Should peo­ple al­ways for­give each other?

Learn­ing to for­give and for­get isn’t al­ways as easy as it sounds.

The Week - Junior - - The Big Debate -

On 16 Novem­ber 1995, the UN adopted the Dec­la­ra­tion of Prin­ci­ples on Tol­er­ance. Mem­bers signed a doc­u­ment to make sure that tol­er­ance be­tween peo­ple is re­spected. Through­out his­tory, peo­ple have quar­relled over their dif­fer­ences. These quar­rels have of­ten been so se­ri­ous that peo­ple have found for­give­ness im­pos­si­ble. Oth­ers have used for­give­ness to heal di­vi­sions: dur­ing the 20th cen­tury, the peo­ple of South Africa were di­vided ac­cord­ing to the colour of their skin, and black peo­ple were treated badly. When this sys­tem, called apartheid, came to an end, a court called the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion was set up to try and heal di­vi­sions. Is for­give­ness an im­por­tant part of a peace­ful and tol­er­ant so­ci­ety, or is it more than wrong­do­ers de­serve?

Yes – it’s right to for­give, even if it’s hard

At some point, some­one has prob­a­bly done some­thing to up­set you. It’s also very likely that, by ac­ci­dent or on pur­pose, you’ve hurt some­one’s feel­ings. When this hap­pened, you no doubt felt bad about it and you wanted to be for­given. For­give­ness is im­por­tant to clear the air af­ter some­thing bad has hap­pened. It’s not only good for the per­son be­ing for­given, sci­en­tific stud­ies sug­gest that it’s also good for the for­giver. It im­proves sleep and can help with men­tal-health is­sues, in­clud­ing de­pres­sion. It also pre­vents the vic­tim from do­ing some­thing wrong in re­turn, by try­ing to get their own back. For­give­ness helps the wrong­doer to un­der­stand the im­pact of their crime. It helps ev­ery­one to move for­wards.

No – wrong­do­ers shouldn’t be for­given

When peo­ple com­mit a crime, or hurt some­one’s feel­ings, they be­have dis­re­spect­fully. If they’re for­given, it might give the im­pres­sion they can get away with it – and they might do it again. Be­sides, wrong­do­ers haven’t shown tol­er­ance when they hurt some­one, so there’s no rea­son their be­hav­iour should be tol­er­ated, or for­given, in re­turn. It’s ridicu­lous to ask vic­tims of crime, or bul­ly­ing, or dis­crim­i­na­tion, to for­give. They have ev­ery right to be an­gry about how they have been treated. Plus, there are plenty of peo­ple who only do the right thing be­cause they’re wor­ried about get­ting in trou­ble. If they think they’re likely to be for­given any­way, there’s noth­ing to stop them from tak­ing ad­van­tage of oth­ers.

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