The Homunculus

Psychology, Anthropology, Evolution

forgiveness, for real?

Posted by Joy Icayan on November 19, 2009

The Forgiveness Project details stories of grieved men and women who have chosen to forgive, and sometimes reconcile. These are not victims of minor offenses, but rather various forms of human indignity and brutality, physical/sexual assaults, tortures and genocides etc. Some have even bravely sought out their perpetrators to converse and seek understanding.

Is forgiveness another Oprah phenomenon, or are we truly capable of the genuine kind? A recent study on Bosnia and Herzegovina (During the genocide, Serbs raped and killed hundreds of thousands of Bosnian Muslims),  showed that Bosnians who had high quality contact with Serbs, showed more empathy and positive attitudes towards them. This is also called the contact hypothesis.

Just having read The Brain That Changes Itself (Norman Doidge), while disagreeing with some of the stuff written there, I’m inclined to think forgiveness or a change of attitude/perception involves plasticity in the brain, forming of new connections which need to be reinforced over time if they are to last.  Like how stroke patients relearn skills associated with brain functions that have been damaged, through practice and determination. Forming it as a habit, again. Which is probably why outsiders will never understand, because they operate on a different framework, a framework that has its own rules (some crimes are simply unforgivable), reinforced by internal (biases/attitudes) and external (religion, society) factors.

And which is also probably why some people can relapse from forgiving and why it isn’t always an Oprah story.

Links:

The Forgiveness Project

Promoting Forgiveness in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Brain That Changes Itself website

The Forgiveness Project: David’s Story

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