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Tuesday 24 July 2012

'Insight': Unforgiveable. Should you always forgive and forget?

Forgiveness. It's a HUGE one, isn't it?

Personally, I have struggled with this concept over the past year. I have always been a very forgiving, happy-go-lucky person, but lately, at a time of huge personal turmoil, I have found it hard to see past the absence of dear friends when I needed them most. I guess that's 'forgiveness' for something the other person is oblivious to. Another one for me is bad behaviour surrounding help I've given. If you are there to take and take and demonstrate zilch gratitude, that for me is now a deal breaker.

And then there are the big ones. For me, the big one to overcome is 'forgiving' the man who killed my dad in a car crash 26 years ago. I have never met him, but I would like to tell him he ruined our lives. I will never get this opportunity of course, and I know what kind of freedom forgiveness will bring me. But, in my head at least, have I forgiven him? I am not sure I ever will. But what does holding on to this anger to do me?

This Tuesday 24 July at 8.30pm on SBS ONE, 'Insight' returns with an episode called 'Unforgiveable', with a focus on forgiveness.

The concept of forgiving people who have done wrong is often seen as something to aspire to. But often there is too much pressure on people to forgive - could forgiveness be overrated? One expert is even championing a so-called “healthy un-forgiveness”.

'Insight' asks whether it is always possible, and desirable, to ‘forgive and forget’, whether an apology makes a difference to an ability to forgive, and whether forgiving yourself is sometimes the hardest challenge of all. Now that last one is a big one...

Insight brings together a group of Australians with extraordinary experiences and hears why they can or can't forgive: from a reckless decision that's affected two mates forever, to adultery, murder, and an injustice by a government policy.

'Insight' has assembled a line-up of guests including:

Karen and John Lang’s teenage daughter was murdered 14 years ago. Jessica was stabbed repeatedly in the Lang family home in an attack by a female acquaintance, motivated by jealousy. Karen says she’s been able to forgive Jessica’s killer, but John says he cannot. Both Karen and John have come face to face with Jessica’s murderer during a prison visit.

Mark Walsham says he will never forgive himself for a car accident five years ago that left his passenger - best mate Theo Joos - in a wheelchair for life. Mark and Theo had both been drinking on the night of the accident. They opted for Mark to do the driving as Theo had already lost his licence for drink driving offences. Theo says there’s nothing to forgive Mark for, as they were both responsible for the accident.

Susan Moylan-Coombes was removed from her mother at birth during the time of the Stolen Generation. She says she was shocked by her emotional reaction to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to indigenous Australians in 2008. Susan didn’t think she needed an apology.

Jeanne Safer says there is too much pressure on people to forgive, and instead advocates something she calls “healthy unforgiveness”. Jeanne is a US-based psychologist and author of ‘Forgiving and Not Forgiving’.

Alfred Allan is a South African psychologist and lawyer who has studied the positive effects of forgiveness and the difference an apology can make to someone’s ability to forgive. Alfred has examined reports from the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and has looked at how forgiveness may lead to an improvement in mental health.

As a theologian and leader in the Uniting Church, Reverend Professor James Haire has looked closely at reconciliation and forgiveness. He says Christianity teaches that all humans are in need of forgiveness. James is Executive Director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture.

Here is a clip from 'Insight' guests John and Karen - their daughter was murdered:

And this clip, from guests Mark and Theo:

And Jeanne Safer's concept of  “healthy un-forgiveness”:

You can be part of the Twitter conversation tonight at  #InsightSBS and see more info at: www.sbs.com.au/insight

So: over to you.  What have you had to forgive? Or what do you still hold on to? Does that person you are finding it unable to forgive even know you are upset with them? Share your thoughts below.


  1. Not forgiving my cheating husband. Ever. The concept of 'unforgiveness' appeals to me greatly. Thanks for the post. Will be watching tonight...

  2. I helped a friend find a job. Lined the whole thing up, even re-did her resume. Shortly after, she was pissed at me for some reason I am not even aware of, and when she scored the job, she didn't even let me know. I was not only angry, I was deeply hurt. She tried to apologise but the damage was done. I feel like I don't want to forgive her because her actions were calculated.