Americans don’t know how to forgive.
By its very definition, forgiveness puts the burden on victims to figure out a path forward, to move on from the harm they endured. That conception of forgiveness is limiting. We wanted to ask, why has America been unable to reckon with its past? What should happen after we uncover major wrongdoings, on both systemic and personal levels, as we saw with the Me Too movement? What can we do to face our faults but still forge ahead, stronger and more thoughtful than we were before?
We are living through an angry, polarized time when just broaching the idea of forgiveness might seem out of step with the zeitgeist. But it’s worth talking about forgiveness now precisely for that reason. We shouldn’t think of forgiveness as a luxury we can dispense in the best of times. It is something we should confront and consider precisely when it’s hard to do.
Over the next week, we will publish several pieces on the theme of forgiveness: its role in a civilized society, its potential for catharsis, its challenges and limits. We hope they spark introspection, start thoughtful conversations, and make the case for the construction of a more forgiving American future.
Delores White said she was defending her daughter. She went to jail anyway. By Marin Cogan and Madeleine O’Neill
A philosopher on the complicated role of forgiveness in a polarized society. By Sean Illing
The state of modern outrage is a cycle. Could a culture of forgiveness ever break it? By Aja Romano
Who is restorative justice restoring? By Jerusalem Demsas
Commissions are a common tool to expose atrocities after war and genocide. It is reconciliation — and forgiveness — that are harder to come by. By Jen Kirby
Some people will never admit wrongdoing. It’s still possible for you to move forward. By Rachel Wilkerson Miller