Question 1: A second chance?

The question from our students: Do you believe everyone deserves a second chance regardless of their previous mistakes/trangressions?

Erika’s amendment to the question: If you don’t believe everyone deserves a second chance, but some do, how do you determine what a person can atone for and what they cannot? What is an unforgiveable crime/transgression to you? Do you think the ability to grant second chances to someone who has wronged you depends on the intimacy (or lack thereof) of the relationship? That is, is it easier or harder to give a second chance to someone you love or are related to? Harder? Easier to think a stranger who committed a transgression against someone you don’t know deserves a second chance than it is to think the same of someone who has hurt someone you care about? What does a “second chance” even mean?

  1. Benito Gonzalez says:

    Yes, everyone deserves a second chance because everyone makes mistakes. That is part of being human and no one, absolutely no one should believe if circumstances were different for them, they themselves might not make the same or similar mistake. That doesn’t mean society and individuals do not demand some retribution for human mistakes, we do. However, society should not define a mistake as the end of ones right to live a normal life. We pay for our mistakes, learn from them and move on with our lives. That should be the normal path.

    That said, there are some people that have committed such atrocious crimes, crimes of such a sociopathic nature, no one in society will ever give them a second chance. I’m talking here of serial killers and mass murders. When they are caught, their crimes can never be forgiven. Taking a human life, particularly when plotted or planned, indicates someone who views themselves as more important than another human being. That is not a mistake. It is a seriously unacceptable value judgement.

    Forgiveness is independent of intimacy. Forgiveness is an act of love. However, all forgiveness depends critically on understanding and you can never forgive what you can never understand. This is why many behind bars may find it unfair how society treats them after they leave prison. However, most people simply have not been to prison and so they can never really understand those who have. Many will be “afraid” to hire or “afraid” to associate with parolees. Those in prison need to understand that all “fear” arises from a lack of understanding, nothing more. A problem arises if a parolee feels society should understand, but doesn’t. The inability to deal with that emotional conflict can lead former inmates to think no one cares. Actually, the problem is understanding. People do not care about things they cannot understand. They care about things they do understand.

    Forgiving someone you are or were very close to is harder than forgiving someone to whom you are more distant, because of a phenomenon called “an inability to see the forest through the trees”. In other words, the closer we are to someone, the more we see what we want to see, and the less we see what we do not want to observe. This blindness produces endless conflict and emotional trauma. How could you? How could you be so stupid or thoughtless or inconsiderate? Stepping away, so the person and the situation is viewed more in their entirety makes understanding and ultimately forgiveness more possible. Oh, you could do those things because: (1) she was available and eager; (2) there was ample opportunity; (3) you were weak willed; (4) you were selfish; (5) she was hot; (6) you were horny, etc. Keep in mind, the opposite party may not have the same perspective about such events as you. What you see as a betrayal, they may see as merely an opportunity that presented itself. If fidelity is what you demand, rather than take the Hilary Clinton road and forgive repeated transgressions, it is probably better to simply end things and look for someone who shares your same value system. Wiser and more aware that life and human relationships can be far more complicated than they may at first appear.

    Everyone does things for a reason. Those reasons do not always have to be well thought out or even logical. Sometimes people do things that in hindsight were just plain stupid. A useful axiom for avoiding mistakes that lead to serious problems is “never do something if you know it will hurt someone else”. At least then the mistakes made are accidental and not purposeful, and those are at least far easier to forgive.

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