catecumen: (EP)
For at least the rest of September, I'm going to be studying a Jewish spiritual path called "Mussar," and doing what is called an "accounting of the soul," to be more honest with myself about my flaws and make some real effort to be a better person.

One of the issues that I have run across in every attempt I make to learn and practice better conflict resolution and peacemaking skills, in trying to show more respect for other people, is that we are all locked into so much habitual black-and-white, either/or thinking. Any acknowledgement that "yes, Person A has done some significant good in the past to help Person B" gets immediately translated into "Person A can do no wrong, Person B can do no right" when it doesn't mean that at all. So I'm afraid to speak when I feel that I should.

We each make mistakes and we need to take responsibility for our actions. Certainly forgiveness delivered to the wrongdoer is premature until the wrongdoer acknowledges the wrongdoing, although the offended person may voluntarily choose to forgive for his/her own peace of mind rather than for the wrongdoer's sake.

I myself and others need to recognize that each individual can do both good things and bad things, and the good doesn't negate the bad nor does the bad negate the good. None of us are cardboard cut-outs. We are three-dimensional and full of shades of grey. It's so difficult to remember this, though, when our emotions tell us that people must be either bad or good, and that if someone did something wrong, that person must have been a bad person from the beginning and all the apparent good the person may have done was meaningless.

So, as an ethical and moral question rather than a legal one, if a person has done some good things, should that carry any weight in determining whether that person should be forgiven when they do wrong? Should it affect the severity of the consequences to be imposed upon that person even after the person has acknowledged and taken responsibility for a mistake?

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