Crime and Forgiveness

Francis O’Neill

Does forgiveness free us to move on!?

Image Bill Roache - Crime and Forgiveness
Bill Roache

So Anders Breivik has been sent down (August 2012) for twenty one years for the mass murders he is responsible for in Norway.  Some will say this is far too short and he should spend the rest of his life in jail.  Others will say he should be executed – although this can’t happen in Norway (capital punishment was abolished back in 1979).  Possibly a great number of us would agree that something more drastic should be done to put this person away for good, to avenge the victims and protect the public.

So how do you respond when someone is suggesting love and forgiveness is the way forward? Yes believe it or not, Bill Roache, of Coronation Street (UK) fame, says (on Sunday Morning Live – BBC1 26/8/2012) that love and forgiveness is the only way for us to deal with a man like Anders Breivik.  From Roach’s viewpoint we ‘are made of love and we live through the energy of love.’  He continues that, ‘some personalities, through their freewill, can express this as hate and violence.  It is then important that we send them even more love to get them back on track.’

Now come on.  If you are reading this, it has probably gone down like a bit of a lead balloon with you.  Forgive someone like Breivik.  What must Roache be thinking!?

Forgiveness is dynamic

From my perspective though Bill Roache is absolutely on the money.  Fortunately I am not one of the family members or loved ones, directly affected by Breivik’s actions, and it is therefore not in my power to forgive or not forgive in this instance, but I do believe he is right when he says that, ‘Kindness, compassion and forgiveness are all aspects of love in action’ and that, ‘forgiving someone who has killed on a mass scale is not easy to accept, but that by forgiving you release yourself and can change the offender.’

I believe forgiveness is dynamic.  When you forgive, truly forgive another, you free yourself of a darkness, a hate, the need for getting your own back, getting revenge, or not getting revenge due to circumstances making it no longer possible.  This negative emotion can bind you, leaving a nasty residue that can eat you up, make you very unhappy, drive you to the edge and even spit you out dead through failing health. To forgive another sets you free to move on.  It may not be something one can do overnight – it takes time but one would be advised to work towards it.  Importantly this will necessarily also entail forgiving oneself, perhaps for not saying the right things at the right time, or not being in the right place at the right time, perhaps for not being as brave as one needed to be when there was a call for action.  To forgive another also sets them free to move on.  Whether they even acknowledge or care they have been forgiven – that is their responsibility.  At a deep level it matters to all sides.

‘No matter how hard a choice, it is important we express that love and forgiveness, especially to those who need it most.’

Culturally and spiritually we are probably still a long way off from fully grasping what Roache is suggesting here.  We are indeed all brothers and sisters in this life experience but we so easily forget that fact in our apparent separateness.  To my mind it takes courage to say what Bill Roache said. He was described on the show as only, ‘making liberal comments’ by one participant, when he was actually touching on a truth we would all do well to remember.  It is love that gives us life, and out of love the opportunity to put right our mistakes – no matter how dastardly.

What say you on this matter!?

Associated article/post:
Carl Rogers steps for improving relationships


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