ForumTouchy Subjects ► Forgiveness
When is forgiveness appropriate to use when considering crimes or other transgressions? I’m not gonna be clearer than that. I think you all have enough to work with.
  
In general, I think transgressions should be addressed in a way that focuses on repairing whatever can be fixed and preventing future problems. With direct victims it's pretty easy to address, either something is forgiven or its not and thats entirely up to each victim. No transgressor is owed any forgiveness, but they ought to take all possible steps to earn it, often including walking away and accepting that you'll never get forgiveness.
With society it's a much trickier issue. What is the proper penance for the way a transgression makes the world feel less safe? Can you run out of second chances or do something too heinous to forgive? How do we handle that? Death penalty? exile? permanent imprisonment? I'm not really a fan of any of those options, but it also doesn't sit right with me to let serial abusers go out and enjoy fame and success either
  
Forgiveness from a societal perspective should be tied to contrition, it's not something we can empirically measure, but I think it's an ugly quality to remain vindictive once someone's expressed genuine remorse.
  
I dunno, some damage can't be undone by any amount of remorse. Should, say, Anders Breivik be welcomed back into society if he shows genuine remorse? Even if he should, would you expect people to forgive him? would you blame them if they didn't?
And how do we judge remorse? If a serial offender like Mel Gibson were to atone, is there literally anything he could do where he would be trusted to turn over a new leaf? When the amount of time it would take to build trust that the remorse is genuine starts to become a significant portion of the human lifetime, what do we do with all that time?
  
First TS posts in a while and I'm already being asked to defend actual neo-nazis... Yikes.

Should Anders Breivik be welcomed back into society? Part of being remorseful is being willing to accept punishment, but generally speaking -- yea eventually: Does incarcerating someone who is no longer a psychotic murderer help anyone particularly?

Do I expect people to forgive him? No, I don't.

Are they bad if they don't? No, not really.

thankfully I've never been wronged in the kind of way that would lead to permanent hatred so I have never actually had to test my moral convictions, but I don't think it's good to be recalcitrant and vindictive.

Also: Mel Gibson and Anders Breivik aren't exactly in the same ballpark. Racism's a bad thing, but this is like comparing a mugging to being called a poo-poo head here.
  
Grayseff said:
Do I expect people to forgive him? No, I don't.

Are they bad if they don't? No, not really.
This is the part I was mainly interested in. I don't think he should be permanently incarcerated either if he's truly no longer a danger at some point. But is the solution to effectively exile someone like him, if people as a whole won't really forgive him? I am genuinely asking open-ended questions I don't know the answers to, not trying to goad you into defending a neo-Nazi

My point in choosing him and Gibson as examples is because they're very different. I'm trying to get at two tricky areas I want to examine: with Breivik, crimes too heinous to be widely forgiven; with Gibson, serial offenses that make each new apology less meaningful (possibly related: how do you handle the boy who cried wolf? The moral of the story is obviously to tell the truth, but what if you're a villager instead of the boy? Are you forced to treat a known liar as truthful lest your flock be eaten?)

I guess the heart of my struggle is: I want to believe that people can reform. That there's no point where you can't walk away from the darkness and try to do good with what time you have left. That societal progress is primarily a quest of education and not violence. But I don't know how to fully reconcile that with supporting victims. Because I think it's a betrayal to work with someone the victim hasn't forgiven. And I don't think the victim is ever obligated to forgive.
  
I don't think a victim is obligated to forgive at all, but there's a point at which -- personally -- I wouldn't support someone in refusing to forgive or at least tolerate a transgressor (depending on the transgression). Mercifully, I don't think Anders Breivik will ever be remorseful, so the point may be moot.

As for the boy who cried wolf/the million and one apologies. Yea, some people show bad character, it's hard to talk about social consequences and lay down definitive social rules, particularly for non-criminal things like "racist rant on camera." Because for every rule you lay down there are exceptions.
  
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