Thursday, October 08, 2009

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

An excellent article has just appeared on the Maxim Institute website called, Healing interpersonal wounds: a case for forgiveness. It's written by Myron and Genista Friesen.

In this article they discuss the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation, and how the two don't necessarily go hand in hand: we can forgive without being reconciled, and in some cases can be reconciled without forgiveness arising. They look at different situations where forgiveness has been offered when it seemed the most unlikely thing to do (such as when the Amish community at Nickel Mines, PA, had several of its children murdered by a gunman) and the way in which forgiveness is increasingly being explored within the research community. (Closer to home there have been instances of Pacific Island communities forgiving those who've murdered one of their own, and of course the Sycamore Tree project in prisons is a prime example of forgiveness and reconciliation at work.)

Myron Friesen is currently a research fellow with the department of psychology at the University of Canterbury. His Masters and PhD research focused on forgiveness in individuals and couples. His wife, Genista, is an Occupational Therapist and aspiring children's author. They have been married for 18 years, have two sons, and currently reside in Christchurch.


Jason Goroncy said...

'... we can forgive without being reconciled'. Do you really believe that? Sounds a bit cheap to me.

Mike Crowl said...

Well, that was my reading of the article; but I have been known to skim things too fast and not pick up all the points!
Best to read the original, I think.

Jason Goroncy said...

Fair enough, but do you really believe that?

I may get to the article later.

BTW: have you read Volf's The End of Memory?

Mike Crowl said...

You're asking me to commit myself here, Jason? LOL.

Just had a look at the paragraph in question, which runs as follows:

Researchers are careful in the attempt to distinguish between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is considered to primarily address the psychological and emotional trauma experienced by a victim, whereas reconciliation is the interpersonal process by which a broken relationship is restored. Forgiveness can be one mechanism that facilitates reconciliation, but it is also possible that forgiveness can take place without reconciliation. For example, in situations where the transgression may be repeated, such as domestic violence or a history of deceit, a victim may forgive but for safety sake chose not to continue the relationship.

My comment on that is that there are cases where you have to forgive without there being a means of reconciliation: a person murders your child, then commits suicide, or is killed in a subsequent accident before you have to time to have any face to face contact. No chance of reconciliation there, I think, unless it's with other family members of the murderer.
Or someone murders a member of your family and you have no further contact with them because they are incarcerated. My thinking is that reconciliation pretty much needs a face-to-face event; forgiveness may not. There have been people in my past who hurt me; I have no contact with them, don't know where they are. I can forgive them, but there's no chance of reconciliation there....

Does that answer the question, teacher? LOL

Mike Crowl said...

Meant to say I haven't read Volf's End of Memory. I've started a couple of Volf books and haven't really got into them (though not this one, which isn't familiar to me).