Archive for December, 2023

Jewish Mother Forgives the Israeli Soldiers Who Mistakenly Killed Her Hostage Son

The Times of Israel newspaper, on December 22, 2023, reported on a story in which one of the soldiers visited the mother, Iris Haim, of an Israeli citizen who was mistakenly shot in Gaza by soldiers from the 17th Battalion of the Bislamach Brigade.  The son, Yotam Haim, was killed on December 15 along with two other hostages, who were mistaken as a threat.

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In a recorded message from Mrs. Haim to the soldiers, she said this as reported in The Times of Israel: ““I am Yotam’s mother. Iwanted to tell you that I love you very much, and I hug you here from afar. I know that everything that happened is absolutely not your fault……I want you to look after yourselves.”

The soldier, as reported in the newspaper, said this to Mrs. Haim: ““We received your message, and since then we have been able to function again…….Before that we had shut down.”  In other words, their receiving Mrs. Haim’s forgiveness allowed them to reclaim their lives.

Such early and sincere forgiveness is not for everyone.  For example, the brother of one of the others slain in this incident expressed bitterness toward the Defense Minister of Israel, blaming him and saying that he would “hunt after him.”  When asked if his anger would consume him, the brother of the slain man replied, again as reported in The Times: ““I don’t have anything left to consume.”

Iris Haim is a living example of how forgiveness, after severe tragedy, can amaze and surprise the world.

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In your Discovery Phase of the forgiveness process, you discuss meaning and purpose in a person’s life upon forgiving others.  What is the difference between finding meaning and finding purpose?

Meaning is the cognitive activity of answering the “why question” in a positive way regarding what was suffered. A likely insight gained is that I am stronger and more aware of others’ suffering, now that I have walked the forgiveness path.  Thus, to find meaning is primarily a cognitive activity.  Purpose concerns the actions that now flow from the meaning.  If a person begins to see that forgiving has been a positive journey in making one stronger, more merciful, then one purpose that might flow from this insight is this: I now will commit to aiding others in their suffering, in helping them to forgive.

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In my observing people who have been hurt by others, there seems to be a certain closed-mindedness that makes forgiveness difficult.  Here is what I mean: People kind of close down to listening and discussing civilly with others once they have been hurt.  Wouldn’t this closed-mindedness to open communication hinder forgiving?

I think you are conflating forgiving and reconciling.  You can forgive a person starting within your own heart by committing to do no harm to the other, with a commitment to offering respect and eventually even love (in the sense of agape) toward that other person.  This occurs even without communicating with the other person.  Reconciliation, in contrast, does require listening and having open communication.  So, when this listening and discussing civilly are closed down, this likely will hinder the reconciliation process, but not the process of forgiving.

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I think that people should be held accountable. Without contrition, not even God is willing to forgive.

We would like to ask you this: Must you decide between being forgiven and taking responsibility? Do you think they are exclusive of one another? We ought to keep in mind Aristotle’s advice. None of the virtues should be practiced in isolation. Justice takes the form of accountability. Forgiveness and justice coexist in harmony. It is important to keep in mind that God forgives sins. Sins are not forgiven by people. if you base your understanding of forgiveness on the Bible, please keep in mind that the biblical account of Joseph forgiving his brothers in Genesis is an example of unconditional forgiveness. Joseph did not forgive the brothers until they had shown him repentance. It is comparable in the New Testament, in the story of the Prodigal Son, whose father forgave him unconditionally, prior to the son’s repentance.

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If I begin to forgive, what does that mean? This is scary to me because I’m new to it.

You are not absolving someone of their wrongdoing when you extend forgiveness. Rather, when the time comes, you will be offering him or her a cessation of resentment and, to the extent that you are able at this moment, goodness of some kind. Reconciliation is possible, but this depends on the situation. For example, you don’t make amends, with someone who has the potential to harm you physically, until you are confident that the person has turned his life around. The main idea is that you will be attempting to show mercy to the person who has wronged you. You are free to go at your own speed and take your time so that the forgiveness path is not too much of a challenge for you.

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