In Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower, he tells about when, as a young Jewish concentration camp prisoner, he was taken from a concentration camp to sit at a dying German soldier’s bedside. He listens as the soldier confesses to helping herd hundreds of Jews into a house and setting it ablaze. Anyone able to escape the conflagration was shot. From his deathbed, the soldier begs for forgiveness and peace but is met only with silence.

Should young Wiesenthal have forgiven the soldier for his part in burning alive those Jews or was he right to say nothing and walk away?

Some notables answered that Sunflower question:

  • British university professor, Daniel Daiches: “The other question raised by the story is whether one has a right to forgive on behalf of others somebody who has willingly inflicted the most appalling miseries on human being. The question here, it seems to me, revolves around the meaning of the word ‘forgiveness.’ Daiches answers that by saying, “… I don’t see how in any genuinely meaningful sense one individual can offer forgiveness for crimes not committed against him.”
  • Noted American author and college professor, Herbert Gold: “I believe the SS man had no right to ask for forgiveness…”
  • President of the Federal Republic of Germany, 1969 to 1974, Gustav W. Heinemann: “The conflict between Justice (in the form of Law) and Forgiveness is the thread that runs through your story. Justice and Law, however essential as they are, cannot exist without Forgiveness. That is the quality that Jesus Christ added to Justice and with which He gave it life. Such are my feelings in the matter.”
  • British journalist and publisher, Mark Goulden: I would have silently left the deathbed having made quite certain there was now one Nazi less in the world.”

And what about you? What would you have done were you that young Jew?

Meanwhile, how forgiving are you in your every day?

Back in January 1999, Prevention Magazine offered a very short version of the Enright Forgiveness Inventory designed by psychologist Robert Enright, Ph.D. Before taking it, think of the person who most recently mistreated/hurt you, answering the following questions that best reflect your feelings about him/her.

SD = Strongly Disagree     D = Disagree     A = Agree     SA = Strongly Agree

  1. The best description of my feelings is that I…
    a .resent him or her (SD-4, D-3, A-2, SA-1)
    b. dislike him or her (SD-4, D-3, A-2, SA-1)
    c. love him or her (SD-1, D-2, A-3, SA-4)
  2. When I think about the person, I…
    a. wish him or her well (SD-1, D-2, A-3, SA-4)
    b. think kindly about him or her (SD-1, D-2, A-3, SA-4)
    c. do not respect the person at all (SD-4, D-3, -2, SA-1)
  3. If given the opportunity, I would…
    a. return his or her phone call (SD-1, D-2, A-3, SA-4)
    b. put the person down (SD-4, D-e, A-2, SA-1)
    c. try to be helpful (SD-1, D-2, A-3, SA-4)

Scoring: Total your points and compare them to the scoring below:

9-12 points:     You’re not forgiving the person and perhaps you’re still angry.
13-20 points:   You’re not forgiving but 21-26 but moving in the direction of forgiveness.
21-26 points:   You’re in transition to forgiveness.
27-36 points:    You’re forgiving.

Taking it just now myself, I thought of Vladimir Putin and the embattled Ukrainians…

With my thanks and prayers ~ Carol