The soul cannot forgive until it
is restored to wholeness and health.
In the absence of love - how can one forgive?

With an abundance of love, starting with one's self,
forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.
-Nancy Richards

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Forgiveness and Justice

A few months ago, I heard Marianne Williamson interview Immaculee Ilibagiza on XM radio. Immaculle Ilibagiza is the author of Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust. Ms. Ilibagiza gave a fascinating interview, humbly describing the details of her survival and provided a courageous model for overcoming injustice.

Her words, “To me, I think justice is part of forgiving” were very validating.

She noted that although she had forgiven the man who murdered her entire family, that didn’t mean that she thought he should be freed from jail. On the contrary, she thought that he should be held responsible for his actions and prevented from harming others.

In an excerpt from Heal and Forgive:

“Often I have witnessed humanities disbelief when a relative forgives a loved ones’ murder. “How can you forgive murder?” is our collective outcry.

I have come to understand that forgiveness is not necessarily predicated on the degree of the offence but rather on the justice we receive. In other words – did the murderer go to trial? Did the community acknowledge the offence?

I have found that in general – those who forgive crimes of violence – have seen some sort of justice. Not revenge. Simply justice.

For victims of childhood violence, receiving justice is often not the case. Rarely do child abusers see the inside of a courtroom and rarer still do they admit their offences.

How do we forgive something that in the eyes of our community did not happen?”

Another element that justice provides is a balance of power. Long into adulthood, I continued to stand before my mother still a damaged child. As long as I viewed her as more powerful than I was, how could I even consider forgiveness?

I longed for my mother to acknowledge my abuse, to apologize, and to change her abusive behavior. Isn’t that another way of asking her to relinquish her power?

Because my mother was unwilling to do these things, I found it necessary to empower myself, and safeguard my own well-being. This involved seeking justice in a community of support to help me protect myself, receive acknowledgment from other individuals, express my anger appropriately, mourn my losses and to heal. I needed to heal and balance the power before I could even consider forgiveness.

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