Musings on decisions and factors that drive them.
Judgment and forgiveness
Sat, Apr 29 2000 04:00
"Company, villainous company, hath been the spoil of me."
Falstaff, Henry IV
Condemnation can come swiftly, from a single act. Forgiveness takes almost an eternity and is webbed with complexity. The NY Times reports on the overt "shunning" of Ruth Madoff by her former hairdresser, florist and others. The similar plight of several other wives of convicted white collar criminals are discussed comparatively. These other wives seem to fare better in the comparison. A distinguishing factor in their redemption seems to have been their level of repentance, as exemplified by actions and attitude, something of which, to date, Ruth Madoff has shown little.
There are facts that bluntly seem to discourage any sense of forgiveness for Ruth Madoff. She wasn't just on the periphery of the crime. She worked for her husband's company, and also took the time to transfer jewelry and other assets to her family, once his Ponzi scheme and the extent of its harm to charities and others, were revealed.
Comparative analysis, the ability to separate and distinguish, and the ability to balance subjective and objective factors are key to reaching decisions with which we are comfortable. Emotions need to be integrated into any analysis leading to a judgment/decision. What we feel in our guts during the making of decisions is key to the conclusions we draw. We are human. The subjective, the emotional, will always be a huge element in our "thinking."
The Ruth Madoff story can serve as an example of an emotional "decision," although in reality our personal judgment is rarely analyzed quite so transparently or deliberately as will follow. First the greater context would be established: "to determine 'forgivability.'" Viable comparative analysis depends on apples-to-apples structure. Our category for comparison could be scoped to "criminals' spouses." We follow by listing characteristics that are currently being expressed that show redemptive qualities. These criteria can be highly subjective, objective or both. Here are a few:
- Exhibits a sincere attitude of remorse.
- Has taken actions to rectify injustices directly.
- Has performed services to offset injustices that cannot be rectified directly.
- Has been authoritatively determined to have had little or no involvement in the crime itself.
- Has distanced from the convicted criminal ("the company we keep").
- Has returned or shed ill-gotten gains (but not to family).
Each of these criteria has a different level of importance to each of us. Determining that relative importance, and then assessing each person against all of them will confirm and lay out visually what our guts tell us. We will be able to see precisely how we view each person relative to the others.
Decisions are the end point in the process of judgment. Precise and bearing finality. The ending of consideration. The end to deliberation. The process of deciding will always be influenced by both emotional and objective factors. Both types need to be recognized as valid. We can be sure that many influences will be at play when we judge, or, are judged. And if, when, and how, we forgive.