by Belle Waring on May 24, 2019

Everyone always says that forgiveness a worthwhile life strategy, and is for you, not for the other person who wronged you. This seems obviously true in some cases–in principle if you are nursing a rather trivial grudge which is bothering you, it would be better to let it go. In severe cases there is evidence that anger or misery can dampen your immune system, shave years off your life, give you heart disease, etc. The NYT has recently advocated both the somewhat paradoxical advice to hold on to grudges under certain circumstances, and the more traditional suggestion to let go of them. (At the former link there is a kind of fun quiz you can take to see how serious the grudge is, and whether you should allow yourself the petty pleasure of nursing it. Also, it’s clearly meant to apply to that girl in fourth grade who said that you used crayons and colored pencils on your poster of the solar system, and it didn’t match, and she didn’t want to sit with you at lunch for three days.) The latter is the advice most often given by psychologists and 12-step programs and self-help books.

A 2006 study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology as part of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, suggested that “skills-based forgiveness training may prove effective in reducing anger as a coping style, reducing perceived stress and physical health symptoms, and thereby may help reduce” the stress we put on our immune and cardiovascular systems. Further, a study published this year found that carrying anger into old age is associated with higher levels of inflammation and chronic illness. Another study from this year found that anger reduces our ability to see things from other people’s perspective.

“Holding onto a grudge really is an ineffective strategy for dealing with a life situation that you haven’t been able to master. That’s the reality of it,” said Dr. Frederic Luskin, founder of the Stanford Forgiveness Project.

“Whenever you can’t grieve and assimilate what has happened, you hold it in a certain way,” he said. “If it’s bitterness, you hold it with anger. If it’s hopeless, you hold it with despair. But both of those are psycho-physiological responses to an inability to cope, and they both do mental and physical damage.”

He went on: “The hopelessness shuts down and dampens immune response, leads to some aspects of depression. Anger can have immune implications, it dysregulates the nervous system, it certainly is the most harmful emotion for the cardiovascular system. But you have this top point where something happened that I can’t really deal with, and often we do deal with it somehow, but unskillfully.”

A poor attempt to deal, Dr. Luskin said, “mirrors the fight-or-flight mechanism built in for how to cope with stress.”

At the same time, he said, the converse is true: Full forgiveness can more or less reverse these negative repercussions of holding onto anger and grudges.

Luskin foes on to explain, “Forgiveness is for you, not the offender.”

Yeah, OK Doctor Forgiveness Project, I think you just might be biased in favor of forgiveness, throwing that out there. And I usually get a doth protest too much vibe off people who by their advice imply they are all perfect in their interior. It’s like when you look into one of those gleaming sugar Easter eggs with the scene inside. I guarantee one of those little shits ice-skating on the piece of blue cellophane is pondering axe murder. But are you really supposed to forgive people who have done you terrible wrongs? “Sure that sniper shot my 12-year-old daughter intentionally, but this is about me. Well, and Donald Trump, who just pardoned the guy.” Maybe Trump did it for himself?

Sometimes people don’t seem to have gotten angry enough about something that happened in the past, and you need to tell them, “hey, that sounds awful” a bunch before they react appropriately, usually because they’ve been minimizing it in the vain hope that their life won’t have been that bad. Rationalization is a hell of a drug. But maybe they’re meant to ramp up like that before realizing the warm glow of the world with forgiveness? Or, as may be, getting out there to whiten a sepulchre?

I’ve got a person who could profitably be tied up in the path of a combine harvester, and I see no reason to pull him out, even if it’s just for me. And when the person who most wronged me in this world died, I had a big party. I mean, I hardly got off the phone before I started cooking. And I’m still angry! I guess I’m going to die early and all, but I just can’t see my way around to forgiving the unforgivable. “Change your story from that of a victim to a more heroic story,” is what Dr. Condoneface suggests. Yeah, but what if you had literally no agency? I could see desensitizing yourself to the life problem in some way, I guess, but that doesn’t seem to require forgiveness. What say you, Plain People of Crooked Timber? Nurse tiny grudges? Dissolve the sins of all in your own guilty hearts, like Father Zossima would want? Both? Straight up push a dude into a grain silo? (Trick question, it’s straight up push a dude into a vat of sodium hydroxide at a paper mill.)

PS It seems fair to note I am chronically ill. And sort of cray, maybe. I mean, one of my mother’s day cards said, “you’re a big nerd, and kind of crazy, but if you weren’t you wouldn’t be Belle Waring.” My children get me.



Murali 05.24.19 at 6:25 am

Forgiveness fetishism*, as I have observed it, seems to be a very western/white person thing. It seems like a holdover from a christian past and people who advocate it seem to be finding any sort of excuse to preach what they learned when they were young even if they currently profess to no longer being christian.

*Notice how in discussions of the death penalty, a lot of supposed atheists seem to wax christian when they say things like “vengeance is not justice”. This could only make sense in a christian context. Otherwise, revenge, which is the act of inflicting a harm on someone who has harmed you to the degree of the harm they have inflicted looks a lot like justice. (two linguistic intuitions that are worth considering: 1) revenge stops being revenge when it is levelled against those who did not wrong you. 2)some act of harm goes beyond revenge when it inflicts more harm than the target of revenge inflicted)


Ray Vinmad 05.24.19 at 7:37 am

I am forced to hold my grudge & acknowledge its absurdity at the same time.

The second worst grudge is the grudge where the other person doesn’t remember the harm they did to you. Or at least they’d pretend not to remember. The only evidence I have that they knew what they did is a later gesture at a matching grudge. (I suppose we were bordering on a feud.) They intuited my grudge then matched it with a faux grudge of their own. Had I been imagining the whole thing, they’d never have signaled an intent at a return grudge (which they later undermined by a conciliatory email thereby confirming my initial assessment that the event causing the grudge was not benign).

It makes sense to me that–after the humiliation of the initial grudge-producing incident–one forever after must wonder if the object of the grudge has plausible deniability about the incident leading to the grudge. That would make acknowledgement of the grudge itself humiliating, i.e., a self-reinforcing grudge.

The worst grudge of all is the grudge against the person who is possibly non-malevolent, i.e., a self-undermining grudge.

The easiest grudge to justify is the grudge you hold so they can’t pull that shit on you again. According to the NYT, mine is a 10 carat grudge. This may be why I hold onto at least one grudge–because the object isn’t an wholly terrible person. Thus, I need the grudge so I remember to avoid this stupid situation in the future given that non-malevolence gets one’s guard down.

My grudge does the work for me. There’s no need to nurse it. It’s like those organisms at the hydrothermal vents. It feeds on the environment around itself.

Grudges uphold moral standards, and this indicates that the happy grudge-free people are free-riders on the misery of those maintaining the line by our refusal to forgive.


Belle Waring 05.24.19 at 8:11 am

W00t, these are the comments I wanted! Let’s reject forgiveness in a triumphant, Nietzschean spirit! I read the skills-based forgiveness paper and they excluded people who were: currently suicidal or homicidal, currently taking psychotropic medication, in psychotherapy in the last six months, had a history of sexual and physical abuse, or an assault in the last five years. This implies to me that either they condone a lack of forgiveness in these cases, or they can’t handle the hard stuff. At all. What are they doing in trying to help people learn forgiving, extend their life spans etc. if not helping people currently on drugs and in therapy recover from their history of childhood abuse by forgiving their abuser, but for themselves? This should be their whole deal.


rm 05.24.19 at 8:33 am

They can’t handle the hard stuff. Pop psychology sucks.

Another thing I think the forgiveness shills miss is that little to none of this happens cognitively. It’s an emotional process happening in your body and the conscious mind doesn’t come into it. Except to post-hoc rationalize, which may be about all it ever does.

I’ve got someone I cannot blame, because the behavior was a symptom of an illness, but I haven’t forgiven. I was gonna say “because . . .” but there’s nothing to fill in after “because.” My body informs me, via PTSD symptoms, that it has not forgiven the person. If I do well enough dealing with my own symptoms, I’ll see whether or not I have forgiven the person who harmed me. I’ll know by monitoring stuff like heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, dissociation.


Philip 05.24.19 at 9:02 am

I just watched a BBC documentary about abuse of people with autism and learning difficulties in a psychiatric hospital near me. I work in a similar field and am still really angry thinking about it. This is after the government have failed to do what they promised after a similar scandal in 2012. I think it is right to be angry about this and more people being angry will help things change where letting go of anger will help abuse to continue. Here is a link to the story.


HcCarey 05.24.19 at 9:09 am

It seems to me you can hold a grudge without active anger, as in “that person injured me and demonstrated a lack of trustworthiness and dependability, I’ll have nothing to do with them from now on,” or “that person has demonstrated an insidious capacity to manipulate and mislead: rather than be subject to more of this I’ll have nothing to do with them.” Is this holding a grudge? I suppose it is, but it’s not an actively angry grudge, more of a “don’t touch a hot stove” thing.


Chris (merian) W. 05.24.19 at 9:51 am

Like many (most? all?) who have been brought up Catholic, or other flavors of Christian, I was told early and repeatedly that it was my duty to forgive. And even though I never actually believed in all that stuff, and grew up to identify as agnostic (tho of Catholic culture), these early conditionings have a way of sticking deep in one’s ethical compass.

