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Who has the right to forgive?

(37 Posts)
Greatnan Sun 07-Oct-12 08:16:44

On Sunday on Radio 4 this morning, the sister of one of the girls murdered by the Wests told how she had found religion and decided to forgive them.
They never showed any remorse, and when she wrote to them they told her to get lost. I wonder if her sister would have wanted them to be forgiven? I certainly would never forgive anybody who harmed one of my family - it would feel like betrayal if I did.
I would be interested to hear the views of both believers and atheists on this issue.

janeainsworth Sun 07-Oct-12 08:29:40

I would never forgive anyone either greatnan.
But to answer your question, I would say that the sister has the right to forgive the Wests for the injury and distress caused to herself.
But she doesn't have the right to forgive on behalf of the murder victims and all the other people who suffered at the hands of the Wests.

absentgrana Sun 07-Oct-12 08:30:10

She cannot forgive them on her sister's behalf. Paradoxically, only her sister would have the right to forgive them for murdering her and clearly is in no position to do so. The surviving sister, presumably, can forgive them for the pain that their actions have caused her.

In general, I don't think offenders have to show remorse to be forgiven by those who have suffered from their actions if the sufferers want to forgive. However, I should probably find it hard to forgive someone who was not remorseful. Equally, forgiveness cannot be automatic just because someone is remorseful. I am inclined to agree that if someone harmed a member of my family, let alone murdered them, my wrath would know no bounds.

In practice, any offences against me have been slight and unimportant in the big scheme of things. I haven't necessarily forgiven the perpetrators, but can't be bothered to brood over them or, indeed, even call them to mind.

I am still unsure whether forgiveness is really for the benefit of the forgiver, the forgiven or both.

baubles Sun 07-Oct-12 08:34:56

I suspect forgiveness is for the benefit of the forgiver, it may be what they need to do in order to live their lives. I'm not even sure that I understand fully what forgiveness means in this context as the circumstances are so out with my experience.

Grannyknot Sun 07-Oct-12 09:00:42

Forgiveness is for the benefit of the forgiver IMHO. I've heard it described as letting go of the hurt. And conversely, resenting someone and being bitter towards someone, is like you drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die.

Lilygran Sun 07-Oct-12 09:01:33

It is interesting that Greatnan has chosen to post this in this thread. Is forgiveness restricted to people of faith? Certainly, the OP says that it was after she 'found religion' that she felt moved to forgive. But others also feel moved to forgive. I'm inclined to agree with the other posters; you can't forgive people for offences against other people and forgiveness often brings more benefit to the one who forgives. Especially if the perpetrator is not contrite!

Grannyknot Sun 07-Oct-12 09:07:29

Maybe greatnan posted it here because the thread heading is 'Religion and spirituality ...

Greatnan Sun 07-Oct-12 09:26:41

Thank you, Grannyknot - it did seem the most suitable place.
The only person who has really hurt me is one that I love dearly and forgiveness would not really be needed, as I don't hold her responsible for her actions. On the other hand, I do not find it easy to forgive a man who hurt my daughter, even though she has moved on and is now very happy. She does not know that I harbour great resentment towards him and she would just say 'Let it go, Mum - he is his own worst enemy'. I would like to reply 'Not as long as I am alive' but I just avoid any mention of him.

petallus Sun 07-Oct-12 09:33:08

I don't think forgiving someone is a matter of intellectual decision. Not if the forgiveness is going to be more than just skin deep. If it involves feelings as well, it either happens or it doesn't, just like other emotions.

absentgrana Sun 07-Oct-12 09:42:25

petallus Could it be a mixture of emotional response and intellectual decision?

janeainsworth Sun 07-Oct-12 09:42:58

It is interesting greatnan that you say you feel no need to forgive your daughter because you don't hold her responsible.
"Father forgive them for they know not what they do".
That is the point I think.
How much more difficult to forgive someone who has knowingly caused hurt and damage and have no remorse.

Nanadogsbody Sun 07-Oct-12 09:55:36

Forgive and forget? I find it easier to forgive people who have hurt me than I do to forget what they did or said. Yes, you can let go of the hurt, but not the memory of the hurt - that can linger.
But I think that we forgive less when someone has hurt someone we love as in the case of greatnan. I don't think I could ever forgive someone who hurt any of my family. I certainly can't, forgive a god if s/he actually existed.

