Forgiveness: The Possibilities

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Everyone at one point in their life has had to forgive someone else for a fault or offense. If someone steps on another person’s shoe and asks for forgiveness, they grant it without thought and move on with their life. But what if a murderer asks a person to forgive their crimes? What shall one do then? In the book, The Sunflower, written by the Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal, the author poses a question once asked to him that beckons thoughts about the matter of forgiveness.

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Throughout his life, Simon Wiesenthal struggles with this painful dilemma of whether he should have forgiven Karl, the Nazi soldier who participated in the murder of millions of Jews during the Holocaust. Fifty-three individuals with a diverse set of beliefs, identities, and experiences answer this question in the book with their own arguments that reflect their stance on forgiving murderers. My experiences and beliefs greatly influence the way I regard forgiveness. From past events in my life, I came to the terms that if I do not forgive others, I am held back from enjoying my life to the fullest by living with constant anger and bitterness. Therefore, I would have stayed silent in Karl’s’ confession, but throughout time and healing would learn to grant true forgiveness so that I may live my own life in peace without the burden of hate in my heart.

If I were in Simon’s place in that exact time of his life, I would have stayed silent and not forgiven the Nazi soldier on his deathbed because I would be lying to him by saying words I do not truly mean. Although I cannot necessarily assure what I would have done in Simon’s place because I did not actually experience the horrors of the Holocaust, I have an idea of how I would possibly answer. I would have most likely remained silent to Karl’s confession and question because I would refuse to forgive him when I am feeling angry and conflicted emotions within me that prevent me from honestly forgiving a person. I agree with the Italian chemist, writer and Holocaust survivor, Primo Levi, on his comment regarding what it would have meant for Simon to have forgiven Karl in that moment, [] I think for you, it would have not meant ‘you are guilty of no crime’, nor ‘you committed a crime against your will or without knowing what you were doing.’ On your part it would have been an empty formula and consequently a lie (192). If I uttered the words, I forgive you in that instant out of pity and without meaning, then I would be lying to a dying man’s face. In that moment, I would be thinking of all the Jews who have been wrongly tortured and murdered by the hands of Nazi soldiers,

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