So it was somewhat of a shock to learn that not everyone thinks like this. I can whole-heartedly recommend getting married to someone from a different religious background (even if yourself you’re atheist, you probably have some kind of cultural religious background) to get one’s questioning going. In my case, my spouse is Jewish, and through her and others (such as Marjorie Ingall of the Sorrywatch blog) I got to face Jewish thought on what should happen when A wronged B. The canonical reference at the moment is Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s thread on Twitter dealing with atonement vs repentance vs. forgiveness. ( I think it’s fabulous. Who’d have thought that the best thing on Twitter would be a bunch of left-wing feminist rabbis?)

Judaism (insert disclaimer for limited understanding) doesn’t care much about forgiveness. “Forgiveness is up to the victim (and the victim alone). Atonement is up to God.” (from the thread). It’s all about repentance, ie, about repairing the harm done. And really, this sounds like a so much saner approach to the whole thing. I can’t stand it when, say, someone died in a horrible crime/police shooting and the first thing the surviving family has to talk about is whether they forgive the person who pulled the trigger. Heck, I want to tell the journalist, come back in a year or so! Even the pope wouldn’t be able to forgive within an hour of being hit by a trauma. Yet even the victims of the crime (including family members) feel compelled to face the question about forgiveness, and feel somehow deficient if they aren’t able to forgive immediately. Or, conversely, are held up as shining examples if somehow they ARE. Even that leaves a weird taste. This shouldn’t all be about how exactly you arrive at this state of grace that is forgiving the person who indelibly wronged you: this should be about consequences for the perpetrator first.

So yes, how and how long you hold your grudges should be calibrated to your own needs. Or can you explicitly not forgive even though you have let, by your own choice, go of the grudge? Like, the grudge is gone from weighing you down (if it is of a type that would), but you still deny the perpetrator the satisfaction to hear “I’ve forgiven you”. Or are they the same thing? They feel distinct to me.

There’s value to holding a grudge. Someone who has wronged you SHOULD have to confront that fact for a whole at least. Especially the small ones are useful as a little monument that indicates that there is an unpaid moral debt. I often see people whining “but I did admit that I made a mistake – why are you still cold to me / want me to do more?” I just unfriended someone over this. The presumption of no-consequence-once-misstep-admitted is just fundamentally unjust.


degsy 05.24.19 at 10:11 am

Forgivers are stealing the jouissance of grudgeholders.


MisterMr 05.24.19 at 10:13 am

I think that holding grudge makes sense when acting on this grudge might be useful to me or to someone else in the future (e.g., someone dod something seriously bad, I hold grudge as long as I can et the guy to prison, so that he doesn’t act this way anymore or other people are dissuaded to act like him), or otherwise forgiving might legitimise seriously bad stuff, and such circumstances, however grudge for the sake of grudge doesn’t really make sense.

@Murali 1
I’m an atheist who is against death penalty; I have no problem to say that my ethics are influenced by christianity but I think you are wrong in implying that this is inconsistent: I believe that God doesn’t exists, and that people made up religions according to their beliefs, mostly moral beliefs; it simply happens that people who made christianity made it on the image of moral belief that are similar to mine (wich makes sense since I descend from the same culture), but the moral beliefs are prior to the cosmologic beliefs and actually cause the cosmologic beliefs in religions, at least from the point of view of this atheists (but there are many thinkers who said the same).

Also, you are wrong when you say that linguistically “2)some act of harm goes beyond revenge when it inflicts more harm than the target of revenge inflicted”. This is because you are assuming something like a just revenge, so that there can be an excess of revenge, but if you assume the concept of just revenge you are assuming the same concept that you are trying to prove. If you answer badly to this comment and I take an airplane, hunt you down and attack you with a baseball bat very few people would consider this just, but it would be revenge, in the sense of punishing you for a grudge I hold.
The problem is that grudge and revenge (and forgiveness) are subjective things, whereas “justice” is an intersubjective thing that must be accepted also by third parties, like law; the idea that the perception or opinion of one person is justice misses the point in the same way that my opinion that a certain t-shirt is mine (subjective) is different from the fact that said t-shirt is actually my property (intersubjective).


Saurs 05.24.19 at 10:18 am

Forgiveness fetishism*, as I have observed it, seems to be a very western/white person thing.

No, but it depends on who you are suggesting “fetishizes” forgiveness, why, and in what direction. Recipients of regular oppression aimed at them systematically, as a member of a group or cohort, seem to me to be saintly, unassuming, and unselfish in their performance of patience and understanding, resigned to never gaining full and unequivocal access to true justice but nonetheless pursuing it, often forced to give public thanks for scraps and crumbs instead of a seat at the table of the Just World. White people do seem to be overrepresented in the Anything Less Than My Total Rehabilitation in the Eyes of Everyone Or I Have Been Virtually Lynched set, though.

Notice how in discussions of the death penalty, a lot of supposed atheists seem to wax christian when they say things like “vengeance is not justice”. This could only make sense in a christian context.

No? That just sounds like you lack contact with a world outside a certain locale of Christendom and its adjacent secular culture.


novakant 05.24.19 at 10:54 am

The thing is: we have to forgive; not necessarily on an interpersonal level, true, but as part of society and part of the international community. Otherwise we will be stuck in a cycle of perpetual aggression, both implicit and explicit and it will be impossible to live a humane life. And moving forward on this level requires the willingness of individuals to forgive.


nastywoman 05.24.19 at 11:11 am

”in principle if you are nursing a rather trivial grudge which is bothering you, it would be better to let it go”.

Just did – as who can’t watch a sister cry – even if she is Theresa May… ?
-(and as we will be in London next week – visiting Queen Anne – we need a thread about forgiving Mrs. May)


c_haesemeyer 05.24.19 at 11:27 am

I still hold grudges against fellow grade school pupils I haven’t seen in by now more than 35 years. So fuck experts.


Murali 05.24.19 at 12:47 pm

Forgiveness*, I suppose, is for people who can’t handle their anger and resentment and are likely to go half cocked on some violent rampage at the drop of a hat. Otherwise, forgiving a wrong-doer fails to respect the victims of the wrong-doer.

*Specifically forgiveness of those who have not made amends


KC 05.24.19 at 1:05 pm

I think Portia laid out the case for forgiveness long ago, noting first (in reply to Shylock’s question about what compels him to be merciful) that “the quality of mercy is not strained – ie, forgiveness is voluntary.

Then laying out the case for mercy this way:

“Therefore, though justice be thy plea, consider this
That in the course of pursuing justice, none of us will see salvation,
Therefore, we do pray for mercy,
and that same prayer teaches us to discharge the deeds of mercy.”

So be merciful, because none of us are innocent. And if others seem more guilty than us, be careful of “attribution bias” – we tend to attribute blame to external factors vs our own agency, and we tend to attribute blame to other people’s agency vs external factors.

Don’t be so quick to judge others!


JimV 05.24.19 at 1:44 pm

Forgiveness for me consists of understanding how another person’s background and circumstances caused them to behave in the disrespectful, inconsiderate, and unjust way that offended me. Especially if I can look back over my imperfect life and remember acting similarly at some time. This works for a lot of people, but not for everyone. I need some justification for the forgiveness.

Solzhenitsyn has had a lot to say about this. There is a quote from “The First Circle” which I can’t quite remember, something like, “The wolfhound is forgivable, the cannibal is not.” More topically, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”


Belle Waring 05.24.19 at 2:10 pm

Hmmm. Sure, the Lord’s Prayer does say we receive forgiveness only to the extent that we forgive others. And Portia is a Christian who toes the modern party line on this stuff. “It [mercy] is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” But do we have to do this stuff even if we’re not adherents to the Nicene Creed?

OK, excursus, that seems strictly misleading given my official affirmation of the Nicene Creed as a young person, so full confession, as it were: I’ve been confirmed in the Episcopal Church, and have been to innumerable services, with Chapel on Wednesday and a full service in the National Cathedral every Friday during my middle and high school years, and Sundays with my grandfather etc. etc. I am literally planning my mother’s memorial service now and had to choose between a number of readings/psalms, pretty much all of which I knew. In addition to which I’ve read the synoptic Gospels and some of the Septuagint in koine because–well, because it’s easy, basically, so that’s what they start you on. Teething Greek. So I’m like a stealth atheist. And obviously must have some Christian-inflected worldview because, how not? finis

HAVING SAID WHICH, “[d]on’t be so quick to judge others!” seems like OK advice for, like, a dude who’s cutting ahead of us to get to the Slurpee machine at a gas station, but terrible advice for someone who’s committed cruel acts of violence. Let’s just judge that dude, I say. No hate for the dudes here, but it’s always dudes. OK, I’ll avoid the flood of counter-examples: in my experience and the experiences people have shared with me, it’s always dudes. I do recognize that the anger that wells up from fear leads to the Dark side of the Force, but I’m still on team grain silo.


rm 05.24.19 at 2:12 pm

To echo Murali and KC a bit, there are some people who nurse bitter grudges over injuries that are completely imaginary. Paranoia and delusional thinking are things that happen. One function of forgiveness is to prevent those traits from growing.

Looking clearly at the facts seems important — reality testing in case the grudge is all or mostly perceived. And if the injury is real, forgiveness can be a tool for looking at it clearly. But it ain’t an obligation of the injured party.


John Garrett 05.24.19 at 2:16 pm

So, for the next mass murder of kids in school, we’ll again be told to forgive and pray, rather than do anything about it? I don’t forget, I don’t forgive, I don’t pray. For the big stuff: the little stuff I let go.


