Peter's Blog

Forgiving and Forgetting

Written by Peter Johnston on .

This evening at Café Connect we had a fascinating and challenging discussion on the nature of forgiveness. The challenges and difficulties that forgiving someone for some wrong they have done were honestly raised, as was the positive outcome that forgiveness brings to the person doing the forgiving, freeing them from the burden that seeking comeuppance or revenge always brings. We recognised too how costly forgiveness can be, and that it can also bring division between those who find a way to forgive and those who cannot.

In the past week this was made very clear by the actions of Eva Kor, an Auschwitz survivor, who has publicly forgiven former SS guard Oskar Gröning. The Guardian had an excellent article yesterday written by Marina Cantacuzino, founder of The Forgiveness Project, on this very subject: Forgiving doesn't mean forgetting.

Cantacuzino writes:

I have known Kor for a number of years. I first encountered her at a conference in Germany in 2006. She is a tough, resilient, passionate woman who explains logically and convincingly how forgiving the Nazis has saved her life. I was particularly moved when she told me: “The day I forgave the Nazis, privately I forgave my parents whom I hated all my life for not having saved me from Auschwitz. Children expect their parents to protect them; mine couldn’t. And then I forgave myself for hating my parents.” Her statement sums up the intricate nature of forgiveness: it can ensure the pain of the past does not dictate the path of the future. For many it is an act of self-healing: as Kor herself has said, “I forgave the Nazis not because they deserve it but because I deserve it.”

Hat tip to Graeme Roberts.