The Virtue of Forgiveness

A powerful contribution in today’s edition of Eureka Street from Ben Pobjie who, although describing himself as a ‘militant atheist’, has become “enamoured of one element of Christianity that I consider its most striking, and most laudable, feature: forgiveness”.

Compassion is easy. There is no great challenge in opening your heart to those who are suffering, or to anyone you see as an ‘ally’. What is difficult, though, is showing compassion for people who aren’t on our side. Forgiving our enemies, or doers of horrendous deeds. Who can forgive a murderer? Who can feel compassion for a brute?

It’s hard, but many would say that’s no problem, as there’s no point in trying it anyway. According to one strand of thought — and an eternally popular one — forgiving wrongdoers is a bad idea and will lead to a worse society. If we forgive, goes this thinking, we excuse, and we fail to send the message that what that person has done is wrong.

Why should we forgive? Because Jesus said so — but I don’t believe that, of course. The reason I believe we should forgive is that it makes us better. For me, forgiving doesn’t mean letting anyone off the hook: criminals can still be punished, people can still be held accountable for words and deeds that hurt other people. But we can punish and inflict consequences, while still leaving open the possibility of forgiveness.

Because I don’t believe forgiveness is about making excuses. Rather it is about looking at a person who has done wrong — even reprehensible acts — and saying, this wrong is not the totality of their being. It is about recognising that in every human, no matter how low they sink, humanity remains.

Read the full article below.