William Meyer 05.24.19 at 2:38 pm

I fundamentally disagree with this:

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

I am willing to destroy, or defer acting on, many pieces of my own heart; I do it daily. Those who do not, regularly and over time, are the ones I call evil. I would guess that something like half of all human suffering would be avoidable if contra Solzhenitzin we did separate ourselves from those who are “insidiously committing evil deeds” and destroy them. Humanity suffers every day from its strange reluctance to challenge evil-doers, bullies, and a**holes. There is some odd cooperation between the virtuous and the wicked which enables huge swathes of damage to be inflicted each and every day. Someday, perhaps, the mass of people who are willing to discipline themselves for the sake of a decent society will gain the courage to do what is necessary. Forgiveness is mostly cowardice.


Aardvark Cheeselog 05.24.19 at 2:43 pm

I think this discussion conflates “letting go of anger” with “forgiveness.” Preoccupation with the latter might well be “a very western/white person thing” that is “a holdover from a christian past,” but the former has support from other traditions, and is very much something advocated for one’s own self-interest.

Several times I have encountered a story, set in the late ’60s or early ’70s (when young Americans were making pilgrimages to Asia to study Buddhism or various Vedanta-influenced yogas) about a young woman traveler in India who escaped an assailant who probably meant to rape her. Mindful of the precept of nonviolence, she asked her (Buddhist) teacher about what to do in situations like that, and was told that she should, with all the compassion she could muster, whack the assailant on the head with her umbrella as she could manage.

I disagree that there’s a difference in how we should think about the guy who cuts in line for the Slurpee machine and the one who uses his deployment in a war zone to pick off teenage girls from a sniper’s nest. Both do what they do from some combination of selfishness, hatred, and delusion. There is a difference in how we need to treat them: Slurpee guy can probably just be forgotten about, but we need to take some steps to protect the world against sniper dude. Learning to have compassion for him for being so fucked up that he has to be put in a cage for the rest of his life is better for us than taking pleasure in the fact that he’s getting what’s due him.


SamChevre 05.24.19 at 2:47 pm

My thinking on forgiveness is confused, because “forgiveness” means so many different things, and moving from Anabaptist Christianity (non-resistant, with heroes like Dirk Willems) to Catholic Christianity (with much more emphasis on justice) makes me even more confused.

The first two comments that come to mind are from the Making Light sidebar. “Forgiveness is giving up on the possibility of a better past” and “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison, and waiting for the rat to die.” In that sense–forgiveness as accepting that the past happened and can’t be changed–I think it’s always healthy.

But “forgiveness” can also mean “reconciliation”; that, I think is sometimes unhealthy hell, no. Some people behaved badly, because they are bad people, and remembering that and making sure others know about it is important.


Chris Ashley 05.24.19 at 3:01 pm

A Benedictine aphorism: “Forgiveness is when you no longer wish the past to have been otherwise.” I appreciate that it turns forgiveness from an act of will into something discovered and gratuitous. That is in line with the rabbinical distinction between forgiveness and atonement and addresses the abusive reporters’ demand.


Belle Waring 05.24.19 at 3:03 pm

I’m going to sleep so people will be stuck in the queue for a while, unless some thoughtful fellow bloggers stop by. Thanks for your comments in advance!


Trader Joe 05.24.19 at 3:21 pm

Three thoughts

Grudges – the key for me on grudges is does my target know and does my target care. I might bear a grudge against Exxon because of the environment but that doesn’t really do me much good if I’m out of gas on the interstate and theirs is the only station available. Or if I still grudge the kid in 3rd grade who taunted me unmercifully even if he knows I bore a grudge I never see him and he’s probably forgotten. There is a weight lifted from my soul to let these go. But that person who knows and cares – that one I’ll tend a bit longer, feed with schadenfreude and nurse my plots however petty they might be.

Size matters – For small things I think there is more to be gained in an improved disposition than lost through the energizing catalyst of holding onto a grudge, anger, contempt etc. For bigger things – yeah, there’s definitely some energy there and its not all as negative as some would have you believe. Definitely a harder call.

Forgiveness – I’ve both offered forgiveness and been forgiven, the former feels better. I can’t judge for you when either is right, but can suggest a ‘try it you might like it’ approach doesn’t have a lot of downside. If you attempt it and it doesn’t make you feel better there’s no cost to picking it back up (especially as far as I understand the OP example).


MrMister 05.24.19 at 3:28 pm

Echoing a couple earlier comments, I would concur that although Christianity may have a particular preoccupation with forgiveness, my understanding is that there are definitely nonChristian traditions which emphasize tranquility and non-attachment as components of personal wellbeing and spiritual success.

For my own part, I’ve found forgiveness healthier than nursing grudges. I also have found that the people around me who carry a lot of anger are both scary and usually very unreasonable in how that anger ends up getting taken out on themselves and the people around them. However, I have never been subject to serious violence and do not pretend to understand that.

Contra Belle@3, I think there’s nothing wrong with Dr. Forgiveness bracketing off PTSD, victims of sexual assault and serious violence, addicts and depressed people, etc., in his investigations. Of course, what is healthy self-care for people in those situations is very important! But it is also worth asking about healthy self-care for people who are not in those situations, and there is no guarantee the answers will be the same. There’s room for a lot of important projects in the world. I do think it’s kind of misleading, though, if they present the results which speak toward one question as if they spoke to both.


PatinIowa 05.24.19 at 3:39 pm

There are many different kinds of “forgiveness,” as many as the kinds of offense that might be. And there are many reasons to forgive. I don’t know that I’m inclined to forgive because I think it will lower my blood pressure. But I may have to forgive so I can do my job, or form new intimate relationships, or go on with my life. I don’t think there’s a useful single thing described in our usual discussions of the term.

I don’t think any of us have standing to tell someone else to forgive a wrong that’s been done to them. I spend enough time with people who have been sexually abused, to have realized that well-meaning advice to forgive frequently does them more harm, by diminishing their suffering. It’s appalling to hear what people have been told. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s all that bad we don’t break people on the wheel any more.

I do think sometimes we do have to forgive in order to achieve justice–think of Nelson Mandela and the ANC, the parties in Northern Ireland, and on and on and on.

It’s not just Christian. Of course, in my Catholic tradition, forgiveness is a religious obligation (even if it makes us sick), because that’s what makes individual humans emulate Jesus and what gets us into heaven. In certain versions of Buddhism, forgiveness is impossible because that supposes that individual identity is real, and the offender and the offended differ, when in reality, we’re all aspects of the same thing. Thus the proper response is not grudge, nor forgiveness, but compassion. As the saying goes, YMMV:

Call Me by My True Names
Thich Nhat Hanh

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.
Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.
My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.


Jim Buck 05.24.19 at 3:47 pm

From age 7, up until my 14th year, I was the victim of a pair of bullies–neighbours’ children, brothers: one a year older than me, the other a year younger. From my current vantage-point (comfortably retired), I can see that my reaction to that childhood situation has conditioned major aspects of my entire life. This is a very new realisation for me. I had not given over much conscious thought to my antagonists in the intervening half-century. I put the severity of my childhood suffering away, like a Veronica, only for it to emerge when my frenzied professional life was no longer there to blow it off the washing-line, constantly.
A supernormal experience, really; psychotic, some may say; there I was, sitting in the sunshine, reading Finnegans Wake; whatever that does to the brain was combined, perhaps, with a mildly heightened THC level. If you’ve read the Wake you may know that its constituent words are sentenced to cavort like actors and dancers in a spectacular travesty, part mockery, part exuberant liberation from the imposition of meaning. So the mind potters off to join whatever it is that forever watches from the wings. The Veronica, I choose to call it; Arthur Janov described it as the laminations of pain–imposed by others, and become a personal imprint. Whatever; it felt real to me, and personal; years of bullying by those evil brothers. I am lucky to have survived physically intact, unlike a younger brother of theirs, whose eye they shot through with a crossbow arrow on xmas day. It could have been me. Lucky, that’s me! At least I didn’t have to spend every 24/7/365 with them. I am lucky too, that I had a good enough 7 years before their wave crashed down on me. When the initial pain of that subsided, I recalled some shining memories of the time before they despoiled the scene.
So, I left the Wake on the chair and searched for the brothers on facebook. The younger brother died young, twenty years ago (HIV, maybe). His elder is thriving and married to a Thai bride. The younger brother who was shot through the eye (possibly, in my stead) was, a few years later, hit by a car; and today imbibes oxygen, largely immobile in a chair. A still younger brother of theirs lost one foot to sepsis whilst in Thailand, and 2 years later ( at home) so badly scalded the other foot that that one was amputated too. The youngest brother, of the whole of this crew, has been a very successful poker-player, but is now terminally ill. Good old facebook, eh? Hours of schadenfreude. And I instantly perceived myself as being well-placed to enact anonymous and exquisite revenge on my older tormentor–who fate seems to have treated more leniently than the others. Licking my lips at the prospect of that, I noted my stomach making a case for some attention too. So, I set off to a nearby shawarma kitchen.
Standing there, as the Kurdish guy folded the flat bread, I glanced to my left and saw my old antagonist opening the car door for his Thai bride, then both walking into the shop. I felt no astonishment at the coincidence–only the dulling touch of a Palmer Eldritch in the bright. He was astonished: firstly, at the immediacy of me recognising him after 50 years; secondly, because, he said, he had been thinking of me ‘only last week’. Mellowed by THC, perhaps, I shook his hand; and sent my best wishes to the rest of the family.
Later, when my orneriness returned to normal levels, I felt a pang of regret at having jumped out of the deck and into his hand, so to speak. I forgive myself for that though; and I am pleased to have reconnected to bright times that he and his brother had barred for so long.


