Sunday, August 23, 2009

Can You Forgive Michael Vick?

Is Forgiveness Selective Or Universal?
Are our beliefs, mandates and tenets of life absolute or are they conditional? Can we love our neighbors on the right, but not those pesky ones on the left? Is it ok to always tell the truth, except when it might get us in trouble? Should we not steal unless it's from the government (because they can afford it and owe it to us anyway)?

What about forgiveness? Do we believe in forgiveness as a foundational philosophy or only selectively. Specifically Michael Vick. Can we forgive him? Should he be forgiven?

I'm an animal lover and think dogs are almost human (often much nicer than humans), and I believe that animal cruelty is heinous. Animals are at our mercy and will do anything to please us, even follow us to their death for our pleasure or convenience. I can't think of much worse on earth than training dogs to become vicious fighters purely for the entertainment of men.

Yet I'm going to forgive Michael Vick. The reason is that one of the absolutes of my life is based on forgiveness. I've been forgiven (by friends, family, God and strangers) too many times to count. I didn't do the same awful thing Vick did but I've done things that were selfish, that caused pain and that lacked integrity. Still I've been forgiven.

Where is the dividing line between what we can forgive and what we can't? Who gets to make the call? I guess each of us does. But if we base this on a sliding scale instead of as a universal principle, there will never be order, justice, restoration or peace in the world.

I admit I might not have been able to forgive Vick as quickly if I didn't believe he was truly remorseful. I don't believe we need to be fools in order to be truly forgiving. If people do harmful things and don't show genuine regret—don't make changes, we'd be fools to forgive them. But when they demonstrate sorrow and seek redemption, I believe we should forgive them.

Most of us simply can't imagine the horrors of dog fighting or conceive of why anyone would find it entertaining, much less passionately promote it. I don't believe in using a bunch of psycho-babble about blaming our past for present mistakes, but after learning a bit about the pervasiveness of these events, it seems to be an insidious and perfectly acceptable practice in parts of American culture. Vick's childhood culture.

Michael Vick participated in some atrocious behavior and we would hope that on some level, every human being would just know it was wrong. But if all your role models and peers from earliest memory demonstrated that they condoned something, it would be challenging to go against the grain.

Vick lost millions of dollars, more than a year of his life and his reputation. He appears to realize this and appears to have genuine remorse. Tony Dungy, a former NFL coach who reaches out to men through prison ministry, believes in Vick's redemption. He's not a fool, so I'll trust his judgment and believe too.

Griping and protesting at football games where Vick plays will do little to rectify this monstrous cultural practice. But allowing Vick to educate and enlighten may be the biggest agent of change that could possibly have happened. For me, forgiveness is not a selective process. I believe Michael Vick is remorseful and I forgive him.

Can you forgive him? Was his punishment appropriate? Is forgiveness a selective process? Comment below.

Diane Markins


kathleen said...


I've watched a couple of Michael Vick's interviews and have also decided for myself that he should be forgiven. Whether or not he should be allowed back into the NFL, I've decided, is up to the NFL. They're driven by dollars and their fans will let them know via ticket sales if they agree with their decision or not. I agree that going to his games and complaining or protesting isn't as effective as not buying a ticket to his games if you disagree with the NFL's decision.

Dawn Rutledge said...

I read your article and love how you address the importance of not being selective in our extension of forgiveness. By our very nature, we are selective, but shouldn't be because God isn't. However, I think that there is a difference between extending forgiveness and feeling that there needs to be punishment for a crime. God disciplines those he loves which means there are consequences for our sins and bad choices. Without punishment, I don't believe we really learn much. That said, our redemption is between us and God. Perhaps he will come to a place of true repentence and turn his heart toward God.

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece, Diane! God forgave ALL at the cross, and it was for eternity. Who are we to take over His job, especially one that already has been completed through the blood of Christ? Only Michael Vick himself knows whether he is truly sorry for the things he did. And if he isn't, then his heart is God's business, not ours.

Your fan,
Doug Carroll

Linda S. Fitzgerald said...

As for Michael Vick, I guess I don't have feelings one way or another. I am an animal liker & know what he did was an atrocity, but his actions didn't rile me as those of others might have.

