In the absence of efficacious forgiveness, humans grasp at whatever meagre vindication that they can find. It comes as no surprise that people these days, especially men, cling to the false promises of libertarianism, capitalism, evolutionary psychology, and the like. Those offer a semblance of succor to those who feel orphaned from the institutions of old that once cleared one’s conscience.
Forgiveness isn’t a pardon, but it does provide necessary relief. Those ideologies promise their own freedom from guilt: guilt over slights, guilt over survival, guilt over success. No wonder, then, that many seem so sensitive on the topic of cancel culture. The weight of it can feel like indictment for an unforgivable sin, whether directed at oneself or at one’s parasocial relationships. No one wants to see their heroes struck down, even if they turned into or turned out to be villains. For many, it’s easier to buy a Bitcoin’s worth of forgiveness - just one modern indulgence among many - than to ask for permission from the mobs that seem to run rampant online. And it’s so very easy for one to inflict unwitting harm on hundreds or thousands or millions with a few insensitive posts.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean giving free license to abusers. It doesn’t mean allowing harm to others to go without restitution. But how many would-be repentants were shown only the lesser paths away from regret? If you have the privilege and bandwidth to spare (and many don’t), then what could you do to guide others down the fulfilling but far more frightening route towards self-directed forgiveness? Where would you be if others hadn’t forgiven you in times past?