Thursday, April 21, 2005

On Vengeance and Forgiveness

Okay, now we're going to talk theology/philosophy. Given the common grounding but divergent views of this group, I think this will be interesting.

Please excuse the sober post, but I was sparked to thought by this news item, on the murder of Jessica Lunsford, a young nine-year-old girl who was kidnapped, raped, and buried alive.

Earlier this week, I was watching with my parents Larry King. He had as his guest, Cindi Broadus, a woman who suffered severe chemical burns when someone dropped a bottle of sulfuric acid onto her car - from a freeway overpass. When asked, she said that she forgave her attacker.

Now, I have to say Ms. Broadus is a better person than I am.

I (and I imagine all of you) have been taught that we should forgive trespasses against us, that "vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." That the desire for payback is wrong, and unproductive.

I think I could forgive a trespass against me - it's my place, and my duty. But what about attacks against your loved ones? Family and friends? I would find it very hard to forgive an attack against my sister, or my parents. I would think it would be even harder were the victim my wife or children. (No, I don't have a wife or children. Why do you think I post so much?)

Is my forgiveness required? I wasn't hurt, but someone I loved was. Or is it okay to descend like an avenging angel and exact retribution?

My thinking is, what do you seek to do to the perpetrators, and why? If you seek to hurt them in order to "make them pay," that's wrong. But if you seek to stop them from hurting others, and are willing to use force to do so, that's okay. But that's an extreme case. More likely, law enforcement will handle the bringing them to justice. Am I under a duty to forgive in this case? Again, I'm a third party here, in that I was not harmed, but someone I love was. (I can see the argument why, as justice is being served, assuming they are convicted and reasonably sentenced.)

Please discuss in the comments. Feel free to (politely) debate.


At 3:51 PM, Blogger j.m. said...

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At 7:35 PM, Blogger e.gage said...

Simply put I think the easiest thing is kill everyone and let God sort it out. It's his plan, his problem, let him figure it out.

But you are looking for something a little more sincere and a little less "me" then think about this: forgiveness has nothing to do with the person who is being forgiven and everything to do with the person who is forgiving (or chosing not too). Forgive for wrongs done against me but not against those I love? What's the point then? I still end up just as bitter or maybe more so then I would have if the wrong had been done against me. Look at the guy who's son was killed with Nicole Simpson. He sued O.J. and if you read about him now he hates O.J. so much that it consumes him. What of that life?

One last digression - a short illustrative story: a samurai's master was killed and as was his duty he spent years tracking the murderer to avenge the death. After many years he found the man, cornered him and raised his sword to kill him. The man spit on the samurai and the samurai stopped, put his sword away and walked off. When asked by the man why, he responded at that point if I had killed you I would have done it in anger, not for justice, and there is no honor in that.

At 11:18 PM, Blogger j.m. said...

I should have just kept my yap shut. Bryan, as he always does, puts it much better than I.

"Forgiveness has nothing to do with the person who is being forgiven and everything to do with the person who is forgiving (or chosing not too)."

Some people have a way with words... others (like me) just have a lot of them.

At 11:17 AM, Blogger Nathan said...

Jamo, I thoroughly enjoyed your discourse on forgiveness. You don't give yourself enough credit. (For anyone who may be confused by Jamo's scriputral references, many of the them refer to scripures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. D&C refers to Doctrine and Covenants. Other names not found in the Bible are probably found in the Book of Mormon. You can read these scriptures for yourself at (

I also found Bryan's comments insightful.

In addition, I think that the hardest part of forgiveness is letting go. I don't think it's possible to literally forget that someone wronged us, but we need to forget the hurt and anger. We need to let go.


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