There are many interesting angles on the “scandal” involving Brian Williams of NBC News. But David Brooks took the opportunity to reflect on the character of forgiveness. It’s an excellent discussion. He notes that genuine forgiveness has nothing to do with sentiment. It faces down hard and harsh realities:
Forgiveness is often spoken of in sentimental terms — as gushy absolution for everything, regardless of right or wrong. But many writers — ranging from Hannah Arendt and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to modern figures like Jeffrie Murphy and L. Gregory Jones — have tried to think hard about rigorous forgiveness, which balances accountability with compassion.
But the larger question is how we build community in the face of scandal. Do we exile the offender or heal the relationship? Would you rather become the sort of person who excludes, or one who offers tough but healing love?
I would add that forgiveness and reconciliation may involve strenuous efforts, but they are necessary to free both perpetrator and victim from enslaving guilt, desires for revenge, and the soul-corrupting bitterness of grudges.