...we can and must retain an attitude of disgust towards the offending act, if we are to justify the legitimate claims of human justice; nevertheless, we must find a way of preventing these irreversible offences from locking us permanently in the past; and the remedy for this dilemma is forgiveness of the person, not of what the person has done.

                  Richard Holloway, On Forgiveness, p. 36, Canongate Books, 2015

In On Forgiveness, Richard Holloway explores the relationship between our desire for justice and our capacity for forgiveness.

He examines the tragedy of how our anger at having been wronged and “the remembrance of past hurt can...become the narrative of our lives” (introduction, p. 10).

He speaks about forgiveness of the offender, rather than of the act of wrongdoing, as a psychological tool that has the power to mend wounds and assuage suffering.

While forgiveness can never be expected or demanded, the positive effect that it can have on both a victim and an offender is often overlooked.

He also discusses the theme of forgiveness as applied to groups. He notes that while the "group mind is prone to the excitements of revenge", the "painstaking processes of forgiveness" offer a means to move forward from a never-ending cycle of violence (p. 87).

Holloway’s book is highly recommended for counsel seeking a greater understanding of the psychological dilemmas that plague both victims and offenders in the aftermath of a criminal transgression.

 

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