America’s struggle for forgiveness


A drawing of silhouetted figures in a mountainous landscape looking at a ladder leading up through a lit circle.
Amanda Northrop/Vox

Vox writers examine why forgiveness is an elusive goal, and how we can all forge ahead.

By its very definition, forgiveness puts the burden on victims to figure out a path forward, to move on from the harm they endured. That conception of forgiveness is limiting. We wanted to ask, why has America been unable to reckon with its past? What should happen after we uncover major wrongdoings, on both systemic and personal levels, as we saw with the Me Too movement? What can we do to face our faults but still forge ahead, stronger and more thoughtful than we were before?

We are living through an angry, polarized time when just broaching the idea of forgiveness might seem out of step with the zeitgeist. But it’s worth talking about forgiveness now precisely for that reason. We shouldn’t think of forgiveness as a luxury we can dispense in the best of times. It is something we should confront and consider precisely when it’s hard to do.

Over the next week, we will publish several pieces on the theme of forgiveness: its role in a civilized society, its potential for catharsis, its challenges and limits. We hope they spark introspection, start thoughtful conversations, and make the case for the construction of a more forgiving American future.

A Black woman sitting in her house at a table and looking out the window.
Amber N. Ford for Vox

When justice isn’t served, how do we find forgiveness?

Delores White said she was defending her daughter. She went to jail anyway.

by Marin Cogan and Madeleine O’Neill

A drawing of a silhouette of a person looking out over a landscape and a sky with a few clouds.
Amanda Northrop/Vox

The limits of forgiveness

A philosopher on the complicated role of forgiveness in a polarized society.

by Sean Illing

Illustration of a circle with a line through it, surrounded by arrows leading around the circle.
Amanda Northrop/Vox

Everyone wants forgiveness, but no one is being forgiven (Coming Tuesday)

The state of modern outrage is a cycle. Could a culture of forgiveness ever break it?

by Aja Romano

Illustration of two silhouetted people inside overlapping circles, with one person holding out a hand.
Amanda Northrop/Vox

The promise — and problem — of restorative justice (Coming Wednesday)

Who is restorative justice restoring?

by Jerusalem Demsas


Gianluigi Guercia/AFP via Getty Images

The impossible task of truth and reconciliation (Coming Thursday)

Commissions are a common tool to expose atrocities after war and genocide. It is reconciliation — and forgiveness — that are harder to come by.

by Jen Kirby

A drawing of a person looking up at a ladder going through a lit hole.
Amanda Northrop/Vox

How to forgive someone who isn’t sorry (Coming Friday)

Some people will never admit wrongdoing. It’s still possible for you to move forward.

by Rachel Wilkerson Miller