There was a rash of strong tornadoes in the Midwestern United States last week. Is it appropriate to encourage children, who become frightened by such serious natural disasters, to forgive such weather events? I am thinking that forgiveness might reduce anger and calm the children when they think of these dangerous weather conditions.

In your asking this question, I can see that your intentions are honorable toward children. You are trying to find a way to reduce their anxiety. Yet, we do not want to distort what forgiveness is for the sake of people’s comfort. Forgiveness occurs when a person has been treated unjustly by other people. Weather events cannot act unjustly for obvious reasons; they do not have motivations to act in morally good or bad ways; they do not have free will. Thus, no weather event, no inanimate object can do moral wrong and so it cannot be the target of forgiveness. Instead of asking the children to forgive in such circumstances, I recommend that you work with them to accept what happened. Acceptance might also calm the nerves. By not introducing forgiveness in this context you are preserving its true meaning for when a child does have to forgive another person.

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Categories: Ask Dr. Forgiveness