9/11 and Forgiveness

I have been reading some comments across the Internet about how we ought to respond to the 9/11 attacks. Here are five of them:

1) Forgiveness is only for the unintended slights, not for the malicious who desired to hurt.

2) It is time to put it all behind us. Forgiveness does that.

3) Win the wars that we started after 9/11, then let us talk about forgiveness.

4) Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all value forgiveness in the Torah, the New Testament, and the Qu’ran. Let us embrace that common ground.

5) We should forgive. It is good for us.

I offer comments on each point:

1) Forgiveness is so easy when the other did not intend it. Forgiveness belongs to the heart torn apart by injustice, but it should never be forced. This has to be a time of gentleness as we in America and those who join us across the globe react in our own way. Some are still fuming, others mourning, still others trying to move on and forget, while still others have forgiven or are on that journey. None of these needs our judgement today.

2) Forgiveness does not necessarily “put it all behind us.” Sometimes, forgiveness puts it all in front of us, opening up the pain as we look at those who planned and executed the crime, and those who looked on in triumph or indifference. We can forgive those who, in the aftermath, did not call evil by its name.

3) Winning wars as a prerequisite for forgiveness confuses this: People can strive for justice and forgive at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive. When we forgive, sometimes what we request in the name of justice changes and for the better.

4) Those who embrace one of the monotheistic traditions indeed share this: The ancient writings across all three honor forgiveness. For those who recognize this, perhaps it is time to open the dialogue so that a deeper appreciation of “the other” emerges across cultures. Forgiveness education can help here.

5) “We should forgive” has a sense of pressure as I hear those words. We do not want to pressure others to forgive. “We should forgive” also has a sense of challenge. This I like. Let us challenge without pressure. We at the International Forgiveness Institute built this site for you, the reader, so you do not feel alone when it is time to forgive. We are here for you, even on the solemn days when forgiveness seems so hard and so many questions about it arise.

Dr. Bob

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Categories: Our Forgiveness Blog, Special Days


  1. Jacque says:

    Thank you or this. I have wrestled with forgiveness here especially because I don’t even know those who did this. Yet, if I do forgive I now realize that I am not abandoning the quest for justice.

  2. Melinda says:

    The insight that forgiveness and justice can occur together is important. We have to protect ourselves in a world that is not always friendly.

  3. Michael says:

    I am still angry over this attack. The killing of innocent citizens is wrong. Melinda, you are right: This is not always a friendly world. My anger is not so strong that it is bringing me down.

  4. Jane says:

    I like the idea of being non-judgmental with those who are handling 9/11 differently than me. We heal differently and I wish everyone well who is still on the healing path.

  5. Sarah says:

    I just want to take the time to say thank you once again to the firefighters and police officers who so courageously answered the first call for help. You are heroes.

  6. Hobbie says:

    The thought of forgiveness is still hard for me because of all the death and destruction caused by that unjust act. I even find myself having to forgive those who do not call it an unjust act.

  7. Thurmond says:

    For those of you who are interested, the most recent post here in Ask Dr Forgiveness address head on the issue of forgiving those who masterminded 9/11.

  8. Barron says:

    To all of you who have to even consider forgiving because you lost loved ones in 9/11, my sympathy and prayers are with you.

  9. Jasmine says:

    I agree with Barron. You who have experienced the loss of loved ones are in my thoughts today. I am glad that forgiveness is a part of humanity.

  10. Denise Cavassa says:

    Perhaps, the best place to start is to forgive yourself for how you choose to perceive what offends you. Your thoughts create your reality.


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