Forgiveness is something to consider after the trauma has occurred

I want to share with you the deeply wise words of a woman who has just been interviewed on Reddit about forgiveness. Her name is Eva Mozes Kor.

Dr Mengele, a cruel, infamous German SS medical doctor, made barbaric experiments on her and her sister and many other twins. What she has to say about forgiveness is true and beyond religion. It’s just wise and deeply inspiring. What a teaching!

I think letting go, but more than that. My concept is more empowering than just “letting go.” It means what was done to me by anybody that hurt me means I am not going to let that stop me from being the person I want to be. If that benefits the perpetrator, if they feel liberator by that, that may be good because then they may take responsibility for their actions. But I am not a law enforcement agency, and hanging them or putting them in jail has never stopped any wars. I think if we could make some way of people to take responsibility for their actions, that would be much more helpful. But what I am concerned about, rather than the perpetrator, are the victims. I do not want them to be victims for the rest of their lives. If we focused half as much energy on helping the victims rather than what we should do with the perpetrators, the world would be better off, because victims have a tendency to pass on their pain and anger to their children and grandchildren, and they want to take revenge against the children and grandchildren of the perpetrators. It becomes and endless, vicious cycle. People who forgive are at peace with themselves and peace with the world. That is the hope that I have – that most victims will be able to accomplish that, or at least we teach them that it is an option available to them. I cannot do forgiveness for anyone but myself, so everyone has that choice, and that choice is very important to have.

Here is what I wrote about forgiveness – what I mean and don’t mean:

Forgiveness is a way of healing oneself from pain, trauma, and/or tragedy. It is a means of self-liberation and self-empowerment.

Forgiving is not forgetting. It is in many cases impossible to forget events that deeply affect us. They shape our lives for better or worse. In the case of the Holocaust, it is important to remember and educate so it cannot happen again.

Forgiving does not mean that we condone the evil deeds of the Nazis and/or other perpetrators, nor does it mean we wish them to be granted amnesty or political asylum. The question of justice is separate from the issue of forgiveness.

This concept of forgiveness has little or nothing to do with the perpetrators. It has everything to do with the need of victims to be free from the pain inflicted upon them.

This concept of forgiveness has nothing to do with any religion. All people yearn to live free of the pain and burden of the past. If it is confined to one religion, or any religion, then some people will not be able to access it.

Each person can forgive only in his or her own name. One cannot forgive in the name of all Holocaust survivors, nor can one forgive someone for something he or she did to someone else. One can only forgive for what was done to him or her. It is a personal act.

Forgiveness is not a way to counteract violence, to provide safety in the midst of violence or to advocate non-violence necessarily. When we feel our lives are in danger, most people will do everything they can to maintain their lives. Forgiveness is something to consider after the trauma has occurred.

Forgiveness is more than “letting go.” It is proactive rather than passive. We become victims involuntarily, when a person or entity with power takes away our power to use our mind and body in the way we choose. Something was done to us that put us in a position of feeling powerless. Thus the conscious choice to forgive provides healing, liberation, and reclamation of this power.