Thoughts on Forgiveness and Justice

Seeing as it’s the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France this year, I thought it apropos to write about forgiveness.

What does the Tour de France have to do with forgiveness?  A lot, actually.

Quick story:

When I was first interested in cycling, Lance Armstrong was at the top of his game.  I happened upon his book, It’s Not About the Bike, and read it in like a weekend.  It mesmerized me how one human could have such incredible endurance.

Lance had beaten cancer and was able to return to the Tour with improved performance, and went on to win seven Tours.  Jan Ullrich, the top German cyclist riding at the same time as Lance, came in second place in the Tour three times behind Lance, never winning a Tour title despite his own athletic prowess.  Lance’s titles were revoked after it was proven in 2012 that he had been doping all along.

The collective reasoning at the time was that Lance had come back from cancer as a superhuman, having rid himself of all enemy cells.  Nobody could actually pinpoint how Lance was racing so well.

As it turned out, Jan had been wronged.  Big time.  Lance had cheated, and he had disappointed millions of fans, dozens of sponsors, and was castigated from the sport.

But how do you forgive someone/thing like that?  Where is the justice in removing the physical signs of success?  Even though Lance has been stripped of his seven titles, can’t you just hear Jan and so many others demanding justice?  I can just hear his former fans screaming,

“We loved you! How could you do this to us?”

Would it be just to give the second place riders Tour winner status retroactively?  We might consider that fairness, but I’m not sure it would represent justice.

You see, when we have been wronged, we often want blood.  Getting what we actually deserve (Tour titles, in this case) doesn’t undo the hurt.  Putting the complicated physical, external universe back in order doesn’t solve the inner workings of our selves.

For justice to prevail, we must forgive.

Lady Justice

Forgiveness is the only path to justice, because it releases us from the harmful anger and resentment of having been wronged.

It gives us the power to start over and to change the world.

When we forgive, we put things back in order; we release anger; we start over and we move on. And those who have wronged us are given a chance to move on as well, without fear of retribution.

Starting (or starting over) isn’t a matter of willpower; it’s a matter of forgiveness.

Seeking ‘justice’ is simply an external device we use in place of forgiveness to heal our inner pain.

Inner pain can’t be solved with external mechanisms.

I’m fortunate to know many people who have been able to spring forward in their lives because they chose to forgive.  By choosing forgiveness over seeking justice, they gave themselves freedom to trust and to love again.

They were able to start again.

What do you think? Does forgiveness hold justice or is it the other way around?  Can an external measure of fairness provide peace for a wronged heart?

Thanks for reading.