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Yesterday in Newtown, Connecticut 20 children and six adults were murdered by a 20 year old man after he murdered his mother by shooting her in the head in her own bed. The man then loaded several weapons into his mother's car, drove to the elementary school where she worked, shot his way into the building, murdered the office staff, then casually walked to another part of the school and murdered 20 children sitting in their classrooms before killing himself.
The country is grappling for answers. Good people all over the country are struggling to understand and to make some kind of sense of this horrific crime.
Most are quick to assume some form of mental illness. Something in his past, some way he was brought up, must be at the core of his madness. There is no evidence for this. In fact, individuals who were raised with far less, or who endured far more have gone on to produce great lives for themselves and for others.
Many are looking to be comforted by ghosts who exist in another dimension by faith.
Of these, too many are already calling for the willful suspension, if not the total annihilation, of Justice and Pride as virtues. They see altruistic forgiveness as a better practice than the life serving virtues we, as Objectivists, cherish in our own lives.
For several months I've been trying to design a simple argument against forgiveness when it is used as a kind of spiritually altruistic first principle by my Christian friends when trying to deal with a horrible immorality like this.
In trying to come up with a reasonable, graspable analogy to explain why unsolicited forgiveness, in and of itself, isn't a virtue, but is instead an enormously destructive force in one's life when used as a virtue, I thought of a bank account.
One's life is very much like a bank account. The consistent practice of these virtues in everyday life is the work you do to produce the values deposited in the bank account of your life.
From the Objectivist Wiki: http://wiki.objectivismonline.net/Virtues[[/A>
Everything that serves one's life in the pursuit of happiness comes from the practice of these virtues.
In this realm, forgiveness acts as a receipt, not as a gift, in the practice of Justice. If one is betrayed by someone of value, one is robbed of a value by the betrayer. A debt is created to a victim's bank account of values by the betrayer. A sincere, honest apology which acknowledges the damage imposed on the victim's life and sense of value for that life is owed by the betrayer.
When a betrayer offers repayment in the form of a sincere apology, Justice would be served in offering forgiveness as a receipt for this acknowledgment by a wrongdoer. The debt has been repaid and a receipt has been offered.
Forgiveness is a receipt in the realm of Justice practiced as a virtue. It isn't a gift. It is the acknowledgment of a satisfied debt. Without some kind of honest acknowledgement there can be no forgiveness. To realize this is to realize the irreplaceable value of your life and to never discount that value with unearned gifts of virtue made to evil. Evil never repays its debts. Forgiving evil won't change that fact. It won't rebuild anything evil deliberately destroys, but it will make you a more likely victim in the future.
Values don't create themselves. To to hand out unsolicited forgiveness is to hand out receipts for debts of value never repaid. In Objectivism, we call that a sacrifice. The pressure being put on to victims by ignorant Christians to “forgive” is extremely harmful in my view. Evil never repays its debts, therefore it is impossible for forgive evil. What evil destroys can never be rebuilt by sacrificing more to it.
I can't imagine anyone in their right mind encouraging Holocaust survivors to forgive Hitler, yet that is exactly what these Christian destroyers of virtue are encouraging survivors and victims of the Newtown murders to do. Forgive evil, as if their lives aren't worth more.
To hand out receipts for payments never received is a sacrifice. A sacrifice is not a value and it isn't a virtue. To hand out receipts for unpaid debts is to deplete your life of values to the point of moral bankruptcy. It is to setup one's life for sacrifice to anyone who wishes to take from it and the absolute destruction of “self.”