Niall McAuley 05.24.19 at 4:00 pm

I agree with the aardvark that the fetishists are confusing anger and hatred with simple grudges. I can hold a grudge for decades after the anger has faded, and I don’t believe the grudge does me any harm at all. It does me some good in that the the object of the grudge will never get a chance to do it to me again.

Perhaps they have changed their ways, perhaps they never would do it again, but why give them the opportunity?


Doug K 05.24.19 at 4:04 pm

“For children are innocent and love justice: but the rest of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.” G.K. Chesterton

Resorting to wikipedia for a brisk trot through religious ideas:

I like best the Judaic idea – “we believe that just as only God can forgive sins against God, so only human beings can forgive sins against human beings.”
Forgiveness is up to the victim alone. It need not begin until the sinner admits fault, apologizes, and tries to make amends. Seems fair.

The Christian approach is more that since God forgives us all our sins, we need to go and do likewise, seventy times seven and then again. The idea that forgiveness is necessary for our own mental health seems to me to owe more to Buddhism and similar mystic practices, than Christianity. See link from my name, above.

Islam has a primitive eye-for-an-eye approach,
The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah.
Quoran 42.40.
Not sure that is sustainable, though possibly briefly satisfying.

The best fit for grain silo is the older Hindu texts it seems,
“certain sins and intentional acts are debated as naturally unforgivable; for example, murder and rape; these ancient scholars argue whether blanket forgiveness is morally justifiable in every circumstance, and whether forgiveness encourages crime, disrespect, social disorder and people not taking you seriously.”

With the current US administration it certainly seems to be true that forgiveness (or at least the failure to provide effective opposition) has encouraged crime and social disorder..


Orange Watch 05.24.19 at 4:58 pm


I think you hit on the critical flaw in Murali@1 (and some other comments echoing them) when you point to justice being interpersonal and ostensibly non-subjective. The fundamental flaw with assuming vengeance is justice is the same flaw I see in William Meyer@19; there is a deeply implied assumption that WE are good judges of what is a just conception of evil and can separate bad subjective understanding of evil and avoid emotionally-driven excessive retaliation, but THEY can’t. William Meyer’s whole second paragraph could be placed in the mouth of someone screwing themself up to go stake out an abortion clinic with a high-power rifle and the sniper-to-be probably wouldn’t need to change a syllable. To circle back to Murli@1, the problem with using emotional judgements as driving motivation while (per <a href=""Murali@14) deeming forgiveness a sign of moral and emotional weakness is that this logic only really works if you assume those you disagree with are objectively inferior to you in morally, emotionally, and intellectually significant ways. And that’s a very dangerous line of reasoning for the above-mentioned reason: unless you have and enforce fairly draconian double standards, you need to be willing to accept everyone’s judgements on vengeance cum justice.

It’s probably also worth pointing out that advocating justice-as-equal-suffering implicitly accepts the end justifying the mean. If it’s bad to do something to someone unprovoked, either the act is bad and it should not be done period, or the motivation is the only bad part. That needs unpacked. I’ll stipulate that I’m an agnostic atheistic determinist who leans towards utilitarianism with a splash of deontology, so I put a lot less weight into worrying about motives and “choice” than many might on this subject. For me, criminal justice should be about improving society – by preventing future crimes either through rehabilitating criminals so they can safely participate in society or removing them from society – rather than to help achieve some quasi-cosmic notion of karmic justice for its own sake or by providing cathartic release to victims. If you’re coming from a different POV, you’re probably going to assign different priorities and weights here.


Ben Alpers 05.24.19 at 5:09 pm

Just dropping by to second @Aardvark Cheeselog 20. I’m a firm believer that letting go of anger is beneficial. But that’s not the same thing as forgiveness, about which I share some of the skepticism in the OP. (Though I suspect that Belle Waring might disagree with AC and I about letting go of anger.)


engels 05.24.19 at 5:14 pm

Don’t get mad, get even.


Everyone always 05.24.19 at 5:36 pm

“Everyone always”

It’s not common that you can dismiss an argument in the first two words, but it happens.


Mystic 05.24.19 at 9:02 pm

Couple o’ things:

How’s that working for ya, Belle? To my jaded ears, it sure sounds like you’d be happier if you were able to forgive more. My experience is that truly forgiving someone means that they, or their wrongdoing, are no longer in a position of power over me. As long as I’m still resentful (which is, I think, the right word to use here), they’re one up.

They’re are some useful distinctions to be made here, and others have made some of them. My main point is the difference between knowing how much or little to trust someone based on their business past behavior, and what actions to take based on that, and being in thrall to an emotion you didn’t choose, no matter how satisfying it feels. There’s a difference between the latter and righteous anger, which can coexist wit compassion.

Lastly, something I heard in a 12 step meeting really stuck with me: “Holding on to resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

I’m not saying any of this is easy. It does work better for me than any other approach I have found.


MPAVictoria 05.24.19 at 9:57 pm

Looking back on my 35 years makes me think that I have forgiven people way too easily resulting in them hurting me over and over again. This is probably a result of my chronic need to be liked by everyone. The idea of conflict with people I care about is literally enough to make me physically ill.

Don’t be like me. Hold on to legitimate grudges. Cut bad people out of your life and if you get the chance for a little revenge on a real bastard by all means take it.


absurdbeats 05.24.19 at 11:15 pm

Forgiveness for trivial matters seems a misapplication of the term: why forgive when you can simply forget? Forgiveness for deep harms, well, I admire that others are able to do this, but this is not for me.

Instead, I simply say “Done.” I don’t remain angry nor do I clutch at a grudge, but I slam down a gate and walk away. If I’m able, I separate myself entirely from the person: who was once a friend or colleague is now a stranger. I wish them no ill, but I also wish to know them no longer.

That’s not always possible, of course, but in those cases where the relationship can’t be completely severed, I seek an internal remove from them. If they want something from me, well, they hit a dead spot, and I simply don’t respond.

There is no glee in writing this. I haven’t always been great at protecting myself, so this is more of a a survival mechanism than a tactic to be celebrated. Perhaps if I were stronger I’d be more inclined to forgive, but I’m not, so this is what I do instead.


bob mcmanus 05.24.19 at 11:41 pm

35.2: The Case Against Punishment Dierdre Golash, 2006


Orange Watch 05.25.19 at 12:15 am

A few comments above suggest that only by holding grudges can you remember ill-treatment, which just seems odd to me. It feels trite almost to the point of platitude to say it, but there should be a distinction made between forgiving and forgetting. Whether or not someone does you wrong and whether or not you forgive their actions, you should still be updating your priors WRT how you expect them to act in the future.


Emily Riposte 05.25.19 at 1:18 am

I will add to the folks who think you can let go of things without forgiveness. In my case, it is strictly impossible for me to forgive my dad for what he did to me growing up, as that would somehow imply I’m ok with it, or with him, even though he shows no sign of remorse or even awareness that it was not ok.

But since I’ve written him out of my life, I don’t need to care. I don’t think about him much (though more recently, since he shares a personality disorder with the president).

And unless he ends up leaving me some money or something (ha! fat chance!) I may not even find out I could throw a party if I wanted to. And I’m ok with that.


Belle Waring 05.25.19 at 1:19 am

I feel like people are still considering cases that might well be profitably forgiven because they were relatively minor (though being bullied severely is terrible and serious). But what about someone who has been repeatedly raped? Actually tortured? Lost all 13 of their family members, including young children, in lake boat disaster entirely the fault of the captain? Been sexually abused in creatively violent ways as a child and adolescent? Beaten as a child? Gang-raped by people who broke into their home? Molested by a trusted family member? It seems cruel to say to them, “take this bitter emetic and forgive, and I promise you’ll feel better afterwards.” Because will they?

The only story they can tell themselves in this situation that makes them seem less a victim is, “I am a strong and resilient person because I am still alive and learned to love and trust others.” But what if they’re just sort of broken and can never be whole again? I’m angry because my life has gone terribly wrong at times, long times, and I just don’t feel like I’ll ever be an entire human being, even if I have people in my life to love and to offer true help. And what if someone hurt the people I love and I was powerless to stop them? Isn’t this the worst of all? I understand that the heart-pounding terror and misery, and then the towering anger, that shocks you awake at three a.m. is bad, but what if you can’t do anything about that either? Isn’t it reasonable to be angry? The study excluded the people it did because the psychologists honestly don’t know what to say to someone who has suffered terrible violence or loss, or someone who has to be on psychiatric medication, or needs therapy. These are just the people who are meant to reap the gains of forgiveness, right? But it’s unfair to choose for another person that they should forgive something unforgivable. The best someone can do for themselves in my view is say, “He can never hurt me anymore and I’m safe. I can learn not to be preoccupied with the past.” I ain’t forgiving shit.


Belle Waring 05.25.19 at 1:23 am

Emily Riposte: that sounds truly awful and I’m glad you have been able to cut your father out of your life.


Belle Waring 05.25.19 at 1:51 am

And actually I guess have come around to the eternal return and not wishing the past were otherwise. My sister feels irrationally guilty about her dad’s actions. But I told her she was the one good thing he ever did in his life, and if the price was having her I would go through everything again, every detail just exactly as it was, in a happy spirit. She is so wonderful and precious to me that anything would be worth it to have her to love. I don’t think this is forgiveness at all; maybe it’s detachment.

