Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Case Against Forgiveness

[Dr. William Petit of Connecticut, his daughters Hayley and Michaela, and his wife Jennifer]

(posted for Poets United Think Tank prompt: forgiveness)

I know all the words about forgiveness. I've done the work, and I can talk the talk. "Holding onto anger and hatred is like drinking poison, and hoping the other guy dies." "We forgive for ourselves, not for the other person." And "Until we forgive, there is no healing."

"Who am I, now?" this good man asks, "now that I am no longer a doctor,
I no longer have a wife, or two daughters, or a home? Who am I now?"

Today I watched a heartbroken man speak of his heartbreak, of the hole in his heart and the hole in his soul caused when two ex-convicts on parole left their halfway house, chose his house at random, beat him unconscious, tied him up,  raped and assaulted and tortured his wife and daughters, then poured gasoline over them and set the house on fire. Still tied up, he  managed to roll himself up the stairs and out the basement door,rolling across the lawn to the neighbours to get his family help, as his house and his family were burning. Help came too late.

"Who am I now?" he asks, "now that  I no longer have my daughters and their future,
which was my future? Who am I now?"

He began a Foundation to do good works in the name of his wife and daughters. "By doing good works, in their honor, I believe goodness will overcome evil," he said. "I have a jagged hole in my heart, a jagged hole in my soul. I don't think it will ever go away. But waves of goodness, when they come, help to smooth the jagged edges a little."

"Who am I now?" he asks, "now that I am no longer a doctor, no longer a husband,
now I no longer have a home,
or a family. Who am I now?"

The interviewer spoke about forgiveness. I knew the question was coming and I rejected it for him. How could he possibly ever forgive such bestial acts? "Do you think you can forgive?" He looked back steadily. "You can forgive someone who slaps you in the face. You can forgive someone who insults you. You can forgive someone who causes an accident. But forgiving the essence of evil is not appropriate. No, I cannot forgive."

He said, and the words rang true and right, that forgiving the essence of evil
is not appropriate,
and thus, he cannot forgive.

If you wish to support the foundation Dr. Petit started in their name, information is available at


  1. this one ...i totally, totally am heartbroken for this do you forgive evil for stepping into your life, when it was never invited....bkm

  2. bkm, try to catch the interview on Oprah, if you can. The way he speaks - the pain so deep, the integrity of the man so apparent, the senselessness and horror of the event. Just devastating. I wrote an entirely different piece than I would have before I caught the interview. I could have rolled off all the words.......but not after hearing his story.

  3. Wow. I don't know how he continues.

  4. This really touched me. I could feel his pain through your words and cannot imagine what he must go through, the nightmares, the moment he wakes up every morning, realising that the nightmare is real... It reminded me of the film Law Abiding Citizen. In the film, the father chose revenge. Although I agree that forgiveness seems impossible, I prefer this man's choice to do good in the name of his family. Do you have a link to his charity to support it?

  5. He said, and the words rang true and right, that forgiving the essence of evil
    is not appropriate,
    and thus, he cannot forgive.

    And I can't add anything anymore to that.

  6. I think sometimes forgiveness is just beyond people. Forgiving evil acts may be the hardest hurdle people ever face in their quest to be Christian. (Insurmountable in most cases)

    Jesus asked God to forgive the ones who crucified him (surely one of history's most evil acts, if not #1), but of course it's a stretch to presume ANY of us are close to being that much like Jesus.

    Thought-provoking take on this prompt, Sherry... well done!

  7. beautiful!
    love the photo shot.

  8. This was a tough topic, kids. Thanks for your comments. I added the link to the foundation - thanks for the suggestion, Flying Monkey.

  9. This is a terrible story and we hear many all too similar tales here in South Africa, where senseless violent crime is a way of life. My heart goes out to the man who survived, his will be a long road of pain and loss.

  10. Sherry,
    What a heartbreaking and horrible story. That is pure evil in my book.
    Thanks for the link.

  11. This was pure evil at work, I saw the story and the interview with Dr.Petit, thanks for sharing your post and the link.

  12. Forgiveness is our way of letting go. Wise words here.

  13. Sherry,
    Thank you for sharing this story as an example, of when in all honesty, forgiveness cannot be expected or given.
    I admire Dr Petit for his honesty in this matter. I could never forgive in those circumstances either.


  14. Amazing he still wants to try and help others. Don't know how I would be in that situation to be honest, and hope I never find out.

  15. i asked the same question a few years back. i still struggle with the answer until now. how can you forgive evil? how can you forgive if you see no remorse? i can relate to your story, sherry. yes, it's true that by helping others, your pain eases somehow. but forgiveness- that's not even part of the equation. it's a totally different picture.

    easier said than done, i know. but it's worth trying though. that's the only way one can completely heal from this kind of grief.

    happy weekend, my friend. i hope you're doing well. don't get too cold out there, ok?

  16. I saw the end of this interview and knew he wouldn't be able to forgive their evil. Thanks for sharing; It is a reveal into a jagged hole that is left, when cruelty and evil are done. I so feel for his hurt soul; Doing good, will help him, heal. Forgive and forget...never~


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