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Forgiving murderers

fast

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Throughout the years, I've heard on television news channels where family members of murder victims speak out about forgiving their family members murderer. I don't know what to think about that--I don't know how to think about that.

My original thoughts from awhile back are a little different than my new and more recent thoughts, but I'm cautious about solidifying my feelings on the issue. I know where I would stand if it happened to a family member of mine. I'd be riddled with unhealthy rage. I say I know, but what I think is different between myself and others who would claim the same is that my hate wouldn't subside.

I understand that the hate filled minds of most people that have had family members killed by cold-blooded killers can't withstand the negative psychological effects of long-term rage, so it stands to reason that a coping mechanism of sorts must kick in.

People who say positive things and talk about forgiveness or even love never has quite sit well with me, yet I'm reluctant to speak (or think) too negatively -- mostly out of respect --not for their views but empathy for the emotional ordeal they have had to endure.

The people always seem to be portrayed in a positive light, as if they are strong and deserving of respect. Well, for one, I have no cause nor desire to show anything but respect, but I don't know if I should silently think of them as weak. Don't get me wrong--I seriously doubt there is much positive benefit to not allowing oneself to transition between the grievance-like process. On the one hand, there is a process with coping with the death, but the process of coping with your feelings towards the killer is separate and distinct--I would suppose anyway.

So, while I understand how these people that turn to forgiveness are finding some inner peace (and I would in no way want to deny them that), I find myself having some negative, secretly held views--not bad or ugly views, just negative. Like I already mentioned, things never really have set too well with me, especially while listening to the interviews, but I just can't bring myself to admire their stance--it's probably more admirable than mine. I can't imagine my thoughts being anything short of sick and twisted, so forgiveness would likely be a stance shining brighter than anything I had to offer, but that extreme isn't the right comparison.

It just seems to me that a response of non-forgiveness and wanting punishment to the full extent of the law would be better than coming out publicly about forgiving the killers--and most certainly better than whatever might be going through my mind at the time.
 

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If forgiving means letting go of your own hate and rage at some point, that is probably better than the alternative. Continuing to go over and over the events is a form of self punishment that achieves nothing much, except ruining your own life. The murderer may not even be aware of the suffering he or she caused to relatives and friends of the victim. That you remain consumed with rage may even empower the killer, if his or her intention was to bring suffering to the family of the victim. Of course, letting go is far, far easier said than done.
 

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I can't disagree with any of that. Cannot the normal among us let go of the rage in light of a more healthy outlook without resorting to forgiveness? I'm not saying there's no place for it--it just seems there's an idealization in the air that it's somehow a better way to be, and I don't know about that; seems a little whop sided. I would have a better appreciation for the family member who says, "no, I don't forgive him, and I want him to pay for what he's done." That's not to say I think such a person should hold on to rage in his heart...but no need to flip to the extreme of forgiveness either. Should we look upon the person who stands before us that proclaims forgiveness for the killer who took the life of his or her loved one with a sense that he or she is courageous and being strong, or do we spot a glimmer of selfishness in their mental thoughtward ways--that are weak and not seemingly reflective of a family member who loved enough to not forgive?

That last bit was a tough shot, and I don't mean it to be, and I sympathize with the mental agonies others must go through, but why in the heck isn't there a more representative sample of people in documentary interviews with a viewpoint that carries a bit more backbone?
 

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I haven't seen the show. But your thread reminded me of this story: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14900930
I suppose it's about moving past the anger so you can focus on your own healing.
Could, in part, be about the environment we grow up in.
"I think the most powerful demonstration of the depth of Amish forgiveness was when members of the Amish community went to the killer's burial service at the cemetery," Kraybill says. "Several families, Amish families who had buried their own daughters just the day before were in attendance and they hugged the widow, and hugged other members of the killer's family."
 

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There's a difference between forgiving when you're too tired to hate; and actively overcoming the hate in order to forgive someone when everything's still fresh. The latter takes strength, the former is understandable.
 