And on reflection it’s probably harm to others that’s more difficult to forgive than harm to self. You almost feel like you don’t have the right to forgive for them.

Separately, one of the studies is about how anger can reduce your ability to empathize with others and see things from their perspective. This seems like a huge ask as well; “why would this person think that was OK?” I mean, who knows, and possibly who cares. If the person was abused as a child also there’s the feeling that that’s explanatory, maybe exculpatory? That’s bullshit as well. You alone are responsible for your actions.


Bernard Yomtov 05.25.19 at 1:53 am

Chris @7,

Your explanation largely matches my understanding, but I find Rabbi Ruttenberg’s terminology somewhat confusing.

What she calls “repentance” is, to my mind, “atonement,” making one’s victims whole as much as is possible, among other things. That said, it has never made sense to me that one can be forgiven by some divine authority without that. I think Judaism is exactly right in assigning the right to forgive to the victim, though my understanding is that once atonement (or repentance, if you prefer) has taken place, and the offender has asked for forgiveness, the victim is required to grant it.

I claim no expertise here, and could easily be wrong, but that is my understanding.


William Timberman 05.25.19 at 2:44 am

Well, I don’t know. I see the sense in not dwelling on the wrongs one has suffered, but it also seems to me that some things that people do to others cry out for some kind of recompense, whether or not one can legitimately call that recompense justice. When Donald Trump, for example, hides behind his billion dollars and his Secret Service guardians, and encourages an army of morons to join him in bullying a man in a wheelchair, I think somebody oughta slap him. He’s got one coming, I figure, even if the nature of the world is such that it never arrives.

Then again, when I review my own life, I realize that there’s also a long list of transgressions that I myself should ask forgiveness for, not only from certain specific people, but also from people in general. Not being Catholic, I have no place to go to obtain a notarized certificate of expiation, but I nevertheless believe that such debts are real enough, and that one is obliged to settle up as best one can.

This is complicated stuff, Belle, but of course we’ve been aware for thousands of years just how complicated it is. Coming to one’s own terms with the complications, though, seems to me to be a bit like death–it’s pretty much something that you have to do alone.


oldster 05.25.19 at 3:11 am

There is a huge gendered component to this discussion that needs more emphasis.

First: Women are expected to forgive. Men feel entitled to demand recompense.

Second: Men are more likely to commit crimes and aggressions in the first place. So a policy of blanket forgiveness means, “hey guys! You can keep your ill-gotten gains!”

If someone wants to forgive somebody, I won’t stop them. But if someone goes around preaching forgiveness, I wonder what they are trying to get away with. Why do they not want people to hold each other responsible for their past deeds. Why do they not want to be held accountable.

Contra the Making Light adage, refusing to forgive does not mean kidding yourself that you can change the past. Refusing to forgive means insisting that the future be different from the past, and that past misdeeds and misdoers be held responsible and brought to justice in the future.

There’s a reason why corporations force arbitration on employees, but reserve the right to sue others. People in power want to be able to exact full compensation. And they want to force others to be more forgiving. “Alternative dispute resolution” for thee, but not for me.


bad Jim 05.25.19 at 4:49 am

Forgive me for making my family the focus, but I’ve just undergone a visit by a nephew and niece who are not reconciled with their father’s second wife, and vice versa (they’re estranged from their mother as well, but so are we all). This a family unwilling to let go of anything, to such an extent that my garage and attic are filled with whatever they don’t need but are unwilling to abandon.

We’re environmentalists, so we recycle everything, including the fights we had the last time we were together. Putting myself between sister and brother felt just like putting myself between father and mother, which I did for many years, the Brechtian critic at a play by Sean O’Casey or Eugene O’Neill.

So, of course, an anecdote: soon after starting to work at my father’s company, I got into a fight with my brother over some technical matter. While stewing over this dispute, I reasoned that what most disturbed me was the disruption in our relationship, which I treasured. I was convinced that I was right, but since the matter wasn’t especially important I decided that my best course was to apologize. He was nonplussed. We worked together for many years and made lots of money together.

I’ve told this story many times and never convinced anyone to follow my example.


Orange Watch 05.25.19 at 5:00 am


Separately, one of the studies is about how anger can reduce your ability to empathize with others and see things from their perspective. This seems like a huge ask as well; “why would this person think that was OK?” I mean, who knows, and possibly who cares.

Having started to read the paper in question, I quickly realized this comment confuses me. I’m not sure I see the huge ask you’re referring to. The only way this passage makes sense to me is if you’re implying the paper is suggesting that perspective-taking with the people that wronged you is beneficial, or that its results combined with the other papers would lead to that conclusion. Perhaps I’m just wildly misreading the comment, but if I’m not, that’s fairly starkly at odds with the paper; its finding was that both incidental (ie, background) anger and integral (foreground) anger reduce empathy and increase hostility levels. The comment would make sense if the paper strictly focused on integral anger, but its findings were also that there is a significant effect from anger unrelated to the current circumstances WRT perspective-taking; if you’re generally angry, you’ll be less empathetic, more vindictive, and more prone to rush judgement and stereotypes on others. That doesn’t imply to me any sort of huge ask; it points rather to holding onto anger making you more likely to act in a manner that will lead to unrelated future conflicts and possibly engender transmission of lingering anger to others.

Again, I freely admit I may have misunderstood the above comment.


nastywoman 05.25.19 at 6:24 am

– which made US think – it never can be ”forgiven” what Germans did to Jews.

And made US think – perhaps the English language is just not ”precise” enough” for this… problem? –
as the German language has two words for forgiving –
”verzeihen” –
which is a lot preciser and as Marta Feuchtwanger -(the wife of the Jewish Author Lionel Feuchtwanger) – once said:
Man wird es nie ”vergeben” können – aber vielleicht ”verzeihen”?


nastywoman 05.25.19 at 6:45 am


”God ‘’vergibt’’, people ‘’verzeihen’’.

‘’Verzeihen’’ is only possible if there is a debt.
‘’Verzeihen’’ is the renunciation of retribution.
‘’Verzeihen’’ happens without conditions to the offender, whether present or absent, alive or dead.
‘’Vergeben’’ comes from the term ‘’gift’’.
Wer ‘’vergibt’’ makes a gift to the guilty party.
In the Old Testament context ‘’vergeben’’ follows repentance.

And one could note that the religious aspects of [forgiveness] concepts in Islam and Judaism are the same and different from the Christian concepts. The right of the victim, especially if it is powerless, is just as important in Islam as it is in Judaism, and again only the victim can decide for himself if it accepts the perpetrator’s request for forgiveness”.


Belle Waring 05.25.19 at 7:20 am

Orange Watch: your interpretation of the study is correct. I made a significant leap in what I said. It implies that if you reduced anger you would increase empathy and the ability to see from others’ perspective (since anger is associated with an inability to do these things). I just understood the implication of the studies’ being taken together (as the article would suggest) to be that if you forgave someone, you would be less angry, and plausibly could see things from their point of view, a thing which you couldn’t do when eaten away with anger and hate. But I don’t want to see things from my nemesis’ vantage point, both because inexcusable behavior doesn’t particularly benefit from understanding or even explanation, and because I can’t imagine it as anything but deeply disturbing. But yours is a fair criticism.


MisterMr 05.25.19 at 7:33 am

@Orange Watch 30

I agree with you. I would like to point out that MisterMr and MRmister are two different commenters, both present in this thread.


William Timberman 05.25.19 at 11:08 am

Nastywoman, doesn’t German also have entschuldigen? In English, there’s forgive, excuse, and pardon, also with more or less definite distinctions between them, often ignored in daily usage. Not exactly the same distinctions as between verzeihen vergeben, and entschuldigen, maybe, but close enough.


Donald 05.25.19 at 12:40 pm

I have never suffered serious harm from someone else, so I have no comment on that subject. I nurse petty resentments sometimes— that is a bad practice.

The majority of the people here are either American or British, so we are part of a collective that either kills or helps kill innocent people for no morally justifiable reason. Currently Yemen is the most obvious example.

Should this be forgiven? Who decides? In practice, we do and collectively, as a society the best you can hope for is that eventually, at some point, we will stop committing our current atrocities and move on to commit some new ones. There is nothing even remotely resembling real repentance. Most Americans only pay attention to such things if they can be used to attack the other party, which is one reason why Yemen was largely ignored by most liberals when Obama was in power. But even when Trump is in power the fact that he is willfully continuing to support the Saudis is usually very far down the list of things for which he is condemned, despite the fact that tens of thousands of children have died.

Should Western politicians be forgiven for supporting terrorism or war crimes? In practice the issue doesn’t come up. It’s some boutique issue that serious people ignore.


Belle Waring 05.25.19 at 1:00 pm

Donald: again I say that forgiving someone for the harms they did others seems either extraordinarily difficult (if you love the victims) or easy (if you disregard their true personhood) in a way that seems facile and not truly cognizant of the harms. It doesn’t really seem my place to forgive politicians for supporting war crimes. I could condone their actions on some grounds, I guess. If Yemeni people want to forgive I would respect it, but–again I seem to hold onto anger–why would they, ever, ever?


