A lovely argument for the idea of forgiveness as a public health issue in the new American Journal of Public Health:

If forgiveness is strongly related to health, and being wronged is a common experience, and interventions, even do-it-yourself workbook interventions, are available and effective, then one might make the case that forgiveness is a public health issue.

I think one of the most important things that forgiveness researchers must emphasize, though, is that forgiveness does not mean condoning or justifying an act.  It does not require an absence of sanctions.  It does not free transgressors from the consequences of their actions.

What changes is the motive:  When we forgive, we don’t enact justice just to see a transgressor suffer.  Justice, including punishment, happens to provide amends, to restore equity, to communicate a message to the transgressor about the wrongness of their act, and to deter future transgressions.

If forgiveness is related to health (it is), if forgiveness is good for individuals, for relationships, and for organizations (it is), and if forgiveness can be learned (it can), then one of our first orders of business should be to show people a path towards forgiveness that does not require them to be doormats, and does not require them to temper their pursuits of justice.

Advertisements