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Why Forgiveness and Reconciliation Matters

Why Forgiveness and Reconciliation Matters

What prevents peace and justice from flourishing in our world? Too often, the answer is “a lack of forgiveness” and “a refusal to reconcile.” Many of us acknowledge this lack and unwillingness in our own personal relationships as well. Here are a few reasons why we think forgiveness and reconciliation are so important personally, societally and globally. 
young woman planting in earth

It’s often the little things we let build up; the hurts, resentments and grudges — the attitudes and patterns we’ve practiced for so long they’ve become habit, and keep us from loving freely and fully. Some have suffered more serious personal injury, such as betrayal and/or physical harm.

Genuine forgiving requires hard work and our desire to forgive often requires that we learn new skills. We can learn new behaviors, individually and communally, once we are open to letting go of old ways of thinking and being. We need to be open to trying on new possibilities. This change happens continually for many who are willing to turn this journey to forgiveness into a way of life. Such changed behavior is one significant reason why this Institute matters.

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Students in group

As a society, we have created structures which prevent forgiveness and reconciliation from happening within and beyond the family. Families speak of feuds that have gone on for so long they can’t remember why they don’t interact with other family members. Neighbors live next door, but often do not know one another. A culture of isolation keeps us from caring about other’s struggles or needs.

Even more dangerous, those who appear different from us are feared and sometimes shunned. Racism, sexism, homophobia and religious intolerance are some of the social barriers and blind spots that need identifying and reconciling efforts. Without dialogue and ways to speak respectfully and honestly, there can be no reconciliation. Beyond these unhealthy ways of relating, social structures themselves need healing and re-ordering.

Our prisons and court system — our country’s death penalty — are major societal systems in need of examination. This Institute matters, in part, to study why social change is needed and to develop the essential skills to bring about these changes. 

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Students from around the world

A lack of trust between nations and across continents sustains age-old hostilities and creates obstacles to global peace and reconciliation. The same skills needed to forgive and reconcile at the personal level are needed by groups and institutional leaders around our world. Collaboration and negotiation require that parties listen respectfully to the experiences of others. They may have memories, and suffer ongoing consequences, of suffering and oppression at the hands of others.

It takes courage and skills to be willing to repent of past wrongs and offer necessary restitution so that new levels of mutual understanding and equality can be found. No reconciliation is possible while oppression continues. Developing the skills needed to forgive and the internal and external resources necessary to reconcile differences are indispensable for shaping a more just global future.  Our ability to play a part in promoting such global change is another important reason why this Institute matters.  

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