Essay on forgiveness and reconciliation

Great article! Really enjoy your blog, and I've taken away many good things from it. Currently and for a number of years now I have been struggling to forgive someone, and so far I'm not doing so well with it. It's not that I don't want to because I know in my heart it is better for me and others around me to do so, but after reading what you wrote this morning it hit me that what is missing is my belief that I am worthy of feeling better.

Do you think this may be a common barrier for many people who are unable, after many years, to forgive someone?

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Thanks for writing, CC. I'm happy that this post helped you recognize a roadblock. Yes, I agree, believing you are worth feeling good is an important component to forgiveness. Many people suffer from bitterness and grudges far too long when they could be experiencing freedom. I hope this is the start of a new chapter for you!

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

I am new to your blog and certainly enjoyed your insight into forgiveness - an internal process- and reconciliation - an interpersonal process. I write about forgiveness being a spiritual issue and forgetting being a neurological one. Thank you!!! This is actually the theme of my writing and speaking life, and I am delighted to see another explaining this. Not only are forgiveness and reconciliation separate, but I think also too many people think forgiving means excusing, whereas you only need forgiveness for a wrong for which there is no excuse. I even wrote a novel which had this as its theme, so I hope we are all spreading the word far and wide.

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What if one parent harm you significantly not necessarily sexual but through favoritism, verbal abuse, abuse of your money when you tried to honour them according to the Bible. They offered unfelt appology, but continuing the abuse. Can cutting then of your life be ok? I feel guilty doing that but I need to stop the abuse to do be able to get well and forgive?

Do you think this would be against the biblical teaching of honouring them? Would appreciate your answer. If you have written on this topic forgiving parents , please share these resources link to articles, title of a book, etc. Fact is I've never gotten any kind of acknowledgment or apology for their behavior. So, I'd rather they just not be a part of my life. After so many years of my daughter using me and verbally and emotionally abusing me, I'm ready to give up On ever having a relationship.

Now she has making good on keeping the grands away. She has been this mean, angry jealousy disturbed person for so long. I'm 68 and I can't take it anymore. My brother sexually abused me for 8 yr from about 8 to 16 when he left home.

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He doesn't admit what he did and my parents dont believe me. Now what? Im so sorry for what has happened to you. I think the best idea would be to work with a therapist. Also work on self-care. What happened to you was not your fault. Best wishes. Back Psychology Today. Back Find a Therapist. Waldron is on to something important here. The call to forget reinforces loss of self-esteem in the victim. Furthermore, moral injuries that are neglected putrefy demoralization in the victim.

Under these conditions, past perpetrators feel that they can get away with murder and grow in confidence that such injuries can be inflicted without resistance even in future. Therefore, rather than prevent, forgetting ends up facilitating wrong acts. If so, it is difficult not to conclude that proper remembrance alone restores dignity and self respect to the victim.

A proper remembrance is critical if wounds of the victim are to be healed. It is also necessary to fulfil the collective need of a badly damaged society. This view comes up against a pervasive social condition as well as against a famous argument by Hobbes.


It is an uncomfortable fact that while societies remember their heroic deeds they suppress memories of collective injustice. In a perceptive essay, Sheldon Wolin wonders if collective memory is an accomplice of injustice and whether by its silence on collective wrongs, it does not signify the very limits of justice.

Can these horrific events be remembered by being represented in civic rituals? One philosopher who thought collective forgetting necessary was Thomas Hobbes. Commenting on this, Wolin remarks that for Hobbes a necessary condition of social amnesia is the dehistoricization of human beings. Is dehistoricization possible? I think not. A simple strategy of forgetting has simply not worked.

Only an appropriate engagement with the past makes then for a liveable common future. It is true of course that one must guard against cosmetic remembrance. An engagement with the past must take place simultaneously at the level of gut, reason and emotion. If not properly addressed grievances and resentments resurface. Oddly, animosity between groups is sustained even when it goes against their current interests. This happens because emotional reactions ingrained in the human mind remain insensitive to altered circumstances and are bequeathed from generation to generation.

Hume Like property, animosities are inherited too! Nonetheless, former victims and fragmented societies eventually need to get on with their lives rather than be consumed by their suffering. Perhaps victims need to forget just about as much as they need to remember. People who carry deep resentment and grievance against one another are hardly likely to build a society together.

Therefore, to ask people to forget is not entirely unreasonable. I believe timing is the essence of the issue here. Forgetting too quickly or without redressal, by failing to heal adequately, inevitably brings with it a society haunted by its past. Clearly, while some forgetting at an appropriate time is necessary, a complete erasure is neither sufficient nor desirable for healing or for the consolidation of a minimally decent society.

Moreover, while specific acts of wrongdoing need to be forgotten eventually, a general sense of the wrong and of the horror of evil acts must never be allowed to recede from collective memory. Such remembering is crucial to the prevention of wrongdoing in the future.

I conclude that without a proper engagement with the past and the institutionalization of remembrance, societies are condemned to repeat, re-enact and relive the horror. Forgetting is not a good strategy for societies recovering from prolonged barbarism. Other obstacles exist to block the road towards the realization of stronger reconciliation. Recall that here reconciliation involves both owning up collective responsibility by perpetrators and forgiveness by victims.


Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Both constituent ideas are challenged by critics. Some argue that the very idea of collective responsibility is incoherent. Others question the moral desirability of forgiveness. I do not find the notion of collective responsibility incoherent. Nor is the idea of forgiveness morally unworthy. A victimised group can forgive former perpetrators if they own up collectively responsibility for wrongdoing and repent. Allow me to elaborate this point. I believe that most of our acts and decisions are irreducibly social, and therefore, responsibility for them is social too.

First, the domain of moral responsibility spills over beyond what is directly caused by an individual. Second, an entire collectivity can be held responsible for harm to others.