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It just seems to me that a response of non-forgiveness and wanting punishment to the full extent of the law would be better than coming out publicly about forgiving the killers--and most certainly better than whatever might be going through my mind at the time
But those are two different things. What the authorities do to him for criminal behavior is not connected to whether or not you hate him or forgive him.

To me, I always kinda hear the 'we forgive his killer' statements as 'I'm letting go of the hurt you've done me, asshole, because you're not worth me carrying you around for the rest of my life.' They still grieve the lost family member, but that would be part of it whether he died from murder or accident.

The forgiveness would be for their benefit, releasing their burden. It's not the same as asking that the killer be pardoned for his crime. The punishment is a separate issue. I think you can forgive the pain but still want to let the system do as it must for the crime the killer committed.
 

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People who are “strong” and have “backbone” feel their emotions, in whatever is the most healthy way and time and place for them.

Trying to force it one way or another according to some moralistic rules is a good recipe for repression. "You should forgive", "you shouldn't forgive"... no one hold's a position to say these things to another without advocating the person repress themselves for the sake of upholding some external, imposed rule.
 

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This can be a problem with some religions in my view. Notably Christianity. The recent events in South Carolina come to mind, where we saw the family members of those murdered forgive the racist bastard that did such horrific things. While I agree that holding onto hate can be destructive, so can trying to rush to forgive in my view. Grieving or overcoming someone who wrongs you is a process, and one that involves anger. Like any trauma, I think it benefits you if you work through it. A rush to forgiveness can cause one to feel guilt for continuing rage, anger, cynicism, etc. where such feelings should be understandable to feel and acknowledge. Additionally, that anger can be channeled to be of great use. It can help overcome injustice, prompt people to stand for their dignity and so on. If someone is feeling pressured (either of their own accord or by others) to be a "good Christian" and forgive those that wronged them too quickly, I can see that being equally destructive.

I think the act of forgiveness is an interesting concept. One that has many definitions. I'm starting to wonder though, if there's anything wrong with simply not forgiving. While I think it's important not to become obsessed with something that was wrongly done to you, neither may it be entirely necessary to forgive every slight against you.

I've never suffered such a tragedy as losing a child. While I can see my anger going from full out rage to merely smoldering after some time, what would be the value of forgiving someone that killed my child? Some say you can forgive, but that doesn't imply you forget. To me, it does mean you put it behind you though. If a friend slights me and I get burned, I can forgive him under the right conditions. Obviously he would have to show remorse, and change his behavior not to do so again. You may be best friends down the line. Yes, you'll technically remember that he did something bad to you at one time, but you no longer feel much in regards to the situation, and now you've put it behind you. There's a limit to real forgiveness though I think. If your friend sleeps with your wife, for many there's no forgiveness for such a thing. There's a divorce and one less friend in your future.
 

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It doesn't have to be one or the other. A person could idealize forgiveness while being unable to grant it. Ie working towards forgiveness, keeping forgiveness in mind. Not everyone can just throw a switch.
 

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I think it is bad to hold on to hate and all the negative emotional baggage that comes with it, but the only person who has the right to actually forgive is the person wronged.
 

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Who do you have to forgive someone to let go? You can let go of the anger and heal without ever forgiving the murderer. In reality forgiveness without repentance is useless.
 

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In reality forgiveness without repentance is useless.
Well, even with repentance, the person they killed is still dead, so that's 'useless,' too, depending on what you think 'useful' would be.

But if the forgiveness is for the victim's benefit, not the perpetrator, then it doesn't matter if the perp repents or not.
 

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Also, let's not confuse forgiveness by a person with forgiveness by society.
From what I understand, a lot of victims (meaning, in this case, the friends and family) can forgive only when the perp has been declared guilty.
The reassurance that the perp was really wrong in society's eye and that the victim was really the victim seems important to be able to let go and advance on the grieving.

So, actually, it would seem forgiveness is not abandonning justice, but justice is a step on the way to forgiveness, reinforcing that forgiveness is not done for the guilty's sake.
 

