Forgiveness is the Heart of Justice


Quick Summary: Forgiveness is the heart of justice… by this I mean to say that the ‘justice’ we seek can often be deconstructed into meaning simply vengeance. There is no justice is vengeance as the suffering which we seek justice for actually tends to grow with acts of vengeance (these acts which perpetuate suffering are often validated by suggesting that they are healing mechanisms inherent in the concept of justice). Forgiveness is the balance to suffering… in forgiveness you interact with the suffering as opposed to the host of the suffering (the offender). In forgiveness you see the intention of suffering and you recognize that to balance the suffering in this world you cannot simply take measurable action against other biological entities… suffering is an abstraction… it is with compassion and empathy and love that we might balance the suffering in this existence. Forgiveness is not to condone or to forget… it is to love everything unconditionally.

Ultimately we are all interconnected – you can look at this ecologically, from a social dependence stand point, from a biological attachment stance (we need secure attachments to others to function optimally) or from any other vantage point such as the spiritual… whichever way you choose to look at the issue I am suggesting that vengeance ends up hurting the very people who were tempted by its dramatic pull.

The perpetrators of vengeance unintentionally expand and perpetuate the very suffering which was done unto them.


– let me clarify here that to some degree we are all the perpetuators of suffering to some degree at some point in time… I do not claim to be above this influence.

 “If I shall be wronged I shall feel my offender’s pain so as to not pass on suffering again…”

In our existential pursuits to make meaning from meaninglessness we created good and evil and chose to view the subject dichotomously.

I have felt the pain of unimaginable suffering transmitted into the safety of my therapeutic space and I have something to report… there are no evil people.

Instead there are people who’s suffering is of such a magnitude that that suffering unconsciously and/or consciously encourages the host (the person who suffers) to perpetuate that suffering.

Our innate ability to offer compassion in the face of suffering appears to be relative to the individual – by this I mean that for some unexplainable reason there are people who have suffered comparably less and engage in colossal acts of vengeance and there are people who have suffered unimaginably who are not persuaded by the temptations of vengeance.

I would also suggest that to some degree we have the ability to feel the suffering of the world in its’ entirety… so then we can feel a compassion for the world in its entirety.

Forgiveness is love, compassion, empathy, acceptance and an appreciation for the interconnection of all things. Forgiveness is not to condone but rather to transcend suffering… to see suffering as a natural part of life… and to then choose to let your intuition guide you towards being compassionate towards all, which is the way to truly be compassionate to yourself.

Forgiveness is something effectively offered to suffering itself… a suffering which has been around infinitely longer than the offender who newly presented to you an old abstraction.

I personally do not claim to truly know forgiveness… perhaps such an ability requires transcendence.

Though I perhaps engage in relatively less acts of vengeance externally I will often perpetuate suffering with endless ruminations… these ruminations affect my emotions… which then effect the collective.

Yet I hold hope… a hope which is growing… that I will find forgiveness… That we all will hold forgiveness.

Perhaps this is what Jesus was saying… (I hold gratitude for the teachings of all religions)… perhaps the greatest suffering known to life is the death of that life. In forgiving those who would take your very life perhaps you move the collective towards compassion universal… peace… balance. In the moments of his suffering he called for forgiveness though he had followers enough to suggest vengeance – or some other act of suffering.

Holding the energy obtained from empathizing with suffering is extraordinarily heavy and perhaps doing so leads many people in the helping professions to ironically develop dissociation, rationalization and avoidance tendencies

I maintain that I will hold the suffering with hope and let the compassionate path of my breath take me closer to forgiveness.

In order to forgive the suffering sometimes you need to find that suffering first… In my experience the breath can take you there…

If you can love one thing you can love all things…


William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.



Quick summary: Forgiveness is one of the most difficult tasks that is asked of us in life. It requires us to be humble, honest, compassionate, selfless, accepting, authentic, open-minded, loving, positive, hopeful, empathetic and emotionally mature.

I will define forgiveness as – reaching point of complete acceptance surrounding a pain and suffering so that you and your environment are liberated from the suffering which is perpetuated by the negative emotions that were created by the act or thing to be forgiven. Forgiveness is freedom from automatically reacting to your suffering with actions that could be in conflict with your morality or ethics (people that do not believe in killing others would not suggest that killing others was reasonable retribution if they honestly felt forgiveness.) Forgiveness is feeling empathy and compassion for your offender… with forgiveness you do not condone behaviors which cause suffering, and you do hold compassion for those whose actions are dictated by their own suffering.

