Whether or not to Forgive: A Matter of Choice

Jonathan Romain

Rabbi Jonathan Romain of Maidenhead Synagogue just west of London responded on 25 July in the pages of the Guardian to the question, “What is the point of forgiveness?”.

Among the important points Dr. Romain makes are the following:

  1.  Unless forgiveness is given voluntarily, it is meaningless.  “It is a moral tyranny to expect all those who have been hurt to forgive, when there may be valid reasons not to do so.”
  2. Forgiveness is conditional on the offending person “regret[ting] their words or actions, […] appreciat[ing] the damage they have caused and […] seek[ing] the forgiveness of those affected.”
  3. Forgiveness is based on relational ideology.
  4. Expressions of remorse, etc. can only be validated over time; hence, forgiveness in the present involves a degree of trust that the offending person is truly contrite and has changed their ways.
  5. Forgiveness does not free the wrongdoer from responsibility for their act.  “A wrongdoer may have established a degree of personal rapport with his/her victim, but is not free from the consequences and still has to face civil or criminal charges and penalties”, and
  6. Later generations or survivors cannot forgive on behalf of others.  “One can decide whether to grant or withhold forgiveness only for that which was done to oneself. It would be arrogant to speak on behalf of others. Their right to forgive died with them. Their forgiveness can no more be obtained than they can be brought back to life.”

Read the entire commentary here.

[H/T: normblog]