Think back to the last time you felt wronged by someone. What happened? Have you forgiven that person? Do you think he or she deserves forgiveness? Why or why not?
Or, think back to the last time you mistreated someone. What did you do? Did that person forgive you? Do you think you deserve forgiveness? Why or why not?
Taylor Swift is on fire. She just dropped her seventh album, “Lover,” and it’s already the top seller of 2019. She also dropped some wisdom that deserves to be as widely appreciated as her music.
In an interview on Aug. 25 on “CBS Sunday Morning,” Ms. Swift spoke up about our culture’s obsession with forgiveness. “People go on and on about you have to forgive and forget to move past something,” she said. “No, you don’t.”
She’s right. You don’t have to forgive and forget to move on. And sometimes, you shouldn’t forgive or forget. You should resent.
To see why, imagine that you’ve been wronged. Let’s say Kanye West just busted up your big moment onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards. So what? Why not be Jay-Z and brush the dirt off your shoulder? The reason — as many philosophers will tell you — is that wrongdoing sends a demeaning message that shouldn’t go unchallenged.
As the philosopher Jeffrie Murphy explains, that message is typically something like “I count, but you don’t.” Or “I am here up high, and you are there down below.” Or “I can use you for my purposes.”
Another philosopher, Pamela Hieronymi, teaches that the message implicit in wrongdoing poses a threat. The threat is that the message is true, that it’s O.K. for Kanye West to ruin your big moment, because you don’t matter as much as he does.
When you resent, Professor Hieronymi says, you protest that message. You insist, if only to yourself, that you do matter. The alternative is to acquiesce in your own mistreatment, to see yourself as less than Mr. West, as someone he can push offstage. And if you see yourself that way, other people might, too. Resentment is about self-respect — and self-protection.
Forgiveness is often understood as the release of resentment. That’s the source of the idea that you can’t move on without forgiveness. Resentment may be protective, the argument goes, but it can also be destructive. It eats you from the inside. So forgive and forget, some say. It’s the only way forward.
Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.