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Do We Always Have to Forgive?

Periodically, I turn my blog over to a guest author, and today is such a day.  Please take a look at what Leo Michel Abrami has written about forgiveness. 

Just to remind you, I have four requirements for meaningful forgiveness:

Responsibility - The perpetrator needs to take complete responsibility for what he or she has done.

Remorse - The perpetrator must be truly remorseful.

Repair - The perpetrator must do whatever it takes to repair the damage.

Repetition - The perpetrator must take whatever steps necessary so that this action is never repeated.

In his article, Leo Michel Abrami points out that forgiveness has significant differences when viewed through the eyes of Christians and Jews:

"We are constantly admonished to forgive the person who has wronged us. Some prominent religious leaders invoke theological principles to support the view that we should forgive everyone including criminals.

What about the victims of an offense that was directed against them? Can they automatically forgive what was done to them? Can the survivors of the Concentration Camps, for instance, forgive those who murdered the members of their family and their community? This query is at the heart of a book of memoirs which was written a few years ago by Simon Wiesenthal under the title The Sunflower. Actually, the author addresses this question to all of us: Should we forgive the Nazis for what they did to the millions of innocent children, women and men whom they murdered during World War II?

Wiesenthal tells us that while he was an inmate at the Lemberg Concentration Camp in 1943, he was summoned by a nurse to the bedside of a dying Nazi who asked him for forgiveness for the horrendous crimes he perpetrated. He had murdered 300 Jews by setting ablaze the building in which they were living. As the Jews were leaping out of windows in an attempt to escape the burning building, he gunned them down. The Nazi was now begging Wiesenthal, a member of the Jewish people, to accept his last moment remorse, so that he might die with a peaceful conscience. Wiesenthal, however, could not find the will to forgive the Nazi and he remained silent. In his own words, he says:

Was my silence at the bedside of the dying Nazi right or wrong? This is a profound moral question that challenges the conscience of the reader of this episode, just as much as it once challenged my heart and mind. There are those who can appreciate my dilemma... and there are others who will be ready to condemn me for refusing to ease the last moment of a repentant murderer. Forgetting is something that time alone can take care of, but forgiveness is an act of volition, and only the person who suffered is qualified to make the decision.

The author concludes his account by asking the reader: What would you have done if you had been in my place?

That question was addressed to fifty-three noted thinkers of different faiths, including the Dalai Lama, and their responses were published in an additional volume On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness.

By examining the various responses, one becomes immediately aware of some significant differences between Jewish and Christian authors. The Jewish respondents thought Wiesenthal had his reasons for remaining silent, while the Christian respondents felt the Nazi murderer should have been forgiven…"

Read the rest of Leo Michel Abrami's article: "Do We Always Have to Forgive?"


Tags: Character-Courage-Conscience, Religion, Values
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