Think about the recent tragedy of mass shooting that happened in California. The mass shooter felt inferior and disrespected by others due to his short stature. It seems that he did have real experiences of being bullied in the past, but what if there were someone who could not really recall being bullied by others but still had serious anger toward a specific group of people because of their potential mistreatment (or historical mistreatment)? Another similar example is this: Think about a racial minority who does not think that he has ever been mistreated due to his racial background (or cannot recall such an incident), but he knows that those with the same racial background as his are often mistreated by others. He now has serious anger toward a certain group of people; his anger is real and is directed toward certain people. Is forgiveness still relevant in this case without a specific incident of injustice? Is it possible for someone to forgive unknown others? If yes, how would that process of forgiving unknown others look different? Thank you very much for your time.

Philosophers talk about secondary forgiveness in which Person B forgives someone who hurt his family member, Person A.  Person B is legitimately hurt, although not directly, by the injustice perpetrated on Person A.  Thus, he has a right to forgive if he chooses because he has been indirectly hurt by the injustice.

In the other example, of an ethnic or racial minority who has not been directly hurt, the norms of a given society still can be hurtful to his group.  Thus, this person can forgive the abstract entity of society.  The process can be more difficult because it is so abstract.  One cannot see the norms themselves, only the outcome of those norms (such as behavioral or verbal disrespect).  The forgiver may not even have specific people in mind and thus the process begins and ends with this abstract entity of “society.”  Other than the one or ones singled out for forgiving, the process would proceed similarly to that in which Person B is hurt by Person C and then forgives Person C.

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Categories: Ask Dr. Forgiveness


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