Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Forgiving is Difficult

On the opinion page of the Peace Weekly, the columnist tells us about a judge who was so angry at the person living in the apartment above him that he punctured the tires and destroyed the lock of his car. 

Problems with  noise in older buildings are not that uncommon but to have a judge, an upholder of the law, react as he did received a lot of media coverage. A legal system is of course supposed to do away with the use of violence in solving conflicts between citizens. And when someone from within the legal system itself resorts to vigilante-type punishment it surprises everyone.

What made the incident especially surprising to the columnist, however, was that the judge was involved in a case where a college professor was fired; the professor litigated against the college for firing him and demanded to be reinstated. He lost the case and tried to harm the judge.
Our  judge was involved in this case where the professor because the verdict went against him took revenge on the judge. The  incident was made into a movie, well-known in Korean society. Obviously, what made the  judge resort to this kind of action was a sign of how upset he was with the situation in which he found himself, and a lack of trust in the legal system.

The legal system we enjoy helps to maintain a peaceful society, and private revenge is not permitted, but we also need to understand and respect the pain that many feel before they resort to revenge outside the law.

We are all familiar with the horrible crimes of murder we are continually exposed to by our media. Not only the victim suffers, but their families as well, because of these crimes. The mental suffering the families have to experience and the hate they have for the perpetrators of these crime is hard for us to understand.

In contrast, it is often heard that criminals while in prison find religion, and are forgiven. We have had a lot of talk recently about self-forgiveness. The documentary films Forgiveness and Secret Sunshine are two such films. It is easy to understand the mixed feelings of the families that have suffered from these crimes, when hearing that the criminal has found religion and been forgiven.

Often, because of a failure to forgive, there will be conflicts such as the one over a noisy apartment dweller, a breakdown in family life and  so-called ethic cleansing.  The lack of moral training to develop the virtues of patience and generosity is also a dimension of this sad story.

Jesus told us to forgive seventy times seven. These words are beautiful but also harsh. Harsh because he did not give us concrete guidelines on how to forgive. But when we think deeply on the matter, Jesus had trust in us. He entrusted us with the ways to go about solving our problems, supported by his great love. We have to admit, however, that are efforts have been feeble.

Countries further advanced than Korea have more facilities, says the columnist, to help persons with mental scars to overcome their difficulties in forgiving, both self and others. The Church, the columnist concludes, should take a lead, perhaps with special programs on how best to open ourselves to a more willing acceptance of the way of forgiveness. It would, at the very least, remove some of the conflicts that now burden our legal system, and make for a more peaceful society.

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