Forgiveness, as mashed potatoes, the relationship to restorative justice.

We all contain operate on a mixutre of fuel.  That fuel can be knowledge gained in a book, experiences that shaped beliefs and our own attitudes and values.  My understanding of restorative justice and forgiveness was developed in very much the same way.  Articles by Mark Umbriet,  Marilyn Armour and the fact they have both trained me, have influenced me.  Many other great leaders in the practice David Lehrman, Kay Pranis, Nancy Riestenberg in conversations or trainings we have chatted about forgiveness and restorative justice. 

So this blog post is Kris Miner’s relationship to forgiveness and restorative justice.  Mashed potatoes are forgiveness.  Just a simple metaphor, go with me on this.  Can you do much with mashed potatoes without a plate?  Not exactly a finger food.  Although I have seen them shaped into snowmen, when my daughter was 9 I ate lunch with her at school.  Back to this metaphor!  Mashed potatoes are best served on a plate.

I believe restorative justice is the plate.  It creates a context for understanding, empathy, dialogue, the restoration of connections.  Some victims may choose to put mashed potatoes on the plate, and say “I forgive you”.  Does restorative justice seek out to have people forgive, NO, absolutely not.  Restorative Justice and forgiveness both have healing benefits and some might say ‘theraputic’.  The way I see it, restorative jusitce focuses on the core restorative values:  harms, needs, obligation and engagement.  These 4 words, are Howard Zehr’s 3 pillars of Restorative Justice.  I like things in 3’s and I use the three swirls of the SCVRJP logo to explain restorative justice.

In addition to the Zehr pillars – the triad’s of Restorative Jusitce are Victim/Offender/Community AND empathy/self-worth/connections.  So we have a 9 key concepts here.  You apply all of them to each other, a few examples:

-consider the harms and needs for both victims and offenders

-involve vicitm, offender and community in creating the obligations – responding to harm

-address the connections between victim and offender, victim and the crime, offender and the wrong-doing

-recognize that self-worth is important for those that authored harm and those that experienced it

Restorative Justice is also about the process, the type of experience when putting people together – a conference or circle session.  Its about the context used to faciltate the concepts.  Here is the thing about forgiveness, it can happen deeply and personally and it can occur without the other person even knowing about it.  Someone gave me a quote: 

when you forgive someone, you release the right to punish them

Restorative Justice is not about punishment and at the same time, it’s not about forgiveness, forgivness is a great by product that often occurs.  I have also experienced this quote in action, that once you speak your peace, the desire to punish evaporates.  I wouldn’t start with this quote, because I think the first thing people need is to be heard.

Restorative Justice is about creating the plate, and that keeps practitioners plenty busy.  I believe in the value of forgiveness, it’s healing qualities are documented time and time again.  I keep a close eye on the concept, love the work of the Fetzer Institute.  What I love more, is that Restorative Justice empowers people to decide for themselves if they are going to be forgiving.  That is empowering when you self select your healing.

Yesterday a Mom talked about what she would take away from the session.  She was glad that she could now see the offender in the community and not be pissed off.  We didn’t talk about forgiveness, in restorative justice, we have it, its just more of a feeling or sense than a concept.  I sure like being the person that gives people a plate for those potatoes!