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Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Do people deserve a 2nd chance?

On the website debate.org the answer is clear: 80% says that people should get 2nd chances, and 20% objects. The "No" answers usually refer to all kinds of criminals and (sex) offenders. I expected that terrorists would also be mentioned but I was wrong.

Recently, the FT posed a similar question on the several thousands of dead bodies in Mosul: "In death, what do men who have “murdered, raped and pillaged” deserve? This investigation shows the city’s inhabitants have an obvious answer: not much."

I wouldn't mind offering people a 2nd chance provided that I would be sure (enough) that history would not repeat itself. I doubt that I would be able to trust people who have committed crimes against humanity. Once people have crossed a certain red line then their guilt and shame thresholds can no longer be trusted as a compass for moral behaviour.

There is a flip side to that coin: When people exceed my tolerance levels then the vigilante in me wants to get out. Usually, I am able to restrain my vigilante because often there is mutual accountability and responsibility involved - and thus mutual guilt. Revenge and retaliation would only make matters worse.

In general, people who do not show regret and remorse fail the test to obtain a 2nd chance in life. Judges usually grant some clemency in their verdict when a crime is (i) acknowledged and (ii) sincere regret and remorse are expressed.

When it comes to judgement, there is a serious discrepancy in religion between the historical vindictive concept ("an eye for an eye") and its more modern opposite - forgiveness. The concept of forgiveness is slightly different between Judaism (no requirement but encouraged), Christianity (duty), and Islam (virtue).

The Christian duty to show mercy becomes nearly impossible in case of evil. Evil has no guilt, shame, regret or remorse and takes pleasure in admitting its accountability and responsibility. Evil knows what it's doing and enjoys it. Hence, evil should be an exception to forgiveness: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23: 34 NIV).

Granting people a 2nd chance implies our expectation that such people are willing - and have the intention - to change their behaviour. Change is however a delicate process that requires understanding, accepting and believing in Change. Change will only be long-lasting in case of willpower and faith (in these new beliefs). Also see my 12 June 2017 blog.

True remorse is never just a regret over consequences; it is a regret over motive. A quote by Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983), American author and journalist.

While You See a Chance (1980) by Steve Winwood