M Caswell 05.25.19 at 1:03 pm

‘Forgive’ must come from ‘vergeben’, and so has the ‘gift’ root, but in English it doesn’t (any longer?) have the sense of a two-sided interaction. I can’t really make a gift to you without you knowing about it- at least enough to take posession of it-, and so we both participate in some way in the gifting. But (to my ear) I can forgive you without you knowing it. ‘Forgive’ for us is like ‘excuse’ (entschuldigen). ‘Pardon’ also has a ‘gift’ root, but like in English, I think it can be pretty one-sided.

To get the two-sided notion in English, you have to say ‘reconcile.’ But that verb doesn’t distinguish between the different reciprocal acts of the wronged (the forgiver) and the wrong (the forgiven).

If the recommendation to forgive means to excuse, then I suppose one could do that on one’s own. It’s both easy and morally suspect. But if it means to reconcile, then it’s impossible to do on one’s own. It’s much more difficult, since it depends on the activity of the other (confession and atonement), but maybe it would be a worthy accomplishment.


Lynne 05.25.19 at 1:08 pm

This is an important topic, and one I have thought a lot about at different periods in my life. I may have more to say later, but for now want to note that people often mean different things by forgiveness. Take a simple example of forgiveness of a loan. If I’ve lent someone $1000 and they fail to repay me, I might forgive that debt, but should I lend them money again? Some forgiveness enthusiasts claim that once you have forgiven someone, the slate is wiped clean. All is as it was before the offence. If so, then we are bound to forgive AND forget, and therefore to lend more money.

In practice, that seems a stupid thing to prescribe, but we often see newspaper interviews requiring people to do the equivalent when they have been harmed by someone close to them. As though forgiveness is an act of amnesia.


KLG 05.25.19 at 2:37 pm

Thank you all for a great thread! Stuff happens. As one in need of forgiveness, I am a forgiving person by nature, I think, but I have been made a liar several times by a workplace “on the make” that is downright perfidious in the usual neoliberal practice on occasion. The damages done to those I have lied to have been serious and long lasting. Those grudges will not abate, and I do sometimes wonder what I will do if I ever get the chance to return the “favor”…


nastywoman 05.25.19 at 3:09 pm

– doesn’t German also have entschuldigen?

Yes – but that’s like somebody saying:
‘Excuse me’!
(like an honest expression of feeling ”sorry” about what we did)
‘Excuse me’!!!
(before trying to run somebody over by a truck)
And then – only then – we can have ”Vergebung” (forgiveness)
or ”Verzeihung”
which could lead US to @55
and the ”two-sided notion in English where you have to say ‘reconcile.’ But that verb doesn’t distinguish between the different reciprocal acts of the wronged (the forgiver) and the wrong (the forgiven).

If the recommendation to forgive means to excuse, then I suppose one could do that on one’s own. It’s both easy and morally suspect. But if it means to reconcile, then it’s impossible to do on one’s own. It’s much more difficult, since it depends on the activity of the other (confession and atonement), but maybe it would be a worthy accomplishment”.

AND a ”Entschuldigung” to Mr. Timberman from my dad – as he doesn’t do this ”internet-stuff” anymore…


Donald 05.25.19 at 3:12 pm


I wasn’t clear, but part of my point was that we are guilty for having a political culture where politicians (in both parties) can be guilty of war crimes and pay no price. They might even be praised for their foreign policy experience. Should people in Yemen forgive us?

Trump is an easy target because in my untutored opinion he is a sociopath. I doubt he knows what a sense of guilt feels like. But our more normal politicians and our pundits don’t really seem to be that much better on this issue. It took years for most Democrats and some Republicans to turn against the war in Yemen, but it was clearly going to be a war against civilians from literally the first week it started. (I could google for an article by Zenko written back in 2015 that makes that clear, but I am feeling lazy). Trump violates every conceivable norm, but in supporting a brutal war for no good reason he has been well within Western standards of behavior.


Birdie 05.25.19 at 8:51 pm

You have to detach from things that harm you. You don’t have to start making excuses for the fucked-up way the world is and you’re not responsible for leading the perps to repentance. All there is in that direction is buying into the bad karma: I suppose that’s what the therapists want you to realize. OK to be angry, OK to fight.

To allow new stuff to come into your life you have to forgive God (aka the Universe, mindless or mindful) for allowing such a thing. Be Job who failed to understand and not Job’s wife who advised to curse God and die. As for me, the key is to understand at least that we are not as on a darkling plain but on a (real, empirical) journey from the Big Bang to … something I can’t see from here, obvs … and nearer the beginning of the trip than the end. (“Consciousness with Simple Social Organization initiated! Stage advance enabled in 3000, 2000, …”) And that’s the direction I choose to go.


Birdie 05.25.19 at 10:23 pm

… it’s always dudes …

Is the question just about particularly anatomical forms of abuse? Mme Lafarge is still writing op-eds for the NYT, supporting war crimes and whatnot. PS. don’t much like dudes in general either, but.


Alan White 05.25.19 at 11:36 pm

I will never, ever forgive people who should have known better for cavalierly voting for Trump as some knee-jerk reaction to Clinton. They have at the very least set back this country for generations, if not laying the groundwork for its and possibly the world’s destruction. How can I forgive people who have taken away hope for real progress?


Collin Street 05.26.19 at 12:14 am

My experience has largely been that the quandary is more theoretical than real, because “awarenesss that you were doing bad things” and “willingness to stop doing bad things” and “willingness to take reasonable steps to fix the consequences of your past actions” all tend to come together in a big bundle. People are largely either forgivable on all metrics or on none, so moral conflicts on “they did X but not Y; should I forgive?” rarely arise.

But I’m by instinct a non-forgiver, so that probably shapes the above [and my non-forgiveness is in turn shaped; much like photons, we exist by changing and in so doing inducing ourselves to change]


Belle Waring 05.26.19 at 4:45 am

Birdie: yeah but we can draw out Leviathan with a hook now. More seriously I am somewhat consumed with the problem of evil, obviously. It’s true that if I became Candide I would be perfectly satisfied with everything that happens, but somehow I can’t get myself over that bridge.

In re dudes, that’s why I qualified it to my experience and the experience of others who have confided in me. Your anatomical issue is a relevant one and I guess the large part of what I was thinking about rather than other, non-physical forms of harm which can also seem unforgivable. Rape or sexual abuse are truly terrible things to do to someone and I feel like I still haven’t had it convincingly explained to me what forgiveness would mean in that context. What would I say to a victim like that, exactly, if I were advocating forgiveness? Why not disassociation, that works great!

Women definitely can rape men but it is very rare, such that women are approximately 1,000,000 times more likely to get raped or sexually assaulted by some asshole guy. Science fact. No, OK, to be serious about crime in which the victims are badly stigmatized as weak or gay it’s 90%/10% women/men. However the vast majority of rapists of male victims are also male. That’s part of why blanket orders for forgiveness seem to be maybe letting a large group of men off the hook (oldster talked about this above).


nastywoman 05.26.19 at 4:53 am

”I will never, ever forgive people who should have known better for cavalierly voting for Trump as some knee-jerk reaction to Clinton. They have at the very least set back this country for generations, if not laying the groundwork for its and possibly the world’s destruction. How can I forgive people who have taken away hope for real progress?”


nastywoman 05.26.19 at 4:54 am

”I will never, ever forgive people who should have known better for cavalierly voting for Trump as some knee-jerk reaction to Clinton. They have at the very least set back this country for generations, if not laying the groundwork for its and possibly the world’s destruction. How can I forgive people who have taken away hope for real progress?”

Agreed –
There is no way to ”Vergeb” or to ”Verzeih” it!


Jim Buck 05.26.19 at 10:09 am

An in-law of mine was jailed for sexual abuse of his daughter and grandaughter. He served 5 years. Not long after his release he died in a Salvation Army hostel. He is gone, scot free into oblivion. It would be nice to believe that he was turning on a spit forever; it is his victims though who are serving time in hell. Hanging being too good for him, would it have done them some good to watch their abuser being broken on the wheel? Who knows? Not me, but I suspect that the ghastliness of such a spectacle would add to the victims’ trauma. I understand that some US states allow relatives of murder victims to observe the execution of perpetrators. Are their any studies of the effects— beneficial or otherwise— on observers of capital punishment?


William Timberman 05.26.19 at 1:08 pm

nastywoman@59 (05.25.19 at 3:09 pm)

Your Dad undoubtedly has more sense than I do, although since he and I last spoke, I’ve also cut back a good deal on the Internet thingie myself. I spend most of my time there these days either chuckling at Sascha Lobo’s diatribes on the CDU/CSU/SPD’s digital cluelessness, or equipping my house with as many of the latest IoT gadgets as I can cram into it. How’s that for irony? (Much as I love dear Sascha and his Irokesenschnitt, if I could sit down with him in one of the non-English-speaking bars I hear still exist in Berlin, I think I’d want to remind him that die Tücke des Objekts is still a thing.)

If I hope anything these days, it’s that once us cranky old geezers (I’m part of the Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi generation) are finally out of the picture for good, the likes of Kevin Kühnert, Bhaskar Sunkara, and Greta Thunberg will be free to sweep up after us. Once that time does arrive, though, it would also be nice if these impressive younguns turn out to be smart enough — and organized enough — to deal with the Mark Zuckerbergs, Travis Kalanicks, and Peter Thiels who’ll still be living next door to them. Evil, as it turns out, isn’t exclusively the province of the old and cranky — it has its own morphology, which isn’t always as visible as it should be to the virtuous who grow up beside it.

(And say hi to your Dad for me. As I’m sure you know, he’s one of the very bestest ones….)