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Who do you have to forgive someone to let go? You can let go of the anger and heal without ever forgiving the murderer. In reality forgiveness without repentance is useless.
That is such a simple statement that ignores the complexity of the real world. The family of the victim has no control over the actions of the murderer. If they choose to forgive, it is mostly for themselves. If it helps them to deal with tragedy, then it cannot possibly be useless. And, if their forgiveness is public, it may induce repentance on the part of the murderer. But even if it has no effect (or the opposite effect), if it helps the forgivers deal with situation, it is not useless.
 

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Who do you have to forgive someone to let go? You can let go of the anger and heal without ever forgiving the murderer. In reality forgiveness without repentance is useless.
That is such a simple statement that ignores the complexity of the real world. The family of the victim has no control over the actions of the murderer. If they choose to forgive, it is mostly for themselves.
Doesn't this ignore what forgiveness is? I hate to quote television, but Whedon or the writers had a good line, 'We don't forgive people because they deserve it, we forgive them because they need it.' Forgiveness is a two party deal.

I personally don't understand how someone can "forgive" a perpetrator quickly, such as the Charleston massacre. It is almost more of a religious reflex to deal with the internal conflict of their religious worldview and the absurdity of the massacre they have to deal with.

If it helps them to deal with tragedy, then it cannot possibly be useless. And, if their forgiveness is public, it may induce repentance on the part of the murderer. But even if it has no effect (or the opposite effect), if it helps the forgivers deal with situation, it is not useless.
I fear quick forgiveness, as noted above, because it feels less like forgiveness and more like internal apologism. But given time, I suppose it can happen. Regardless, as long as their coping mechanisms aren't long-term denial, whatever it takes for them to seek honest peace!

Honestly, I can't think of how I could forgive such a horrific act. I could let it go, I can accept it as reality, I could be content if they were rehabilitated, but to forgive? Seems like a bridge to far. Babylon 5 had an absurdly great episode about this sort of conflict, from a killer's and third person's perspective.
 

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I fear quick forgiveness, as noted above, because it feels less like forgiveness and more like internal apologism.
So, you're not going to forgive the forgivers because they were too quick to forgive.

For some reason that strikes me as funny.
 
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That is such a simple statement that ignores the complexity of the real world. The family of the victim has no control over the actions of the murderer. If they choose to forgive, it is mostly for themselves.
Doesn't this ignore what forgiveness is? I hate to quote television, but Whedon or the writers had a good line, 'We don't forgive people because they deserve it, we forgive them because they need it.' Forgiveness is a two party deal.
No. Forgiveness may be a two party deal, but it need not be.
 

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I somehow think the term, forgiveness, is being misused here. I can forgive someone for killing a member of my family meaning that I will not hate them and stew over the incident. This does not mean that I believe society (the legal system) should not hold them responsible for their actions in order to protect society from repeat violations of societal norms.
 

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As someone else said, most times the forgiveness is for the benefit of the victim/victim's family so they can move on with their lives and not constantly deal with seething, damaging anger and hatred toward the perp.

It's not magnanimous of them. It's purely for their own needs.

Some strangely low self-esteem, or misled, or religious fanatic actually does forgive the perp for their sake, regardless of whether the perp ever cops to the crime. That seems to me to be a form of control.

I don't think forgiveness is needed at all. You can most certainly despise, hate and wish all sorts of negativity on a person and it not damage your life at all as long as you don't let it.

It's like any strong emotion, like love, don't let it obsess you and you're fine.

No forgiveness necessary.
 

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If you don't let go of the hate, anger and bitterness then the killer has murdered a part of you. I have no idea how a person could do it but forgiveness is the only positive control you could take over the situation.
 

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Hatred comes from being hurt. To keep hating and wishing hurt on another is, unavoidably, to keep on hurting.

That does in fact necessitate forgiveness, understood as synonymous with “letting go”, if a person wants to stop hurting. My dictionary says forgiveness is “to stop feeling angry or resentful against someone for an offense” and I think that can be summed up more simply as “letting go”. There’s no end to the hurt until the person lets go of (ie, in one way or another psychologically resolves) the hate and anger.

Hate and anger are painful experiences though there can be satisfaction in expressing them, and that may be a good and needed part of “letting go”, though there's a danger of fueling it.

