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But since forgiveness is generally considered a virtue, and one that many want credit for having, I think it’s fair to say you only earn the right to call yourself ‘forgiving’ if you forgive things that genuinely hurt you.To borrow Chesterton’s example, if you think divorce is a-ok, then you don’t get to “forgive” people their divorces, you merely ignore them.Heck, the Nazis were actually moderately positively disposed to the Chinese, even when they were technically at war. Anyone in the former Yugoslavia and anyone else in the former Yugoslavia. Find the Yugoslavian ethnicity that lives closely intermingled with them and is most conspicuously similar to them, and chances are you’ll find the one who they have eight hundred years of seething hatred toward. The answer with Germans and Japanese is obvious – a strategic alliance.Meanwhile, the conflict between the Nazis and the German Jews – some of whom didn’t even realize they were anything other than German until they checked their grandparents’ birth certificate – is the stuff of history and nightmares. In fact, the World Wars forged a lot of unexpected temporary pseudo-friendships.In Chesterton’s The Secret of Father Brown, a beloved nobleman who murdered his good-for-nothing brother in a duel thirty years ago returns to his hometown wracked by guilt.
You can forgive theft, or murder, or tax evasion, or something you find abhorrent.The good-for-nothing brother killed the beloved nobleman (and stole his identity).Now the townspeople want to see him lynched or burned alive, and it is only the priest who – consistently – offers a measured forgiveness conditional on penance and self-reflection.[Content warning: Politics, religion, social justice, spoilers for “The Secret of Father Brown”.This isn’t especially original to me and I don’t claim anything more than to be explaining and rewording things I have heard from a bunch of other people.
The fake forgiveness the townspeople use to forgive the people they like is really easy, so they get to boast not only of their forgiving nature, but of how much nicer they are than those mean old priests who find forgiveness difficult and want penance along with it.