Forgiveness linked to justice: an interview with Charles Waldegrave



Could we begin by considering your own relationship with the question of forgiveness? Has your thinking around the issue of forgiveness remained constant, or has it changed over time?

Over the years, there has been considerable debate at The Family Centre about the issue of forgiveness. Between the different cultural and gender groupings in our workplace we have had many discussions about forgiveness and its place in our work and lives. In the past I would speak positively about the concept of forgiveness. I do not consider Christianity as in any way superior to other faiths. It does happen however to be the religion of my culture. Some things we do badly, like the ownership of truth. Some things I think we do well, and the concept of forgiveness is a good example of this.

And yet, when I used to speak about my views on the significance and importance of forgiveness, this frequently led to considerable debate. It has been through these debates and conversations that I have come to see more clearly the particular implications that it can have when I as a white man speak on matters of forgiveness. When issues of forgiveness are being discussed, it makes a considerable difference who is speaking. When Maori or Pacific women talk about the hazards and possibilities of forgiveness, it evokes very different images than when white men such as myself have the same conversation. Not only have I been alerted to this, but when in the past I have spoken about forgiveness, the Maori and Pacific people with whom I work have reminded me that in some circumstances, if you forgive quickly, you don’t allow space for justice to be done.