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Is It 'Sane' to Forgive Dylann Roof?

06/30/2015 02:29 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2016

There is so much confusion about forgiveness. Some, even the family of the killed in Charleston, are forgiving the shooter Dylann Roof, seeming to say, "It's OK, we forgive you." Some say, "What he has done is unforgivable! Execute him!" What is a reasonable person, wanting to do the right thing, to think? Is it sane to forgive him?

Webster's dictionary defines "sane" as "having a healthy, sound mind; able to make rational judgments, sensible." The word "forgive" means "to stop being angry with; to give up resentment against or the desire to punish." The dictionary also says "forgive" can mean to "cancel a debt," to stop efforts to collect what's owed.

Forgiving does not mean that you are saying what they did is OK. It does not mean they can just go on about their business in the way they see fit. That would be insane.

In a sane world, to avoid being consumed by the same insane soul-corroding hatred that Roof embraced, we would lock him up so he cannot hurt anyone, and we would do it without hatred and an "eye for an eye" mentality, a lust for revenge. What does it accomplish to hate him, kill him or torture him? It only feeds the same spirit and poison within us that possesses him. We would lose our soul, our humanity.

In a sane world, to forgive Roof is to let go of hating him, to "stop feeling angry or resentful toward" him, the same way we might not feel angry at a mad or rabid dog that attacks viciously. We understand that it is consumed and possessed by madness, and being hateful and angry at a mad dog helps no one. It only hurts the one who harbors it, like an acid destroying its container. In a sane world, to forgive Roof means that we let go of punishing him, we "cancel the debt" that revenge demands.

If we were to embrace sanity, we would give the mad dog or Roof what they need, without indulging in hate or malice. What good would hating them do? They need to be locked up and prevented from hurting anyone, perhaps indefinitely. To indulge hatred and a base desire to inflict violence only causes us to harbor the result of that within ourselves. In our eye-for-an-eye world, we would continue to perpetrate violence ad infinitum, punishing ourselves to death. We exist in a reality where for every action, there is an equal reaction, reaping what we sow.

In a sane world, we would embrace good will and responsibility, stop the hating, and stop the violence. We would not perpetuate it. We would forgive. Not excuse. Not tolerate. We would stop hating, stop collecting retribution and stop punishing in revenge. We would forgive.