Forgiveness is a more direct two-way thing between perp and emotionally wounded person only if the perp’s repentance is needed by the hurt person to psychologically resolve the hurt. That might be necessary for some people and not others.

————————

Added note: It may be that people are thinking of forgiveness in more religious than psychological terms, where (I think) it’s more an issue of absolving someone of their wrongdoing… Which is entirely different from what I’m talking about.
 

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If you don't let go of the hate, anger and bitterness then the killer has murdered a part of you. I have no idea how a person could do it but forgiveness is the only positive control you could take over the situation.

Hatred comes from being hurt. To keep hating and wishing hurt on another is, unavoidably, to keep on hurting.

So a person should deny or pretend they weren't hurt?

That does in fact necessitate forgiveness, understood as synonymous with “letting go”, if a person wants to stop hurting.

Not really sure how a victim or their family should 'let something go' as if it's their fault if they can't.

Hate and anger are painful experiences though there can be satisfaction in expressing them, and that may be a good and needed part of “letting go”, though there's a danger of fueling it.

Nothing wrong with fueling an anger if it's righteous and hasn't been resolved.
 

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So a person should deny or pretend they weren't hurt?
That has nothing to do with forgiveness.

Not really sure how a victim or their family should 'let something go' as if it's their fault if they can't.
Why are you bringing up straw men? If "letting go" betters their lives over the status quo, then it makes sense to let go. That has nothing to do with faults.
Nothing wrong with fueling an anger if it's righteous and hasn't been resolved.
If that anger leads to a reduction in the quality of life or decision making, then it is a mistake to hang onto it.
 

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Hatred comes from being hurt. To keep hating and wishing hurt on another is, unavoidably, to keep on hurting.

So a person should deny or pretend they weren't hurt?
Didn't say that. I'm trying for description not "shoulds". I think what you said a few posts up about how hating won't hurt if you don't let it implies a control that doesn't exist and contradicts how human psychology is.

That does in fact necessitate forgiveness, understood as synonymous with “letting go”, if a person wants to stop hurting.

Not really sure how a victim or their family should 'let something go' as if it's their fault if they can’t.
I don’t know anything about “fault”. The word “necessitate” in what I said doesn’t mean “should”. I meant if a person wants to stop hurting from their anger then letting go of it is needed for that to happen.

Hate and anger are painful experiences though there can be satisfaction in expressing them, and that may be a good and needed part of “letting go”, though there's a danger of fueling it.

Nothing wrong with fueling an anger if it's righteous and hasn't been resolved.
Like I said in what you’ve quoted, expressing unresolved feelings can help. “Fueling” meant wallowing in the anger/hate/hurt to where it only perpetuates the hurt, maybe makes it worse.
 

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I'm an 'eye for an eye' man myself, and make no apology for it.

That's a bit too soft. What about all the trouble you have with the new enemy: the state trying to thwart your attempts in exacting your own flavor of vengeance? We'd be required by necessity to enter the domain of cowardice (not my words) in order to retain our livelihood. We could sit at the side of the killer and play our role in helping them be free--for how else can we 'forgive' them--southern style ... if they aren't walking the streets among us.

People cry out for justice. Who the fuck wants that bullshit? If someone kills a liberal family member, then with their superior sense of morals, they are appreciative of the officials that seek to bring the killer to justice, and the conservative, even with their eye for an eye mentality, are willing to accept justice, but who's kidding who? Why in the hell would we allow right and wrong stand in the way? People!, you civilized fuckers.

But then, the fleeting moments of insane thought subsides. Anger continues. Hurt takes root. Law keeps us at bay. We think. We cry. We rationalize. Right and wrong matters once again. The turmoil still festers and it takes its toll. Then, some of us forgive. What else can we do.

Well, I for one, can take the pains of hurting a bit longer than others. I might, in exhaustion, eventually find some semblance of peace with justice, but it's certainly not a first choice, and forgiveness most certainly isn't going to coincide within days of the date of my family members grave.

Maybe I just have a propensity for anger.
 

