In Sociology of Common Sense: a Study of Hannah Arendt, sociologist Paul Terenzi wrote the following words: “Forgiveness is the only reaction that is not merely a re-action, but a new and unexpected action… Ability to forgive is the remedy to irreversibility”. Resentment and the desire for revenge kill people’s and society’s soul. Forgiveness is a new beginning, for them, their lives and loving relationships, regenerated from the wounds of guilt, abandonment, and betrayal. It means not to give in to the victory of evil. It is the revenge of love over death, the “mourning” of the pain. It heals from resentment that kills our soul and existence, along with our relationships. It does not nullify the suffered evil, nor does it restore a situation previous to the offense, but it produces an inner and outer transformation, create a new relationship with yourself and with the others, giving a new chance for life.
“Forgiveness is the essence of love,” wrote Andrew Greeley, sociologist and priest. It is “a great light of love and tenderness”, according to Pope Francis. In fact – the Holy Father said -, “God does not forgive with a decree, but with a caress.” Yet, the Man does not have the mercy of God. It is not easy to forgive, reconcile with one’ past, with those who used violence against us or with our own suffering, with the society, which we feel hostile and inimical at times, and with State institutions, which sometimes seem to be oppressing rather than defending us, All those things are far from being a granted process. That is why there are people who dedicate themselves to the profession of educating people to the practice of forgiveness and reconciliation Therapy. The Humanist Studies Centre “Salvatore Puledda”, organizes four meetings in Rome on Wednesday, starting from May 25, from 20.30 to 22.30, the “Laboratory Rododentro. Psychology of Reconciliation “at the Academy of Humanities and Social Science (Asus). Three experienced counselors – Vito Correddu, Gianluca Frestagli, and Francesca De Vito – have created a working group together with the psychologist Roberta Consilvio on the subject of the roots of revenge and reconciliation.
“Rododentro” is a pun that blends the name of a strong and persistent plant, which blooms in our gardens in the fall, and the Italian words rodo dentro ‘eat up inside’, to talk about the malaise that grows and becomes stronger within people’s souls, generated by conflicts and resentment; finally it becomes desire for revenge, Vito Correddu told Interris.it. Then he adds: “It is not just an individual feeling, but an epochal cultural characteristic. Resentment is the underlying climate of our society. Powered by a general feeling of injustice, suffered both on an individual and collective levels. On paper, we all have the same rights, the principle of equality is a fundamental right of Italy’s Republican Constitution, but in truth we live in serious inequalities and people perceive it as violence. “It is a slap in the face of those who occupy positions of political and civil responsibility.
How does this general feeling of violence and injustice manifest, also in the case of the State institutions?
“Suffered injustice often transforms into causing injustice; it is a vicious circle. It generates mistrust and resentment, for which we need a scapegoat; the latter can be a family member or a close person, a group or a community; immigrants for example, or politics in general and State institutions. Usually, however, the scapegoats are our peers or subordinates, those who are weaker, not stronger than us. And people take revenge for justice.”
What is true justice?
“True justice is restorative, not punitive or retributive. It follows the golden rule ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’, not the law of retaliation, not ‘eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth’. Also from a social point of view, restorative justice aims at restituting the person who has made the mistake, helping them in the process of acknowledging their guilt, then rehabilitate them from a civil point of view. Those things do not happen in our prisons at present. Laws must serve reconciliation and peace in society; it is not an instrument of vengeance. Reconciliation requires everyone’s cooperation, both of those who have committed evil and who have suffered it”.
How can reconciliation between the citizens (society) and State institutions (politics) take place?
“We need to move from formally declaring principles to concretely applying them. If the Constitution says that our Republic is founded on work that is to say, that a job is a primary right, the State must create the necessary conditions for it to happen; it cannot hide behind financial problems to deny this fundamental right, it cannot subordinate it to other interests. Obviously, this requires a cultural, personal, and individual transformation in the first place. We need education to new models of behavior and sociability, to a humanist outlook, where education to reconciliation, which is education to justice, takes shape. Contrary to popular belief, revenge is not instinctive, but cultural. It brings a brief satisfaction, but also causes serious damage to those who enjoy it.”
Pope Francis often talks about Christian humanism and “fraternity”. Is this also the path towards education to social peace, justice, and reconciliation?
“Certainly. Pope Francis has singled out a key issue not only for Christians, but for the entire society. The Jubilee of Mercy is truly an extraordinary opportunity to rethink our way of living, also with other people. We hope to produce real and profound changes in the Church and inside the civil community. Unfortunately, revenge has saturated also a certain kind of religiosity. The rightful God has been mistaken for a vengeful God for centuries. Many so-called believers experienced God’s non-vengeance as abandonment. The love of God is just and merciful, it brings peace, not revenge. The Pope emphasizes mercy, forgiveness, reconciling love, with ourselves and with the others.”