You Forgive and the Other Denies Wrongdoing: Now What?
In a recent story in our Forgiveness News section, “Forgiving Muammar Gaddafi for the Lockerbie Bombing,” we reported on Lisa Gibson, whose brother died in the Lockerbie, Scotland airplane bombing (Pan Am 103). She attempted to forgive both Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the only one convicted in the case, and Muammar Gaddafi, suspected to have masterminded the plot.
Both denied any connection with the bombing. Now what? How should Lisa Gibson deal with the forgiveness? Does she withdraw the attempt until at least one of them admits to wrongdoing of some kind, either planning or carrying out the deed? Does she go ahead anyway?
What should you do when you are about to forgive someone who denies any wrongdoing?
It seems to us that the first step is to take a little step backward and ask: Am I correct here in thinking that this person (or people) acted unjustly toward me? Of course, one need not have the kind of evidence required by a court of law because you are not being the judge over this person. You are not sentencing him or her to prison.
If, upon further reflection, you conclude that the person was unjust to you, then we recommend that you go ahead anyway, despite any howls of opposition from the person. Further, you need not tell him or her that you have forgiven. You can do so from the heart and then demonstrate your forgiveness by how you interact with or talk about the person.
The bottom line is this: You should not be held captive by another’s denial of wrongdoing. If your reflection leads you to conclude that he or she was unjust to you, then go ahead. Forgiveness is about freedom, including the freedom to make your own decisions about whom and when to forgive.