Wednesday, October 10, 2012


There's too much going on for me to blog about this the way it deserves, but I wanted to post a couple of things related to forgiveness. I'm still pondering these, so not much commentary. If you have brilliant things to say to tie these together, please do!

First, an obituary for Eric Lomax, tortured by the Japanese during WWII. Many years later, Lomax found a picture of the Japanese interpreter, Takashi Nagase, who had been involved in his torture.
For two years Lomax did nothing. Then he obtained a translation of Nagase’s memoir, which explained how shame had led the interpreter to create a Buddhist shrine beside the death railway. Patti Lomax then wrote to Nagase, enclosing her husband’s photograph and suggesting that perhaps the two men could correspond. She asked: “How can you feel 'forgiven’, Mr Nagase, if this particular Far Eastern prisoner-of-war has not yet forgiven you?”
You'll need to read the obituary to find out what happens. (Or you can wait til next May when Railway Man is released as a film staring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.)

But I was struck by that notion that you cannot feel forgiven if the person you have wronged hasn't forgiven you.

That same day I saw a video of Brene Brown, talking about going back to church "for the wrong reasons"--to get away from pain. Instead, she found that the church was a midwife, not an epidural. She describes how the dean of her church explained that "In order for forgiveness to really happen, something has to die." She goes on to say that in her research, there are two emotions that people fear the most: shame and grief. "And so, if something has to die in order for forgiveness to happen, and people are deathly afraid to feel grief, then we just won't forgive anybody, because I don't want to feel grief."

As I said: pondering.


Anonymous said...

No easy answers to offer, but your post prompted me to think of several stories about the battles over integration at Little Rock and the different ways that participants on the separate sides have tried to come to terms with their memories of those events and their behaviors towards each other. You can find some stories here:

A Life Is More Than A Moment: The Desegration of Little Rock's Central High (Indiana University Press, 2/23/2007)

Jayne Spencer, "Life Is More Than a Moment: Once adversaries, 'Little Rock Two' to bring message of racial reconciliation to IUB Campus"

Andrea Stone, "In Little Rock, A small act of defiance endures," USA Today, 8/30/2007

ecedostana said...

i like your title askhow

it's margaret said...

Have you read the book, Don't Forgive Too Soon?