Introducing and Exploring Forgiveness by Robert D. Enright and Joanna North
The chapter introducing forgiveness in this book is based on the fact that the contemporary society is characterized by violence, hatred and animosity of all kinds. The atmosphere of fear and anxiety is evident in every person in society in one way or another from crimes in the streets, family quarrels to war among nations with each other. There are many schools of thought which have been advanced to explain these states ranging from sociological, political philosophical, judges, journalist, social workers as well as psychological perspectives. These proponents of the thoughts have always been in the public domain in their attempts to offer convincing explanations of reasons and justifications of crime and violence prevalent in our social, political and economic settings offering the best alternatives for these vices (Robert 1998).
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Several means ranging from domains of law and order have been advanced to be used against wrongdoers for them to be exemplary to other potential criminals deterring them from committing similar crimes. Some have advocated punishment for wrongdoers in the society followed by a rehabilitation program that will be implemented to fit again members in the society and be acceptable due to their reformation. However the concept of forgiveness has been mentioned less often in all these debates for the wrongdoers and those adversely affected by violence, crime and cruelty. The importance of forgiveness as a valuable resource and concept in the whole process of reconciliation has also been greatly undermined as a tool to restore peace and harmonious existence between the involved parties. The authors note occasional public declaration by victims of crime and violence declaring of their intentions to forgive and willingness their culprits. This may be so due to the low consideration offered to forgiveness by public as well as governing agencies in the social set ups (Robert 1998).
What have been emphasized as noted by the writers are the social causes of crime, violence and cruelty in the society such as poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. The writers recommend the introduction of concepts like cooperation, understanding and compassion and tolerance as key to resolution of crime and violence in the society. Therefore although very little have being heard of forgiveness, the authors presents a clear picture of how important it is in alleviating bitterness, resentment and cultivating cooperation between involved parties.
Therefore the writings and authors emphasizing forgiveness as an option should be advocated to assist in the reconciliation process while uniting people together as well as removing the bitterness and resentment developed due to the criminal acts of cruelty and violence commitment. These concepts although difficult to be implemented have enormous effects not only to the affected parties but also to the whole society as well due to its ability to bring cohesion and harmonious living among all regardless of the color, race and ethnicity (Robert 1998).
Handbook of forgiveness by Everett L. Worthington
Worthington in this article considers forgiveness as both an art as well as a science in human interaction characterized by conflicting interests which often brings competition resulting to crime, violence and wars. When consideration of age fact is used to explain conflicts in the society, forgiveness comes in as an art. Hence the approach of dealing with offences and transgressions in the society both personally and socially is described by the art approach of forgiveness which focuses on the well being and mental health of human beings. The art component of forgiveness focuses on the effects of inter-groupings relations as well as smooth learning and practices of transacts relations in the society. Forgiveness according to Worthington can also be studied as a science, but until 1970, forgiveness was not in any way studied as a scientific discipline (Everett 2005).
The scientific study of forgiveness started in mid 1980s. Before these discoveries, Worthington notes that forgiveness was only considered in the confines of religion and psychology; disciplines which were then not compatible with science. It all studied by several social scientists who explored isolated and private studies relating to forgiveness which were the initial steps to study forgiveness as a science. As noted by Worthington, writers like Lewis Swedes are the great founding contributors of scientific study of forgiveness especially after his publication of the book "Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve" in 1984. The irony of the topic was that despite religion going against any attempts by scientist to offer scientific explanations of forgiveness, Lewis was neither a scientist nor a clinician but he was a theologian.
His argument as noted by Worthington was that forgiveness can be used to improve individuals well being as well as mental health (Everett 2005).
This idea became popular with therapists who expounded more on the use of forgiveness in the entire process of healing anger, depression, trauma and restoring hope. Therefore, the therapists used family and couples as laboratories to demonstrate the effects and benefits of forgiveness as well the adverse inclinations of unforgiveness. These efforts formed the precedents for clinical scientists to research and study and promote the practices of forgiveness. The also followed other major interventions and research on the topic like those of psychologist Robert Enright who studied the effects of forgiveness on children and its developmental stages. Due to forgiveness associated with religious connotation, both religious and no - religious groups widely used forgiveness as a religious doctrine with religious inclination. Due to post modernism and cultural diversity, forgiveness has gone beyond the boundaries of religion and widely in use in the cosmopolitan cultures and communities with much help both to individual well being, mental health as well as physical health (Everett 2005).
