I’ve been scratching my head about what it means to forgive and to be forgiven. We hear of people who, after having been terribly wronged, say, “I forgive that person.” We hear of others who say, “I can never forgive that person.” And what of the other person, the person who is considered to be ‘in the wrong’? Do they need to ‘accept’ the forgiveness in order for it to work? What of the person who refuses to believe that they are in the wrong? What of the person who says, “I can never forgive myself”?
And then there are the questions of punishment and restoration. Which brings me to an interesting little story reported recently in the local news.
A 13-year-old girl who was caught stealing two bottles of orange juice from a village shop has been allowed to make amends by selling Remembrance Day poppies. The decision was agreed by the shopkeeper and the girl herself, along with her parents. The girl was also required to pay back the value of the stolen goods and to agree not to enter the shop for the next two months.
Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) Sally Calaby said:-
Restorative justice gives young people, who are starting to get involved in crime or anti-social behaviour the chance to work with police and their own community to understand the consequences of their actions and to make amends for them, without automatically heading into the criminal justice system.
I rather like it. It reminds me that wrongdoing, in order to be resolved, often requires at least the following steps: (a) a confession that wrong has been done; (b) sincere contrition (which might be in the form of an apology); (c) restoration where possible and where appropriate; (d) a determination not to repeat the offence.