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Copyright (c) 2000 Fordham University School of Law
Fordham Urban Law Journal

ESSAY: IS THERE A PLACE FOR FORGIVENESS IN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM?

June, 2000

27 Fordham Urb. L.J. 1721

Author

Everett L. Worthington, Jr. *

Excerpt



Transgressions unbalance the scales of justice, socially, emotionally, and sometimes politically. Unforgiveness can be seen as a set of "cold" emotions involving resentment, bitterness, hostility, anger, etc. that occur after ruminating about the transgression. People reduce unforgiveness in many ways. Justice reduces unforgivingness by balancing the social - and to some extent emotional - books. Forgiveness involves super-imposing emotions of empathy, compassion and other-oriented altruistic love (or even romantic love) on top of "hot" anger at the transgression or "cold" unforgiveness emotions. Justice involves social processes, while forgiveness occurs within individuals, even though social processes may hinder or facilitate forgiveness. Yet, there is a place for forgiveness in the justice system, but it is in the background rather than foreground.

There is something deep within almost every person that desires justice. Our spirits rail against unfairness and inequity. Unfortunately for most people, this deep-seated desire for justice is virtually a one-way street. The outrage of injustice happens almost exclusively when we are on the light end of the scales of justice - when we see ourselves as the victim, the one transgressed against. In those cases, we cry out for a balancing of the scales. We demand justice.

There is something deep within almost every person that desires love, mercy, and grace. Love, mercy and grace are closer to being two-way streets than is justice. In a kind of "justice of love," we are ...
 
 
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