Josh says:

    Anwar Sadat, Egyptian President from 1970 until his assassination in 1981, stood for peace and reconciliation and it cost him his life. Dr. King talked of forgiveness and reconciliation. Their themes are indirectly connected to forgiveness, so perhaps there are heros of forgiveness who have been killed for their message.

  2. Nicka says:

    Jesus Christ was killed for the message of forgiveness between God and humankind. So, if we take Josh’s two examples, and this example, we can see that some are killed for their idea that people should give and receive forgiveness.

  3. IFI says:

    Thank you, Nicka and Josh, for these insights. We at the IFI agree with you. So, we will amend our answer to the question posed at the end of this post. We are aware of some who have given their lives in service to forgiveness and reconciliation.


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