Carol Costello’s guest this morning (forgive my not remembering the name at the moment) said that forgiveness can occur only when the offender truly regrets the offense, desires forgiveness, and changes—leads a life that illustrates the offender is a different person. She may have been speaking about candidates shifting views and toying with facts. But even if so, the restrictions on when forgiving is possible would make it difficult for most of us to earn it or to give it. A person may regret an act or a personal nature without anyone knowing it, and may change, but not in the same locale, or not in a venue that’s visible. Maybe only the person and God knows.
Forgiveness doesn’t imply trust. Forgiveness can occur without a person having to stay in the presence of, or rely on, or even think often about, the offender. In the past few years, many people have made that point publicly after losing someone to violence—they have forgiven the perpetrator openly. Their generosity of spirit is always difficult to understand and simultaneously uplifting. They make me believe that forgiveness of another person is truly a gift to oneself. We don’t have to forget atrocities or even small injustices or indignities. We don’t have to trust people who have proven they will hurt others. But forgiveness is another quality. Demonstrating it, we recognize human frailty, human conditions and preconditions, and the precariousness of our own position.