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Prostitutes, Strippers and Forgiveness

Sex scandals.  Terrible?  Shocking?  Repugnant?

How about forgiveable?

As someone who has made the resolution of conflict a full-time job, I can tell you that forgiveness — explicit or implicit — is a critical factor in every successful settlement.

But I tempted you to this post with sex scandals and do not wish to disappoint.

Today we’re not talking about Spitzer (NY Times asks about likely continued vitality of his law license here) but a Florida  appellate judge (below from the St. Petersburg Times courtesy of How Appealing).

A New York City stripper . . . . Christy Yamanaka says she had sex with 2nd District Court of Appeal Judge Thomas E. Stringer Sr. three times during their 15-year friendship.
She paid him rent in a home he once owned in Hawaii, and now lives in a New York City apartment leased under his name. She says the married father of five owes her hundreds of thousands of dollars that he helped hide from creditors. 

Looking for Forgiveness?  Try Women.  Then Remind the Men of their Trespasses.

Given these stark reminders of our universal need to forgive one another our human fallibility, it’s a good week for Anne Reed over at Deliberations to be talking about forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.

In her timely March 11 post Asking for Forgiveness, Anne introduces her readers to an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology entitled “Not so Innocent: Does Seeing One’s Own Capability for Wrongdoing Predict Forgiveness?”   Anne quotes the press release (since the article requires putting change in the vending machine) as follows:

Forgiveness can be a powerful means to healing, but it does not come naturally for both sexes. Men have a harder time forgiving than women do, according to Case Western Reserve University psychologist Julie Juola Exline. But that can change if men develop empathy toward an offender by seeing they may also be capable of similar actions. Then the gender gap closes, and men become less vengeful.

In seven forgiveness-related studies Exline conducted between 1998 through 2005 with more than 1,400 college students, gender differences between men and women consistently emerged. When asked to recall offenses they had committed personally, men became less vengeful toward people who had offended them. . . . .

The researchers found that people of both genders are more forgiving when they see themselves as capable of committing a similar action to the offender’s; it tends to make the offense seem smaller. Seeing capability also increases empathic understanding of the offense and causes people to feel more similar to the offenders. Each of these factors, in turn, predicts more forgiving attitudes. “Offenses are easier to forgive to the extent that they seem small and understandable and when we see ourselves as similar or close to the offender,” [Exline] said.

This study tends to answer the question — why does she stand there with him at the press conference?

More importantly, it serves as a reminder that we need only consult our own experience to forgive that of others.  How many of us, after all, in evaluating the times we did not get caught . . . . shoplifting, being unfaithful, driving in an intoxicated state, lying on our taxes, being casually cruel to people we love . . . can only sigh and say “there but for the grace of god . . . . “


Victoria Pynchon

Attorney-mediator Victoria Pynchon is a panelist with ADR Services, Inc. Ms. Pynchon was awarded her LL.M Degree in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute in May of 2006, after 25 years of complex commercial litigation practice, with sub-specialties in intellectual property, securities fraud, antitrust, insurance coverage, consumer class actions and all… MORE >

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