What Happens When News Media Get It Wrong Regarding Forgiveness?

While browsing the Internet today, I came across a piece from National Public Radio dated March 11, 2013. It has the ominous title, “Forgiveness Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be.”

Let us examine their points to see if they are true. The program included an advice columnist, Emily Yoffe and psychiatrist, Richard Friedman.

An opening salvo comes from Yoffe, who describes myriad letters she receives from people whose parents are old, sick, and who never were there for the son or daughter when growing up. She thinks it can be inappropriate to forgive with this statement, “…there can be a tremendous cost to the person who was abused to go back to the abuser and say, all is forgiven.”

Our rebuttal: When we forgive we do not have to go to the person and proclaim it. We can forgive from the heart and keep our distance if the other is abusive.

When it was Dr. Friedman’s turn he said this, “…to ask these people to go back and try to, quote, ‘repair’ their relationship with their parents would do more harm than good.”

Our rebuttal: To forgive is not necessarily to repair a relationship. That is the job of reconciliation. To equate forgiveness and reconciliation is to distort the meaning of each. Forgiveness is a moral virtue and one can offer the virtue of mercy to another without reconciling. Reconciliation is not a moral virtue but instead is a negotiation strategy of two or more people coming together again in mutual trust.

Emily Yoffe then reiterates the moral equality of forgiveness and reconciliation when she says this, “People can be re-victimized by the sense that you must forgive and move on, and that’s going to mean reconciliation and helping.”

Our rebuttal: We should not swing at forgiveness and give it a black eye when we really mean to swing at a different target, reconciliation.

Forgiveness is not all it’s cracked up to be. If this is so, the NPR program certainly did not defend this premise. Instead, it engaged in distortions and perhaps gave itself a black eye.


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Categories: Misconceptions, Our Forgiveness Blog


  1. Tracy says:

    I find this ironic. The media are talking about a moral virtue and yet they are not first seeking the truth about what this virtue actually is before plowing ahead and discussing it. This does not seem so morally virtuous to me. It goes against the virtue of justice.

  2. Brian says:

    NPR = Never Proves Right

    OK, I am exaggerating here, but it does pay not to accept all that we hear as right.

  3. Chris says:

    It is a serious issue when people fail to see that forgiveness and reconciliation differ. The criticisms then leveled at forgiveness are not fair criticisms.

  4. Beth says:

    Thank you for the analysis of the most superficial means of gaining “knowledge.” The modern media with its sound bytes is probably making Socrates roll over in his grave.

  5. Smantha says:

    It seems to me that too many in the media are using their influence rather than their humility. I mean that they want to influence others rather than to seek the truth no matter what. Forgiveness is a delicate thing and we have to be careful with it, with what it means.

  6. Marta says:

    I think that the Internet has taken away a lot of the self-appointed power of those in the media. There are too many people now who can comment on what they do. This post is a case in point.


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