The complexities of forgiveness are difficult to unwrap

Just before the September 11 terrorists murdered my nephew (a passenger on the first plane to strike the World Trade Centre) and almost 3,000 other people, I read Catholic writer Antoinette Bosco's book,Choosing Mercy: A Mother of Murder Victims Pleads to End the Death Penalty, writes Bill Tammeus in NCR Online.

The title tells you enough to know that Toni Bosco had a difficult journey toward forgiveness and, finally, reconciliation, a condition that does not always accompany forgiveness.

In the ensuing dozen years, I've found the idea of forgiveness increasingly complex. Forgiveness can be risky. It can be painful. Yes, it can be and usually is necessary, but if you imagine it's an easy matter, you are delusional.

In my own 9/11 case, there were no hijackers left alive to forgive in person even if I wanted to. All of them obviously perished with the people they killed. So in such a case, what might forgiveness look like? And what might it mean?

Not all of us have to think about forgiving murderers of people we love, as Toni Bosco and I do. But each of us has been wounded in countless ways, and each of us has wounded others. We've gossiped about each other, insulted one another, failed to treat each other with respect. And that's just on the personal level.

What about the broader picture? Can we forgive our government for what we believe were immoral actions? Can we forgive our churches for the ways they've failed to be the trustworthy instruments of God?

And perhaps even more difficult is the question of whether we ourselves are willing to be forgiven or even to acknowledge that we need to receive forgiveness. Such an acknowledgement concedes that we are less than honest, less than trustworthy. Can we accept such hard truths about ourselves?

FULL STORY The complexities of forgiveness are difficult to unwrap (NCR)

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