t has become of great interest to me that prisons are a prime place in society where the great questions of our human condition converge – spiritual questions of truth and falsehood, life and death, human worth and dignity, purpose and meaning, good and evil, guilt and forgiveness. It wasn’t until he found himself imprisoned that Alexander Solzhenitsyn awakened to the realization that the dividing “line between good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.” Moral imperfection and a tendency to hurt other people is as much a part of our human condition as is our subsequent sense of guilt and desire to be forgiven – whether we give voice to that desire or not.
On the backside of our own need for mercy and forgiveness is our need to forgive others. It is not a need we feel, but it is a real need nonetheless - something we need to do for ourselves even if not for the benefit of the person who has aggrieved us. By forgiving a person who has afflicted or tormented me I am first of all refusing to let the wrong and evil that I am suffering to control my life - my thoughts and my emotions. Such uncalled for forgiveness is a spiritual not a rational act, by which I detach myself from the anger and violence of resentment and retaliation.
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