            True forgiveness is incredibly rare in my opinion… in many situations if you break down the act of forgiveness you find that it was truly either:

      An act of truce (“I agree to not react with vengeance or to seek retribution but I still hold negative emotions regarding the instance (which may affect actions in conscious and unconscious ways”).

      A change in the forgiver’s subjective perception of the event (I no longer think that the action that the person did to me is wrong… I therefore am no longer upset at them).

      A move towards indifference (“that person doesn’t live around me or effect my life anyway… thinking about that person is not worth my time.”). (this is very rational – our emotions are not dictated by ration)

      A move to initiate the recovery that follows true forgiveness (some people forgive as they believe that the action of forced forgiveness will make themselves more likely to eventually honestly reach forgiveness).

      A well intentioned effort to do the ‘right thing’ or to make the situation better (forgiveness is done because that is what is ‘supposed’ to be done and the person offers forgiveness in an effort to be someone extraordinary… the act is intended to serve ‘the greater good’ though the forgiveness might not actually be felt.)

So how do we reach forgiveness? Most of us have probably reached a point of forgiveness surrounding acts that did not create a large degree of suffering (“I forgive my brother for stealing my pack of gum when he was ten… I can understand the temptation and the act had no intention of hurting me.”)

What is more difficult to forgive are the acts that cause continual and life changing suffering such as murder, rape, intentional oppression, violence, destruction of something that was significant to us, acts of war, and actions that harm important relationships.

Why should we seek to forgive? If it takes so much effort why should the process of forgiveness be engaged?

I personally have never met a “bad” person… I have worked as a therapist in situations where my clients had engaged in “bad behaviors”… they all had endured their own suffering… some endured unimaginable suffering and found themselves suffering long after the cruel actions were no longer an occurrence in their lives.

If there are not bad or evil people then why are there bad and seemingly evil actions?

I have found that suffering is something that we all carry and it is something that grows despite a person’s intention… the suffering we carry seeks to spread itself to new people, things and environments.

When someone puts there own suffering onto another person in the form of a cruel or bad behavior, that suffering does not dissipate in strength… instead it seems to grow stronger.

Often the intention was not to spread the suffering… people try to make meaning of their own pain and suffering and in the process they at times will reenact and transmit the suffering they feel onto another entity. This creates guilt and more suffering for the person that continued the spread of suffering… and now forgiveness must be attained for the actions received and for the actions engaged.

The cycle of suffering in strong at this point…

The willingness to cause suffering to others in a futile attempt to relieve your own suffering is increased…

We become willing to sacrifice our own morals in an effort to relieve our pain…

We lose a degree of our free will and find ourselves acting automatically to the impulses of the suffering that we hold… and then we perhaps arrive at the truth that forgiveness is freedom… forgiveness is for your self.

This is why we seek forgiveness… to stop the spread of suffering… and to regain our own freedom.


The research has also found that forgiving people are statistically more physically and mentally healthy… so the scientific reason to forgive is that it is good for your health.


The process to reach forgiveness seems to require an enlightened individual… a wise person who is humble and patient in extraordinary ways… how can we become this type of person?


Ho do we become this forgiving person who can not only maintain but can increase their own health while ensuring that any suffering put onto them is eradicated with forgiveness instead of spread with vengeance?

How is it that just about every religion speaks of forgiveness while the human race continues to choose vengeance… to choose vengeance even in the name of the very religion which was trying to teach them the wisdom of forgiveness?


Perhaps we believe that we are less free than we are… perhaps the answer to the forgiveness quandary is to start with something seemingly simple – A CHOICE…


Yes I am saying that the 1st step toward forgiveness is to choose to try and become a genuinely forgiving person… If you value the path you will put your energy towards it.

  •       You will seek to empathize with the offenders of the world so as to recognize that when we offer forgiveness and empathy we offer the opportunity for resiliency to spread through the collective.


  •       Perhaps you will see that we are all victims of suffering and we are all hero’s when we triumph over suffering with forgiveness.


  •       There are no enemies in objective terms… an enemy who’s suffering can be healed with your empathy is your friend… they never were the enemy… and it is understandable why it would seem that calling someone an enemy would make your suffering better… but it will not.


  •    Life is not fair… it seems as though vengeance is an act of justice… this makes sense if you believe in bad people… but people are not bad only their action are… and I have yet to see a human help another human without using compassion, empathy, and acceptance.


  •       Though forgiveness seems to be an external process it is an action mostly for the good of your self… the injustice that was done onto you may have been from a source of suffering born hundreds of years ago… you can keep that suffering and pass it along to others with acts of vengeance… or you can heal yourself and in doing so you can heal countless others that would have suffered if not for your strength and resiliency.


