Charles L. Griswold
Talk about forgiveness has reached astonishing proportions in the contemporary world. Forgiveness is said to do it all: it is the cure for wrongs both personal and political, the road to eternal salvation, and the secret to mental and physical health. Related notions such as apology, pardon, excuse, mercy, pity, sympathy, empathy, and reconciliation have also gained wide currency. One can hardly open the newspaper without reading about an apology being offered by, or demanded from, some organization, state, or prominent individual. We want apology and remorse from convicted criminals so as to decide how harshly to punish them; we praise South Africa’s famous Truth and Reconciliation Commission as the path to forgiveness and civic unity; countless self-help and religious tracts urge us to forgive our enemies unilaterally and instruct us how to do so, promising that we shall thereby rid ourselves of toxic resentment. Forgiveness and related notions are now so thoroughly woven into the fabric of culture that it is hard to imagine a moral world without them.
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