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So a person should deny or pretend they weren't hurt?
Didn't say that. I'm trying for description not "shoulds". I think what you said a few posts up about how hating won't hurt if you don't let it implies a control that doesn't exist and contradicts how human psychology is.

So completely wrong. People do this all the time. No matter how badly their parents or their ex fucked them over, quite a few people make a new start and do well with their lives and yes, are still angry with the other person, but they don't let the anger control their lives or their future.
 

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At some point you either learn to let go of the anger and hurt, or the anger and hurt poisons your own life and you become another victim of the event.
 

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From what I understand, a lot of victims (meaning, in this case, the friends and family) can forgive only when the perp has been declared guilty. The reassurance that the perp was really wrong in society's eye and that the victim was really the victim seems important to be able to let go and advance on the grieving.

I agree with this and will add that the opportunity to forgive is more likely if the perp has actually been caught. For years, I watched things like Forensic Files and Cold Case Files. Families with unsolved murders have the hardest time recovering from the incident. Their emotions have no real direction to diffuse them. It's worse for missing persons cases because they simply have no resolution whatsoever. The person is just gone.

To my mind, forgiveness is more about closing a chapter. If the murderer is behind bars and won't be roaming about free, then it is easier to let go. We can call this letting go "forgiveness," but I think that's way too simple. I seems more about reconciling the incident within oneself with acceptance.

But if this person is only serving 15 months for the incident, rage and hatred are certainly not going to dissipate. Having the murderer "get away with it" is a huge obstacle to forgiveness. Especially if the family feels the Justice system has either screwed them over or been woefully inadequate.

For myself, I do not consider myself an "eye for an eye" person. Yet I have a hard time picturing myself forgiving something so heinous, trying to spin that religious-wise and not trying to exact punishment on a perpetrator that has evaded justice. I acknowledge that we live on this earth in the Garden of Bliss & Fear, where horror and happiness reside next to one another. All I can say is that I sincerely hope I am not in a situation that I have to explore these types of feelings.
 

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This is Michael Moore so take it with a grain of salt, but it's a good watch -- it's about the prisons in Norway:

 

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This is Michael Moore so take it with a grain of salt, but it's a good watch -- it's about the prisons in Norway:
Yeah, Moore is a trip. He shows an idealized world as he would like it to be in his movies rather than reality. His film Sicko showed how wonderful and superior he saw the Cuban medical system to be but Castro wouldn't allow it to to be shown in Cuba. Castro's reason was that if the Cuban people saw it then they would expect that kind of medical treatment.
 

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It just seems to me that a response of non-forgiveness and wanting punishment to the full extent of the law would be better than coming out publicly about forgiving the killers--and most certainly better than whatever might be going through my mind at the time
But those are two different things. What the authorities do to him for criminal behavior is not connected to whether or not you hate him or forgive him.

To me, I always kinda hear the 'we forgive his killer' statements as 'I'm letting go of the hurt you've done me, asshole, because you're not worth me carrying you around for the rest of my life.' They still grieve the lost family member, but that would be part of it whether he died from murder or accident.

The forgiveness would be for their benefit, releasing their burden. It's not the same as asking that the killer be pardoned for his crime. The punishment is a separate issue. I think you can forgive the pain but still want to let the system do as it must for the crime the killer committed.
I always hear this "I forgive" trope with the subtext or openly stated rationale of "It's the Christian thing to do."
I don't share that theological imperative, But I can't judge the reactions of victims of horrible crimes. Whatever way works for an individual is my attitude, with the caveats that allowing strong negative emotions to consume you openly and longterm is detrimental to yourself and repressing and denying negative emotions to try to meet an external standard of forgiveness, or for whatever reason, is also dangerous to yourself. It's a tough tough situation to be put in.
 
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jab

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If you don't let go of the hate, anger and bitterness then the killer has murdered a part of you. I have no idea how a person could do it but forgiveness is the only positive control you could take over the situation.
One could equally say that if a beloved person is horrifically killed and you do "let go of the hate, anger and bitterness then the killer has murdered a part of you."
The pain and fear of someone I love must affect me negatively and strongly or my "heart" has been killed.
It's a catch-22 situation.
 
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