  •       With the freedom of perception that is born of forgiveness who will have the presence and the sensibility to act for the advancement of justice and equality without being misled by the temptations of suffering unrecognized… without being led to perpetuate suffering with ideas of vengeance.


  •       You have the freedom to define the hero as the one who forgives as opposed to the one who seeks vengeance at all costs. (the typical movie hero)


I will not pretend that I have reached a point at which I could immediately forgive actions done directly towards the ones that I love… and I know that I am moving in the right direction. 

Forgiveness is a process… I can forgive enough to help people that have engaged in actions that have harmed others… I can offer empathy… and I can help them to heal… in this way I am growing with forgiveness and I cherish the opportunity to do so. 

“As I forgive I become free… I learn to accept… I gain purpose as forgiveness opens the door for me to help a wider range of people… and I gain love… unconditionally.”

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Past blame or “whose fault it is” and on to solutions


Quick summary: whose fault is it? This question is a big one from governmental to family politics. How does assigning fault help in the solution? The most common argument is that “if people know that they were wrong than they will not make the same choice again in the future.” the problem with this logic arrives when the ‘fault’ was either an accident or the fault was do to probability not landing in a person’s favor. To be more specific, accidents happen and life is not predictable – random things occur. Though it is important to find fault in select incidences (ex. who was the criminal in this case), the act of assigning fault simply delays the acquisition of a solution in many cases. What is the point? – perhaps solutions are more important than assigning blame, and even in those instances were fault needs to be assigned to support justice we should not loose site of creating solutions.

The purpose of this blog post is do one simple thing… offer an alternative perspective on the widely held notion that assigning fault is an integral part of the solution process.

Family Scenario –

Someone left the garden hose on 5 hours ago and as you stepped out the front door to go to you meeting and your foot finds itself in mud past your ankle… you have twenty minutes till you meeting which is 15 minutes away. You have three kids all over 12 and a partner… what do you do?

Answer 1 – you spend time figuring out who left the hose on… you then assign fault along with some form of punishment (either a verbal reprimand or a loss of privilege) … you are now flustered as you have 10 minutes to drive a distance which will take you 15 minutes… the added anxiety makes it difficult for you to remember were your other shoes are… you find your clean shoes and put them on and leave for your meeting.

Answer 2 – you change your shoes in 2 minutes and leave for your meeting with time to spare.

Political Scenario – the literacy rates in the county drop and teenage unwanted pregnancies, drug use, and violence increase… what do you do?

Answer one – you look for ‘miss use’ of the budget to assign fault for the shortages in education budgets… you blame the opposing parties liberal or conservative views for the increase in unwanted behaviors… you bring attention back to former bills or positions that were not put into place and suggest that the problem would not have happened if this liberal or conservative bill had been passed… you attack the opposing party with personal attacks while suggesting that the fault is that the politician is too liberal or too conservative… you then start working on solutions with both sides offended and polarized.

Answer 2 – you start looking at what is going well in the school system… you look at solutions that are working… you begin creating solution that both parties are in agreement with… you implement the solution of not choosing to work with the politicians, whether liberal or conservative, that are going to waste your time with the blame game.

Learn from your mistakes – It is important that we do not repeat a mistake assuming that we have a choice in the matter. When someone is given constructive feedback he or she can choose to behave differently in the future.

  • Accidents don’t tend to be influenced much by education of constructive feedback… “Next time don’t trip, stub your toes and break my vase.”
  • Chance or probability means that sometimes things happen that were unlikely to happen. Again fault along with constructive feedback aren’t going to help much… “you should remember not to put you boat in the water because we know now that it could get hit by a tsunami.”


Behavioral modification – the punishment or the reward has to be delivered relatively quickly following the behavior in order to affect that future use of that behavior. This means that if you spank a child an hour after he peed on the carpet the child is unlikely to associate the spanking with the peeing… behavior change is unlikely.

  • Assigning fault for a behavior that happened in the past is perhaps functional for educational and justice reason, but it is relatively ineffective at shaping behavior.


You are mostly delaying – Ultimately a solution is going to make you feel better… assigning fault is mostly just delaying the acquisition of a solution… it is often a waste of physical, cognitive and emotional energy.


If some one pushes you into the tiger exhibit at the zoo you could spend time figuring out who’s fault it is… but ultimately you need to do the work to get out of the that tiger cage.


It might not be your fault… but it would be wise of you to help in creating the solution.


William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.