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Forgiveness: Restorative Justice in the Broadest Context

NCJ Number
Community Corrections Report on Law and Corrections Practice Volume: 6 Issue: 1 Dated: November/December 1998 Pages: 7-9
T Clear
Date Published
3 pages
As an aspect of restorative justice, this article discusses the dynamics of a crime victim's forgiveness of the offender, with attention to the importance of forgiveness, what it means, what is necessary for forgiveness, who has standing to forgive, and the form forgiveness takes.
Victims have a self-interest in forgiving the offender, since forgiveness means to give up moral resentment of the person who has done the wrong. Moral resentment harbored by the victim fosters internal tension, anger, and diversion from positive and uplifting thoughts and feelings. Forgiveness is also important because it confirms to victims that they too can receive forgiveness from those they have wronged. If the victim's forgiveness is to have meaning for the offender, however, the offender faces three tasks: a repudiation of the wrong and an acceptance of the moral judgment that it justified; the performance of acts that take responsibility for the unfair costs that arose from the wrong that others were forced to bear; and a willingness to take strategic action that will restore others' confidence that the wrong will not be repeated. Although the victim is the key source of forgiveness, those who did not directly suffer from the victimization can also experience outrage and inner disruption because the crime occurred. Thus, it follows that a wrongdoer seeks not only the forgiveness of the one wronged, but of others who also feel the ramifications of the crime in their midst. Overall, forgiveness means a willingness of each party to begin relating to the other under a recognition of what each desires. The offender takes full cognizance that others need confidence in their safety and confirmation of their moral worth; the victim accepts the truths that bitter resentment interferes with well-being and that the offender seeks an end to this.