As I was reading D. Patrick Miller’s “A Primer on Forgiveness” [September 1994], my level of disagreement with his philosophy reached a new high.
Miller’s thoughts on forgiveness appear to be fed by the mass acceptance of victimization in our culture. According to him, victims can throw off pain and suffering by forgiving their perpetrators. But when everyone has finally realized he or she is a victim, there will be no one left to be a perpetrator. Perhaps Miller would say that everyone is both a perpetrator and a victim in a perpetual dance of forgiveness.
I say there are no victims, not because there are no perpetrators, but because everyone is responsible. I can hear the howl now — no victims of the Holocaust? Of abuse in all its forms? These are all tragedies and my heart and mind ache for the suffering. But the fact remains, we are all responsible for reality. Our innumerable conscious and unconscious choices have created our world, be it heaven, hell, or something in between.
Then it dawned on me: total forgiveness is the exact and perfect opposite of total responsibility.
D. Patrick Miller responds:
I agree with Schantz that we are all responsible for reality. When I was an investigative reporter, I tried the method of preaching to everyone (including myself) that he or she should be more responsible. No one (including myself) paid much attention. Forgiveness links one’s perception of what is wrong in the world with the profound care and revolutionary compassion necessary to move toward making things right. Forgiveness changed me and all my relationships for the better — and therefore changed the world a little bit for the better. I’m not saying that anyone, including Schantz, should forgive anything. But because of my experience, I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend forgiveness to anyone who is suffering. Merely preaching about responsibility isn’t very helpful.
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