What I've learned over the years is this: the closer to me personally that evil or dastardly behavior comes, the more difficult it is to forgive. Even when the person is remorseful. I'm fond of saying that "someone can do/say what they want about me, but just let them start on my girls or grandchildren and that's a different story". For me, it's the same with forgiveness.

Having said that, I do know that forgiveness is not intended to be "selective" nor is it confined to one faith or religious tradition. We are told to "forgive 70 x 70. . . which from my perspective means all the time.

Another important lesson I learned at the feet of my long time friend and spiritual mentor Paul, is that we know we have forgiven when we can offer help to someone who has wronged us in some way. Added to that is the fact that when one can remember a wrong without the accompanying emotion or feelings - we have most likely forgiven.

I often say to PAPA. . . I'm having a hard time forgiving - help me to forgive.

Finally, the bottom line is - it's the person we are to forgive. We never have to forgive or condone the behavior. In the case of Michael Vick, it's the man we are to forgive. We don't have to forgive or condone the behavior. It remains that he did a dastardly thing - it was wrong. If he's truly remorseful, he'll never do it again and he will be a vocal advocate against such things being done by anyone in the future.

Just the rambling thoughts of a 'vintage' woman who knows some things we hope never happen - may happen & ask if we could do the unthinkable if they should. And that's forgive the perpetrator(s).

What say you?

Linda S. Fitzgerald,

Anonymous said...

I think that the "forgiveness" of Michael Vick might not be the right focal point. Michael Vick didn’t do anything to me. He did not sin against me. I’ve never met Michael Vick. Why does he need me to forgive him? Why do I need me to forgive him? Vick sinned against God. If a man cheats on his wife or robs a gas station I don’t need to forgive him of that wrong doing either. Vick needs to seek the forgiveness of the people who's lives he altered, and most importatly God's forgiveness.

However, the part in this that I can play is to encourage and support this man in whatever positive steps he’s willing to take in order to better himself through this. He’s made some bad decisions and he paid some stiff consequences. I think it's fair to let the man move on. Time will tell whether Vick is a changed man. Time will tell if he’s genuinely remorseful for the wrong he did.
-Jeff Markins

Anonymous said...

I loved this post! I got to thinking about whether or not forgiveness is something we do selectively and I think it absolutely is. I think choosing to forgive is something that we need to make a conscious decision to do regardless of the circumstances, and on a daily basis. Easier said than done obviously, but in choosing to make this a habit we'll be more prepared to forgive when bigger circumstances require this of us.
If we look at it from the perspective of whether or not Mike Vick is truely remorseful or not, it seems to me that we're trying to determine whether or not he deserves forgiveness. I didn't deserve it when Jesus took my sins upon himself, but he gave it to me. I can't think of anything that's more freeing or humbling than being given something I don't deserve. I think forgiveness is one of the absolute best ways to bless someone by showing love and compassion, even when they don't really deserve it.

Anonymous said...

I thought a lot about the Vick writing, Diane, and struggled with the forgiveness aspect. Then I remembered the Pope, many moons ago, going to the cell of the man who tried to kill him, to forgive... and I do believe and hope, that the Pope taught a lot of people a lesson.

It's a very difficult thing to forgive; however, we must, but we must not forget.... One hopes that Vick is truly sorry for his actions and is remorseful and not a public display to gain the public's attention to get back into a football career .... but then I stop to remember, he has to look at himself in the mirror in the morning and he will be confronted by his God..... and he has to live with the results.
Betty C.

Kurt and Theresia Whitfield said...

God doesn't consider Michael Vick's sin any worse than mine or yours or even Osama bin Laden or Hitler. To God, sin is sin. I agree with the writer who says that we have no need to forgive Michael Vick because he didn't sin against us. Perhaps forgive isn't the right word. Maybe we should "give him another chance" or "give him the benefit of the doubt". What he did is deplorable in my eyes. I'm an animal lover, and sometimes (a lot of times) prefer animals over people! But to say that "if people do harmful things and don't show genuine regret, we'd be fools to forgive them" negates the need for a Savior. The Bible doesn't say that we should forgive only because someone has shown genuine change. We are to forgive regardless, just as we have been forgiven by Him, even when we don't show genuine change or regret.

Great piece, as always!