KLG 05.26.19 at 1:46 pm

63, 67: Well, regarding Trump, I will never forgive a Democratic Party that made him inevitable. Ever. My first vote was in 1974. In all the time since I have voted Democrat, following the late, great Michael Harrington, as “the left wing of the possible.” Hasn’t helped one little bit. The two parties are now simply opposite wings of the same bird of prey. And no, I didn’t vote for Trump, but living in a red but trending purple state where Trump won by 6 percentage points, I certainly didn’t feel compelled to vote for Hillary “We came, we saw, he died” Clinton. Anyway, in response to my friends of somewhat similar, if mushy, political persuasion, I predicted in April 2016 that Trump would win the EC while losing the popular vote due to California, Illinois, and New York. The only state I got wrong was Virginia; they thought I was nuts. Ha! Most of them are still consumed with “Russia did it!” bullshit and think Rachel Maddow hung the moon. If the Democrats come up with Joe Biden next year…Trump will win. Again. If he runs, and what the hell else does he have to do?


PatinIowa 05.26.19 at 2:06 pm

I watched Kurosawa’s “Ran” last night. Turns out it’s a nuanced imagining of many of these problems.


Theophylact 05.26.19 at 5:24 pm

Just want to point out, contra KC, that mercy and forgiveness are not quite the same thing. Portia isn’t asking Shylock to forgive Antonio; she’s only asking him not to exact the pound of flesh he’s owed.

Jim Buck: Your point exactly is made by Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking.


JanieM 05.26.19 at 11:09 pm

Some years ago I took a college class on forgiveness under the umbrella of a peace studies program. Great class, a mix of ages and perspectives. I am traveling and also sick at the moment, not to mention trying to write clumsily on someone’s borrowed tablet, so even if I were inclined to jump into this discussion, I am not fit for it right now. But I want to mention my favorite of the four class texts: “An Ethic for Enemies,” by Donald Shriver. It is more about “political” forgiveness than personal, but it helped me think about forgiveness in a more complex way. There was also Elie Wiesel’s “The Sunflower” and Desmond Tutu’s “No Future Without Forgiveness.” The fourth I don’t remember, prob b/c I didn’t like it much.

Anyhow, lots of good points in this thread. It is not an easy topic.

Also not exactly on point, but sort of related, a novel I just read: “Happiness,” by Aminatta Forna.


Belle Waring 05.27.19 at 12:25 pm

KLG: apparently you don’t care about women’s reproductive rights. At all. If you think that Hilary Clinton would have appointed forced-birth judges to the SC you are an idiot. Maybe it doesn’t matter to you, but to those of us who can get pregnant, or have daughters, or empathize with poor women in rural Alabama who will be forced to carry a baby to term when they have been raped, or indeed with humans generally, it matters very much indeed. I will vote for a used glue-stick someone found under a highway overpass if it has a D next to its name, and if you genuinely care about the left-political views you claim to espouse you will too.


KLG 05.27.19 at 1:37 pm

Belle Waring @ 74, you are assuming facts not in evidence, so I won’t defend myself by arguing with you. I know this is your playground, so you can call someone an idiot if you want to. As a regular, longtime reader and infrequent participant here, this might be the first time I have noticed that. Overall this thread has been excellent, but a Clinton Organization/Democratic Party that led to and ran her campaign is still unforgivable, which is my point. Clinton Obama Pelosi & Schumer LLC made Donald Trump inevitable, and I don’t think they really care, since their positions (except for Hillary Clinton) are secure. Joe Biden will most likely give us four more years that we do not have, while the ecosphere burns and all but the 1% sink more deeply into the mire. Peace to all on this, the saddest of our national holidays.


Alan White 05.27.19 at 2:47 pm

KLG I get your point of view, but the fact is we would have a SCOTUS under Hilary that actually might steer this country away from Executive authoritarianism. Oh, I just saw that Belle essentially said this, but of course with her usual colorful flair. Whatever happens in 2020, Trump’s selfish pandering to the religious right will plague us for decades to come–anyone should have seen this coming before voting by chiming in with the “Crooked Hilary” misogynistic mantra.


JanieM 05.27.19 at 3:04 pm

I knew I wasn’t fit. “The Sunflower” is by Simon Wiesenthal, not Elie Wiesel. I will note that the subtitle is “On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness.”


nastywoman 05.27.19 at 6:37 pm

”I will never forgive a Democratic Party that made him inevitable”.

And where did that come from? – that there are people (mainly Americans?) who really seem to think that a so called Loser of an election made the so called Winner ”inevitable”?

It’s like me hitting FF von Clownstick with a pie and then writing on CT that his face made it ”inevitable”?

Would @70 ever believe me and forgive me?


Reason 05.27.19 at 7:02 pm

Mmm.. what about looking at the other extreme then. Trump, who never forgives and always escalates regardless of who is wrong or right or goid or bad. Like a mythical hillbilly if old. Makes you think there might be things worse than forgiveness. As orange one says, it is ultimately a prerequisite for progress. Ask Ulster about it.


Kiwanda 05.27.19 at 11:35 pm

For lesser offenses, I think repentance, apology, and forgiveness make life better for everyone. I’ve been hurtful, thoughtlessly or in the heat of the moment, or just plain rude, or lost my temper, felt overwhelming urge to say something better left unsaid, and on and on. Apologizing is the least I can do, sometimes the most I can do, and sometimes it’s enough. I feel better when I apologize, better still when the apology is accepted. When I accept someone’s sincere apology, I feel better about them, and about myself.

Some things are *relatively* minor, but still beyond apologies and forgiveness. I was sometimes the victim of bullies in childhood, and to this day occasionally fantasize about wreaking vengeance on them. I think their cruelty has had some consequences throughout my life, but nothing I could pinpoint (beyond those occasional fantasies). Someone, by stealing credit for my work, in effect stole many years of my life. I will never forgive that, but there is nothing to be done, and I’ve managed to let it go: it no longer wakes me up in the middle of the night, seething with anger. In a few bad breakups, I don’t see myself as entirely to blame, but certainly not blameless either. Would it make any difference, with many years passed, to apologize for my own part? I doubt it; it might even hurt more than help.

As to the horrific acts the OP etc. is concerned with, it’s hard to imagine any measure of forgiveness, or letting go, unless justice is done. Here though I agree with those who believe justice should be rendered by third parties, that is, the legal system, with due process, proper legal representation, and presumption of innocence. This is the least worst course, and the should be the right of all accused. Even so, it’s hard to know what to make of those who have been convicted and served. I couldn’t ask Desiree Washington to forgive Mike Tyson. But he served his term in prison, and is now a registered sex offender. What should become of him? Would it have been better to kill him?

I sometimes have the dark fantasy (daymare?): I’m driving, fiddle a bit with something in my car, and lose attention to the road. Just then, a child jumps out, and I run them down and kill them. It’s not *entirely* my fault, but some of it is. Would my *regret*, my *apology*, mean anything to the parents? It can’t. In their place, it would mean nothing. There’s plenty of repentance, but there’s no way to make amends. It might help me if they forgave me. Would it help them? I don’t know.


nastywoman 05.28.19 at 5:53 am

”Clinton Obama Pelosi & Schumer LLC made Donald Trump inevitable”,

– and everybody who reads the argument above will never ever be able to forgive anybody who should have known better for cavalierly voting for Trump as some knee-jerk reaction to the argument above.

As it is proves that anybody who believes the argument above – must also believe that Trump made setting back this country for generations, if not laying the groundwork for its and possibly the world’s destruction ”inevitable” – and that fact is beyond forgiveness.


engels 05.28.19 at 7:37 am

Most of the discussion seems to be based on the assumption that the possibility of forgiveness depends on the seriousness of the wrong. That seems to lead directly to the public competitions you see every day in America and throughout the internet: only by being more angry than you can I demonstrate that the harm that was done to me was more serious. I think I prefer the thinking of the ex- Viet Cong tour guide I met years ago: ‘we can forgive but we can never forget’.


KLG 05.28.19 at 1:04 pm

I do seem to have stepped on a few nerves, but idiots have a way of doing that, I suppose. BTW, Belle Waring, having written more than 15 NIH and NSF grant applications, some even successfully, being called an idiot is par for my course. Thanks for playing. I don’t write grant applications anymore, and you brought back fond memories of criticisms as lacking in relevance as yours regarding my not caring…

nastywoman @ 70: Following you, Trump as a loser? Yes, by as many definitions as you care to use. Trump as so-called winner/real loser of the 2016 election? No. That would be Hillary Clinton, loser and so-called loser. The EC is an 18th-century anachronism, but those are the rules of the contest, and Robbie Mook along with his immediate supervisor and the Democratic establishment (e.g., Chuck Schumer: We will pick up those reasonable suburban GOP voters who cannot abide Trump!) blew it. And 2020? Absent a complete meltdown in our political economy, Joe Biden is likely to produce the same result. The mud Trump slings will stick to Ol’ Joe like glue and the mainstream media will go where the ratings are. Again. School busing, Bankruptcy Bill from the Senator from MBNA, “I have no sympathy for Millennials,” 1994 Crime Bill, Anita Hill, Iraq War, Hunter Biden? That Trump is just as “guilty” of perhaps more will not matter.

