Should people always forgive each other?
Learning to forgive and forget isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
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.