Tagged: “free will”
Suppose someone said to you, “Please do not be fair to me. Under no circumstances, you are not to exercise justice to me.” Would you not be fair? Isn’t it your choice to be fair, regardless of the other person’s request? It is the same with forgiveness. You can forgive from the heart, as a free-will decision. You need not verbally proclaim your forgiveness toward the other if this person insists, but your forgiving always is your choice. The key issue here is how you forgive, and that can be done silently, from the heart and in actions that do not proclaim forgiveness.
How can we keep forgiveness initiatives going in schools and social groups, such as correctional institutions?
Yes, and here are two examples. For example 1, the one who might forgive realizes that there really was no injustice. There was, instead, a misunderstanding between two people. Under this condition, forgiving is not a good option. For example 2, the person truly was treated unjustly by another, but this happened very recently. The one considering forgiving is not ready and needs some time to work through the anger. In this case, it may be best to wait, process the anger, and then decide if forgiving is the way to go now. Forgiving is a free will choice and sometimes we need time to process what happened and to examine our inner world before starting to forgive.
As a follow-up to my question about growing in our humanity when we forgive, do you think that our forgiving others can help them grow in their humanity?
The philosophy of virtue-ethics has as one of its major premises that all people have free will. This is the case because, without our free choices in life, we cannot willingly decide, for example, to be just or fair to others. When you forgive someone for unjust behavior, you are giving that person the opportunity to examine that behavior and to change. Yet, because of the premise of free will, it now is up to that person how to grow in fairness. The person will need insight (I did wrong), have inner sorrow (remorse), apologize (repent), and amend the ways that are unfair. Your forgiving will not automatically lead to all of this, but again, you are offering an important opportunity in that direction for the one who offended.
I have been studying forgiveness for the past 36 years and this questions keeps coming up. To me, this means that it is a vital question as well as one filled with emotion for those who ask. Given that we have worked in contentious world zones now for two decades, I have learned that the answer is important and can be contentious.
So, here are my views:
Because forgiveness is a moral virtue, as are justice, patience, kindness, and love, it should be seen as similar to all other moral virtues. Is there ever a case that a person would say to another, “You must not ever be fair or just in situation X for this reason…….”? This likely would never seem correct to anyone because we all have the freedom of our will to be fair whenever we want to enact justice. To prevent a person who is intent on fairness would seem unfair.
I think it is the same with regard to forgiveness under any circumstance. If the potential-forgiver has thought about the situation, determines it was unfair, and willingly chooses to forgive, then it is that person’s free will choice to do so.
Yes, others may look on with disgust or confusion because of another person’s decision to forgive, especially in the grave issue of genocide, but again, we have to fall back onto the quality of forgiveness, what it is in its essence: Forgiveness is the free will decision to be good to those who have not been good to the forgiver. In doing so, the forgiver never distorts the injustice by saying, “It’s ok what happened.” No. What happened was wrong, is wrong, and always will be wrong. Forgiveness now is a response to the other person or persons who perpetrated this wrongdoing. The potential-forgiver can and should fight for justice even when forgiving. Forgiveness should not cancel this quest for fairness and safety. In fact, forgiving may help a person to reduce hatred which can consume one’s energy and well-being. The forgiving, there, might free the unjustly-treated person to strive with more vigor for fairness.
In the final analysis, some people do decide to forgive those who perpetrated genocide. This is the free-will decision of the person and if this is done rationally then it is good because the appropriation of true moral virtues in a rational way is good by definition. When there is a philosophical distortion of forgiveness, such as engaging in the vice of cowardliness in which the false-forgiveness allows the unjust and powerful others to dominate people, then this is not forgiveness at all. It is a masquerade of forgiveness. Yet, true forgiveness, that does not back down, is a moral virtue whether or not others looking on judge it to be this or not.
At the same time, some people will decide not to forgive others who perpetrated genocide. This, too, is the person’s free will decision and those looking on, as in the case above, might best handle this situation by realizing that people have a difference of opinion at present on this moral dilemma of forgiving under the most trying of circumstances.
Can and should a person forgive those who perpetrate genocide? Yes, some can and should if they have good reasons to do so. Should all then forgive? No, because this suggests control over a person’s own private decision, which should be left to the one who experienced the trauma.