Alan @ 76: Regarding the Supreme Court, since Clinton Obama Pelosi & Schumer LLC presided over the loss of more than 1000 Democratic office holders during the Obama Interregnum, including losing the United States Senate, when exactly could we have expected a Hillary Clinton nominee to make it to the Court? All the Obama sweetness and light in the world brought to the table, and last I looked Merrick Garland was still, well, somewhere else. The “Supreme Court Argument” was common among “us” in 2016. I heard it often. It was a feeble argument then, as now. Most people, i.e., most voters, deplorable as they are, up to their asses in debt and despair, do not look at our politics that way, as Arlie Russell Hochschild and many others, with the exception of the Dem Establishment, have noted.


SusanC 05.28.19 at 8:54 pm

There seem to be several elements to this:

– anger. It’s possible to think that someone is doing bad things, and be taking steps to stop them continuing to do the bad thing (whatever it is), without being *angry*. One possible criticism of political discussion on the Internet is that anger is substituting for effective action: that people should be doing something about the issue, not just writing angry blog posts.

It’s an interesting question: is getting angry a motivating force that enables action, or is it just what happens when no effective action appears possible?

(A darker thought: anger is a useful mechanism in humans because it allows us to anticipate when things are going to turn murderous, and take some ameliorating action before people are killed. Its evolutionary function is that we die less often than we would if people when straight to murder with zero warning.)

– Giving someone another chance. There’s a difference between thinking that someone does bad stuff repeatedly, and needs to be not given an opportunity to do it again, versus holding a grudge against a one-off action a long time ago, that is unlikely to be repeated.


Gabriel Conroy 05.29.19 at 3:01 pm

I do tend to buy into that cliche that “forgiveness is a gift the forgiver gives themselves.” I also think forgiveness is a moral duty.

That said, I have beliefs that contradict those two sentences I just wrote. If forgiveness is a gift the forgiver gives themselves, it’s also a gift, or a benefit, to the forgiven. Second, while I believe forgiveness is a moral duty, I also believe forgiveness implies the right not to forgive. If the forgiver doesn’t have the right not to forgive, then they cannot offer forgiveness. I also don’t think it’s my place to tell any one person they ought to forgive, even though my believe that forgiveness is a moral duty implies that everyone ought to forgive.

How to reconcile all that? I don’t know. I’m inclined to say, “keep my beliefs on the matter to myself unless asked (or unless a blog post invites comments on the topic.” As a day-to-day practice, I think that’s the right approach. But it doesn’t really address the question/issue.


nastywoman 05.30.19 at 3:39 am

”I do seem to have stepped on a few nerves”,

Indeed you did – as your response to:
”I will never, ever forgive people who should have known better for cavalierly voting for Trump as some knee-jerk reaction to Clinton” – proved – that you believe that ” a Democratic Party made Trump inevitable”.

And that’s ”the thing” – which a lot of Americans seem to believe? – and okay let’s not call them ”idiotic” let’s call the ”confused”? as it is a fact that there are so many different ”things” – which made Trump ”inevitable”.

Like for example my 93 year old CA grandfather -(a so called ”Reagan Republican”) who hated Trump soo much that he – the first time in his life – didn’t vote for ”the Republican candidate”. And so – thank’s god – as I loved my grandfather very much – I never had any reason to forgive him for voting for Clownstick.

But – wait?!
Perhaps I’m confused now? –
as I just have realised – if my grandfather -(and supposedly a lot of his old CA Republican friends too) – didn’t vote for Trump -(as some kind of knee-jerk reaction to…? to Trump) – why wasn’t Hillary ”inevitable”?

Could it be – that there were so many voters who voted for Trump -(NOT as ”kind of knee jerk reaction to Clinton) BUT because they really… liked? Trump?
And so I should NEVER EVER FORGIVE ANYBODY who voted for Trump BE-cause he or she ”liked him” -(and the voting for Trump as ”a knee jerk reaction to Clinton” is kind of… ”forgivable”? because it’s just so ”confused”?)

Now – I think I could live with that an from now on always will write.



nastywoman 05.30.19 at 3:52 am

and @83
Please WAIT! – once more –
There are a lot of my friends who voted for Hillary –
(in ”a knee jerk reaction” to Trump and not – I can promise you – ”NOT!” in a knee jerk reaction to the Democratic Party – or Mr. Schumer or anything like that) –
– and that’s probably why Hillary got more votes than Trump (in total) – and it’s really great that I don’t have to ”vergeb” or ”verzeih” them either!


nastywoman 05.30.19 at 4:13 am

and if I may – another one for @83 I woke some time ago:

…”as this really ”confused”… issue about voting for ”some lesser evil” – AGAIN comes up and up in these discussion about the new D Candidate – let’s solve this issue – once and for all!

Who ever came up with this idea – that in an election you don’t vote for ”the best available candidate” – BUT for ”the least evil one” – never understood the concept of ”voting in a democracy”.
In a (well working democrat) the voters vote for ”the best available candidate”
And the completely confused idea that:
”Centrist pukes like Biden are why we have Trump”
”Hillary is responsible for the erection of Baron von Clownstick” – is (probably) as delusional as believing that some Russians – or Assange – or Glenn Greenwald – are responsible for ”Clownstick”.

All of the above did everything they could to influence the US election – some with more and some with lesser success – and the truly beautiful story is – that in US elections – every Party – every group or actually every individual can pride him- or herself that it was ”US” or ”them” which tipped the scale for the final result.


Orange Watch 05.30.19 at 6:49 am

Alan White@76:

the fact is we would have a SCOTUS under Hilary that actually might steer this country away from Executive authoritarianism.

This presumed fact ignores the early rumblings from Senate Republicans in October 2016 when Clinton was still the obvious forthcoming winner that there was no need to fill Scalia’s seat any time soon, as there was no reason why SCOTUS couldn’t operate at 8 justices for a few years. And as long as McConnell was still at the helm, it probably would have happened; Trump has only managed to seat a record number of new judges because of McConnell’s hard work keeping seats open under Obama. On the subject of the rapidly purifying character of the federal judiciary, McConnell is the key miscreant; Trump is just a hand that can hold a pen and read off a Federalist Society vetting list.


Yan 05.30.19 at 1:02 pm

Belle Waring 05.24.19 at 8:11 am
“W00t, these are the comments I wanted! Let’s reject forgiveness in a triumphant, Nietzschean spirit!”

This is the “Nietzschean spirit” I’m familiar with:

“To be incapable of taking one’s enemies, one’s accidents, even one’s misdeeds seriously for very long—that is the sign of strong, full natures in whom there is an excess of the power to form, to mold, to recuperate and to forget. Such a man shakes off with a single shrug many vermin that eat deep into others; here alone genuine ‘love of one’s enemies’ is possible—supposing it to be possible at all on earth. How much reverence has a noble man for his enemies!—and such reverence is a bridge to love.—For he desires his enemy for himself, as his mark of distinction; he can endure no other enemy than one in whom there is nothing to despise and very much to honor! In contrast to this, picture ‘the enemy’ as the man of ressentiment conceives him—and here precisely is his deed, his creation: he has conceived ‘the evil enemy,’ ‘the Evil One,’ and this in fact is his basic concept, from which he then evolves, as an afterthought and pendant, a ‘good one’—himself!”

“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.”

“Today, we immoralists have embarked on a counter movement and are trying with all our strength to take the concepts of guilt and punishment out of the world — to cleanse psychology, history, nature, and social institutions and sanctions of these ideas. And there is in our eyes no more radical opposition than that of the theologians, who continue to infect the innocence of becoming by means of the concepts of a “moral world-order,” “guilt,” and “punishment.” Christianity is religion for the executioner.”

“That nobody is held responsible any longer, that the mode of being may not be traced back to a primary cause, that the world does not form a unity either as a sensorium or as “spirit” — that alone is the great liberation. With that idea alone we absolve our becoming of any guilt. The concept of “God” was until now the greatest objection to existence. We deny God, we deny the responsibility that originates from God: and thereby we redeem the world.”

Murali 05.24.19 at 6:25 am
“Forgiveness fetishism*, as I have observed it, seems to be a very western/white person thing. It seems like a holdover from a christian past and people who advocate it seem to be finding any sort of excuse to preach what they learned when they were young even if they currently profess to no longer being christian.”

If one takes Christianity’s own self-assessment at its word, this may seem plausible. But I recommend reading Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality for a strong case for the opposite view: Christianity is based in and promoted, under a false guise, a fetishism of resentment, of non-forgiveness.


Orange Watch 05.30.19 at 3:34 pm


Putrefying. Not purifying, putrefying. That’s some truly ugly auto-correction.


EWM 05.30.19 at 3:58 pm

The secret ballot exists to avoid grudges. It doesn’t work because a voter cannot get around voting for a politician who steals.


Val E. Forge 05.30.19 at 6:09 pm

Justice is like ice cream; the home made kind is the sweetest.


Alan White 05.31.19 at 3:55 am

OW what exactly is your point? That Trump has made no difference to SCOTUS? Of course McConnell makes ass-wipe look like newly fallen snow–but seriously–Trump’s egoistic pandering has made no difference whatever? Under Clinton we would not have the SCOTUS embarrassments we’ve had, even if you think that counterfactually Clinton might have drastically altered the 2018 elections to deeply redden the Senate. I think Fox News has some positions to fill–you might use these postings in your application.


Alan White 05.31.19 at 4:00 am

And to follow up–I know you’re trying to lay the proper blame on McConnell–just know that I’m so sick of anything that reeks of defending Trump in any way. Forgive my anger–even though it’s justified.

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