Lilygran Sun 07-Oct-12 09:59:30

What, exactly, is 'spirituality'? And what has it to do with forgiveness? Not trying to be difficult, I really want to know.

absentgrana Sun 07-Oct-12 10:17:51

Lilygran Is it not simply those concerns that are not material or physical?

Calling this forum religion and spirituality is tautological as religion automatically falls into the category of spirituality, but not all matters spiritual are automatically religious.

I have a close friend who is a practising Catholic with a powerful personal relationship with his god. Although a hugely clever man, he finds it hard to understand how, as an atheist, I can have any spiritual concerns and tends to confuse them with emotional concerns. (They are not the same thing but I can see that I am digging a hole and am going to stop now.)

Nanadogsbody Sun 07-Oct-12 10:26:45

"Spirituality exists wherever we struggle with the issues of how our lives fit into the greater scheme of things. This is true when our questions never give way to specific answers or give rise to specific practices such as prayer or meditation. We encounter spiritual issues every time we wonder where the universe comes from, why we are here, or what happens when we die. We also become spiritual when we become moved by values such as beauty, love, or creativity that seem to reveal a meaning or power beyond our visible world. An idea or practice is "spiritual" when it reveals our personal desire to establish a felt-relationship with the deepest meanings or powers governing life."

Took this from Wikipedia

'To err is human, to forgive is divine ' isn't that from the bible? Luke?

absentgrana Sun 07-Oct-12 10:32:07

"To err is human, to forgive, divine". It's Alexander Pope.

Grannyknot Sun 07-Oct-12 10:43:50

I like that wiki definition. Recently I saw an interview with Jane Goodall and they asked her about her religious views, and she said something along the lines of you can't spend a lifetime in nature and not realise there is a spiritual dimension to life. And not long after I heard Attenborough say almost exactly the same thing in an interview. nan maybe that's why there's a saying "I'll forgive, but I'll never forget" because I do think you can seperate the two things out. One is about letting it go and the other is about acknowledging the effect it has had.

Nanadogsbody Sun 07-Oct-12 11:04:56

That's right absent smile he has many famous quotes to his name. A wise man.

I like the quote too grannyk it sort of takes god out of the equation if you'd prefer.

goldengirl Sun 07-Oct-12 11:32:56

There's is no way I can forgive someone who has hurt my DD very badly. To hurt her as she has been hurt suggests that this person knew what they were doing. If she can eventually forgive then that is up to her but I can't see myself ever forgiving this person.

If someone is truly sorry and means it that is a different scenario to consider. If they say they are truly sorry - then repeat the action, it means zilch.

Movedalot Sun 07-Oct-12 11:35:32

IMO it is not possible to know what one would do in any such circumstances unless one has shared that exact experience and even then it would be very difficult. My sister and I shared some bad experiences but reacted in very different ways which affected the rest of our lives.

Walk a mile in someone's shoes ...............

I think it would be futile for me to speculate how I would cope in someone else's situation unless I had had the same experience.

Greatnan Sun 07-Oct-12 11:37:11

I simply chose this section because the woman concerned said it was her new religious belief that made her forgive.

absentgrana Sun 07-Oct-12 11:53:58

While most of us are unlikely to be faced with the horror of a murdered sibling and cannot be certain of our reactions following such an event, we can perfectly reasonably look at the concept of forgiveness in that and in other contexts.

Lilygran Sun 07-Oct-12 12:02:46

But what does 'spirituality' latch on to unless you believe in the existence of a spirit, or soul? The Wikidefinition Nana quotes above and which I find perfectly acceptable seems to me remarkably like a religious definition.

absentgrana Sun 07-Oct-12 12:40:34

Lilygran Trying to differentiate between spiritual and emotional – and I do think they are different although closely related – defeated me earlier and that's why I said I was going to stop digging. I shall have to give some thought as to how to express how I have a sense of the spiritual although I have no religious belief.

Greatnan Sun 07-Oct-12 12:50:20

I don't define my delight in beautiful views or great music as spiritual - I think it is some physical response, probably with its roots in our evolutionary history. Cows give more milk if Mozart is played to them. A lovely view implies productive land.
I hope nobody will imply that only religious believers have this kind of sensitivity to their environment.
I have been told often - 'once a catholic , always a catholic' which is patent nonsense. These people are not commenting on the church's methods of keeping the ostensible numbers up. (The other annoying comment is that I might get 'lucky' and meet a man!)
I think I can be the best judge of how I feel about both men and religion!