Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Woman's View with Amanda Dickson

I love Amanda Dickson. For those of you who live in Utah, you can listen to her on KSL talk radio every morning from 5-9.

Now that's a woman who loves her job! I think she shows up at 3:30 am, or something. I asked her once and she answered, but the answer was such a shock to my system that I have since blocked it. But it's either 3:30 am or something equally ridiculous.

Hat's off to you, Amanda.

Anyway, going on Amanda's show is always a good mental check in--and a good reminder for me that I should practice my "on air" manners more often. There's always one question--one conversation, where I wish I could rewind time and reframe how I say something.

This week I totally wish I could press rewind on several of the conversations, but they were good conversations to have. And maybe the things I said that come out wrong will actually inspire conversation... that's one way to add a silver lining, right?

One of the topics Amanda brought up an Iranian woman who pardoned the man who threw acid on her face, blinding and disfiguring her. The conversation was centered on the impact a person can have through forgiveness, both on others and themselves. During the conversation I'm kind of mean on the subject of personal injury lawyers, and the entitlement Americans feel when they experience pain that can be blamed on another. Except I don't say it that well. I'm pretty ineloquent. I kind of label personal injury lawyers as "Do you hate your neighbor? We can help!" proponents. That's what happens when I try to make points quickly... but point being this: This news story points out that she was coached to forgive the man his sentence to show the world that Iranians are good people, which kind of makes it seem political, but let's take that out of the equation.

What do you think about this form of justice? Do you agree with the decision this woman made to let her attacker walk free without punishment? Do you think the man should be punished in another way that is not so "eye for an eye"? Or do you think the original punishment was appropriate?

I ask this question with other cases in mind. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing, but there is a point where it seems appropriate to make sure criminals aren't allowed to repeat their behaviors.

I hope the comment feature on blogger is working again, because I would really love all your thoughts on this. As anyone who listens to A Woman's View this Sunday will discern, I'm still feeling this subject out, because I just don't know.

On my side, I like to forgive, but I can imagine that stance changes dramatically once you have child to protect and provide for. What I could forgive someone for doing to me, I may prosecute to the fullest extent of the law should I have a child. For example, I've had dogs bite and injure me and left the owners with only with feedback as to how to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

But is it the right choice? To leave the instance unreported? What if that dog does bite again? A kid maybe, or another dog, or a person, and there is no record of previous violent behavior by the dog.

Did I play a role in the second attack by choosing to "forgive" and sending the message that being a non-vigilant dog owner does not have repercussions?

I've looked back on many instances in my life where I chose "forgiveness" while watching the other person's relief to avoid accountability. But did they learn anything? Did this Iranian man learn anything? Does he feel the impact of being saved the same fate he inflicted on another, or just the relief of not being punished? Will he victimize again, overtly or covertly?

At what point is punishment merited?

I don't know. That's why I'm asking.

What have you experienced when it comes to the balance of mercy and justice? When is mercy appropriate, and when do we throw the book and someone and then bury them with it? At what point are crimes protected by religious beliefs or "harmless" appetites, and at what point to values become universal?

I hope the comment feature is back up, but be sure to copy your text before you press enter so you won't lose it if blogger is being lame.

I look forward to your thoughts :)


  1. Isn't 'forgiveness' a religious term? I think an increasingly complicated layer is added when individuals apply religion (woman's choice to forgive) to society (crime deserves punishment) because on one side, it is viewed as very noble and the 'right' thing to do to forgive. On the other side, not everyone chooses to live up to a religious belief system (the dude poured acid on someone). Not a solution, just another thought.

  2. Girl... do I have a lot to say about this... We should be in touch soon and discuss this more in person.

    My experiences with forgiveness have taught me that forgiveness is a state of heart, not an action. There are things you can do to express forgiveness (and pardoning someone from the consequences of their offense might be one of those things), but forgiveness itself--I believe--has to do with what's in your heart. You can forgive someone and still hold them accountable; they're not mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, I think that one of the hardest lessons to learn is that sometimes love and discipline are the same thing.

    In high school I had some friends who were not good friends. I believed that forgiving them meant restoration of all our previous closeness and associations. But that was folly. I finally came to a place where I don't resent them, even wish them well, but that doesn't mean I will ever again allow there to be a kinship there. I can be friendly and kind and genuinely wish them well; but I don't have to be best friends again in order to have fully forgiven them.

    Think about someone who hurts others through their addictions. Forgiveness from the people they love is, I think, very helpful to those struggling to better themselves. But discipline and accountability for the consequences of their actions is absolutely essential. People who are closest to the addict do the addict absolutely no benefit by forgiving them their actions without demanding change and accountability as well. That kind of forgiveness only further entraps the addict and all the people they've been hurting all along. By demanding change, they give the addict the ability to set themselves free, give them a chance for a happier life where they no longer have to ask forgiveness for things so hurtful.

    And I imagine we all have our addictions of one kind or another, varying of course in their levels of harm. In a perfect world, I think, we would all seek out to be held accountable for the injury we cause others.

    Punishment, on the other hand, is a subject entirely different from both forgiveness and accountability. I think punishment mostly only reinforces negative feelings people have about themselves--and I think it's human nature to hurt other people when we are hurting ourselves. I don't think punishment is very often effective. The real question here is whether holding someone accountable in a legal system where there are consequences is punishment or discipline. Personally, I think it's just discipline. I don't think there's anything wrong with keeping the sickos off the streets. And I use that term pretty strictly--people who are harming children or murdering, molesting, and otherwise terrorizing communities. It's OK for those folks not to get second chances; if they want to reform, it is possible to do so from prison.

    Anyway. Lengthy enough sermon, I suppose. :)

  3. Liz, I'm going to have to think about that. I never considered forgiveness as a religious concept. I hope some of my atheist friends chime in on that. That would definitely add a new angle! Thanks for pointing it out.

    And Becca, well said and good points! Love and discipline do go hand in hand, don't they. It's funny how I can understand that so well in one part of my life and forget it in another part. I think where the disconnect comes is the level of emotions that come to the surface when we are hurt by another, either by carelessness or intentionally. The initial reaction tends to be a cocktail of toxic emotions that I want to get rid of as soon as possible. So I choose to "live and learn." considering the person who hurt me a teacher of sorts, and move on. But I don't think I've ever asked for an apology, (re)payment, or discipline.


    You ladies have me thinking...