Sunday, April 18, 2010

Forgiveness and Punishment

Claudia Card’s essay deals with “living with evils, ongoing and past, and their aftermath.” (548) Card focuses on dealing with evils through the eyes of the victim. She says that the victims of evil doings have positive and negative moral powers: the positive moral power being forgiveness and the negative moral power being blame. She also states that “victims have moral powers to release or hold perpetrators to obligations.” (549) To me this says that victims can have some sort of power over their perpetrators by having the power to forgive them or not…and I do not agree. Forgiveness can be a powerful thing, but I believe it releases a burden of the victim to forgive rather than the perpetrator. When evil is done to someone, usually the first thing that follows for the victims is anger and resentment. Telling the offender how he or she may have offended the victim may illicit an apology and forgiveness and leave both parties feeling resolution. However, what happens when the offender does not care how they wronged the victim? It’s the victim that ends up being stuck with that resentment while the perpetrator goes on his merry little way. In that moment, the victim can choose to forgive and move on or linger in that resentment because at this point the perpetrator feels no obligation to the victim. Holding onto that resentment only affects the victim in the end. I’m not saying that forgiveness is useless, but the process of forgiveness helps the healing process. Forgiving also does not mean forgetting. The victim can try to forget, but short of scrubbing the brain clean, those memories will always remain.

Some victims seek punishment for their perpetrators through the justice system as the solution to the wrong done to them. If perpetrators are found, then their criminal offenses are sometimes tried in court. This justice system is not perfect. There are innocent people who are put in prison on technicalities or simply bad representation. In cases like these, the person who was thought to be the perpetrator is now the victim and this person’s accusers are the perpetrators. And there are guilty people who are not punished for the crimes they have committed. If this is how the victim hoped to find rectification, what happens when the justice system fails? Does the victim try to move on or hold on to the anger? And what happens when the justice system does prevail, and the guilty are found guilty? It does not change anything. The evil was still done and it can’t be undone. Can putting a perpetrator in jail for 25 years to life justify the life that was taken?

I do believe that people who have knowingly and purposely done wrong should be punished. I am in no way against the justice system. I simply feel that finding justice can only rectify things so much, and in the end there can still a void in that victim. Rectification can not be found in one solution. Forgiveness and seeking justice can help lead to rectification, but ultimately it is up to the victim to decide if they want to hold on to the evil or accept that the evil happened and try to move on with their lives.


  1. Forgetting is the only way to forgive. Like you said those memories tend to linger, as log as the memories are their the pain will be associated with it. Just saying they are forgiven dosn't actually do anything, there is still resentment present.

  2. I completely agree with you Menali. I don't think it is possible for the justice system to rectify the situation- it can only go so far. It really is up to the victim as to how they move on.


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