The issue of forgiveness have however being faced with numerous challenges like how well is the concept of forgiveness understood among societies and the limits to which it can extend. The art of forgiveness have received numerous explanations from across different domains and disciplines which have all concluded that it can be studied in multifaceted discipline. Therefore, its practice should be handled in all its dimensions in all disciplines using various approaches available in the study of the subject (Everett 2005).
The Sunflower: On the possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness by Simon Wiesenthal
Simon demonstrates how hard and difficult it is to forgive when still bitterness in high in an individual's heart. Simon in his book the Sunflower explains and shares his difficult moment he encountered when deciding either to forgive or not. This was after the World War II when a young soldier sought absolution from Simon for all his commitments to the Jews during the war. The young soldier wanted to make peace with the Jews before his death in order to rest in peace, fortunately or unfortunately, Simon was responsible to make the decision either to forgive or not to this young man. Moments before the soldier's death, Simon was seated at the bedside listening to all the confessions the soldier had (Simon 1997).
He left the room without even uttering a single word to the soldier even after the latter's confession although Simon was still in a tag of war with his decision to either forgive or not. It was during the years long after the second world war when Simon in this book: The sunflower cropped his mind when he was taken in as a prisoner and severally passed amidst graves for German Soldiers. The sunflowers that grew in each grave was a symbol of interconnection of life to death which Simon considered as a symbol of freedom in bleak contrast to the widespread mass grave. That forms the first part of the book followed by the second part which explores other's opinion and reactions if they were in Simon's shoes besides the bed of the dying soldier. He sought what others could have done if it were them with the soldier either they would have had the courage to forgive or not despite full knowledge of all the atrocities they experienced in the hands of the soldiers in their own motherland (Simon 1997).
The second part of the book received 53 respondents drawn from theologians, psychiatrists, political leaders, and jurists, victims of genocide from Cambodia, Bosnia Tibet and China, human rights activists as well as Holocaust survivors. Many of responses were based on logic, academics and various professional disciplines and experiences from the respondents. Since human communities exist in groups, families, nations and associations, human cooperation as well as conflict is bound to occur in one way or another. This is due to diverse grouping working towards their own interests at the expense of others resulting to tension, disputes and conflicts which are instigated by the political and social settings and relationships (Simon 1997).
Cycles of revenge is witnessed when the conflict among inter-grouping tension heightens resulting to crime and war perpetuating and resulting untold human suffering. Simon believed as well as many respondents that perpetrators of evil and criminal activities in the society should be subjected to retributive justice for all their wrongdoings. However, Simon presents an alternative of the acts and logics of retributive justice when he introduces the concept of forgiving which he views a difficult concept with no possibilities with numerous limits (Simon 1997).
Forgiveness: A Bold Choice for a Peaceful Heart by Robin Casarjian
Robin was a therapist as well as a workshop leader who begins his writings by offering explanations concerning what forgiveness does not concern. He offers a variety of definitions of what forgiveness does not mean. He says that it doesn't simply imply condoning negative action, nor does it mean pretending as though everything is right when it isn't, or even sticking to a situation that is inflicting a lot of harm and pain. He approaches the concept of forgiving with examples of how one can forgive a child but still disciplines the child for any wrongdoing, a wife to forgive her husband but still goes ahead and divorces him. Robin argues that forgiveness is for the victims benefit of healing process but not for the benefits accrued by the other person. When forgiving takes place according to her is to free the victim from the devastating effects as a result of chronic resentment and anger accumulated due to an action done against an individual, In her writing, the harboring of anger and resentment is an eternal bondage like a chain tied on the victims' neck as well as the other person's wrist all the time (Robin 1992).
The theme emphasized on her book is to allow an individual to break the chains that binds them with past events for an opportunity to create and maintain new and healthy relationships with people who initially had hurt us without any reference to past anger. Robin expounds on the various strategies that can be borrowed in the forgiving process starting with telling the truth of a situation that caused anger and bitterness. In her conclusion, living without forgiveness is likened to a situation of living as separate entities with one's basic instincts inherent in our hearts. Therefore embracing forgiveness is to cultivate and uphold the value of life as well as improving its beauty (Robin 1992).