Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Difficulty in Forgiving

A high school student riding his motorcycle kills the fiance of the movie's main character in a hit-and-run  accident. This is the core plot of the movie Today. Is it possible to forgive such an act? This is the question the movie asks.
The director and screenwriter was asked why she  deals with such heavy material, and she answers that she wants to correct the commonly accepted understanding of forgiveness. The Peace Weekly journalist interviewed the director of the movie following its release in Seoul.

Our society expects the families of victims to be understanding and to forgive. She wants to examine what it means to forgive.
The heroine of the movie visits a church where she meets the priest and a religious sister, and is told to forgive the student for it is all God's will. She signs her name to a petition asking forgiveness for the student, but struggles with conflicting emotions and wonders if forgiving the student is the proper attitude. Why should she forgive? she asks herself.
The director says there are too many like the heroine of the movie in our society.  When a family loses someone because of some criminal act, there is no place to  complain about the injustice; everybody seems to believe that we should forgive. She recalls reading an article that said to forgive can at times be a sin, that we can't force forgiveness and shouldn't forgive indiscriminately.

It took her five years to write the scenario, and as time passed she became more convinced of what she wanted to say. She tried hard to  understand another way of seeing the issue but found it difficult. We tend to use, she says, the phrase, It's God's will, when bad things happen, making it easier for most of us to forgive and to convince others of the necessity to forgive. She explains that knowing that her religion wants her always to forgive, makes her uneasy. "I visited," she said, "with a priest who told me that 'forgiveness that does not have justice as a foundation is an evil'; this was a great consolation to me."

She intended the movie to ring an alarm to religions; before the scars are healed in the family of the victim, she believes that religions need to go slower in recommending forgiveness. The wrongdoer should have time to reflect on the result of his act, which will give time to the victim's family to start healing the  wounds.

That the director wanted to treat an important subject in a movie was laudable. Whether it can be dealt with dispassionately in this way is open to question. 'The will of God' is a phrase we throw around rather easily, but it is presumptuous to think we know God's will, and it should not be used to console another person. We as Catholics use the word providence, which skirts the question of God's will in any specific case. When it comes to forgiveness, more important than the forgiveness itself is to have the necessary disposition enabling one to be forgiven. In many cases, the forgiveness even if proffered can't be accepted because of a lack of sorrow and an unwillingness to change ones life.

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