Reconciliation: Meaning and Process

Humans are a highly sociable species that rely on healthy social relationships with people around them for their well-being. However, the objectives of typical individuals are continuously at odds with that of others. As a result, we routinely injure one another in the process—through harsh words, physical violence, robbing, deceiving, and other means. Moreover, what we accomplish as individuals are amplified when we act in concerted groups. How can we repair an excellent relationship when we have hurt someone or a group with which we require or must coexist?

What is Reconciliation?

Reconciliation always has existed and is a crucial and ubiquitous idea in human civilizations. Our beginning point is a connection involving two or more things (people, states, etc.). If there is peace between the parties, they will, at the very least, refrain from harming one another and, at the very best, continue to cooperate and live in harmony. Conflicts will undoubtedly emerge, but they will be settled without violence. When this situation continues over time, trust is built.

This indicates that both entities may be trusted to behave benignly in a non-harmful manner. However, instances exist where harm is caused to one or more participants of the relationship, frequently due to pursuing divergent objectives. A person's body or mind could be harmed, affecting how they create themselves, others, and their future. Trust erodes or evaporates as the connection becomes tense. The victim probably sees the abuser as owing them something moral.

One possibility, in such cases, is retribution, in which the injured party intentionally harms the perpetrator to exact revenge and, in their minds, cancels the debt. Moving away physically or emotionally to end the relationship is another option, but this is frequently undesirable or impractical. States are unable to leave their neighbouring states behind. There is reconciliation at the end. Reconciliation can be viewed as the establishment of a peaceful situation in the connection, where the parties are at least not causing harm to one another and can start to be believed not to do so in the future, negating the possibility of retaliation. Reconcile is the verb form which implies cooperating amicably.

What is to be Healed?

These are

Process of Reconciliation

It can be understood under the following sub-headings

Truth − Finding the truth about wrongs committed can be relatively straightforward or highly challenging, divisive, and hazardous for the truth-teller. The truth coming out could put powerful interests in danger. Those who document the truth about tragedies amid forces hoping to obscure this knowledge perform a crucial task. Beyond a straightforward assessment of the harms caused, more has to be learned. It is essential to comprehend who did what, why, and with what goals. In straightforward situations, all that is required to bring about a reconciliation is the admission that the harm done was unintentional. Extensive causation chains can be traced in complex circumstances, accounting for the impact of violent structures, violent cultures, and false information.

Acknowledgement − Offending parties must sincerely recognise to the victim their culpability for the damage done or their part in the intricate roots of the suffering. Along with the verifiable data of the harm, the admission must also address the emotional significance of the harm. It is difficult to stress how crucial this admission is for victims. It is because their sorrow has been acknowledged for what it is. Someone has admitted guilt over it.

Apology − The perpetrator must sincerely apologise to the recipient for the pain they have caused. The criminal goes above and beyond accepting accountability. They acknowledge acting inconsistently with some norms of human conduct and recognise their moral obligation to the victim. Indications of guilt (coming short of one's own moral, decorum, or practice standards) and embarrassment (knowledge of failing to meet society's expectations) may be included in an apology. It may take much challenging inner work on the offender's part to transition from the point of harming the position of regretting it and feeling guilty about it. These efforts might be supported by people who uphold societal norms of behaviour, such as religious authorities, therapists, or peacemakers. This significant depth of substance in an apology explains why it can be challenging to get individuals to apologise even when it seems appropriate. Additionally, there may be a concern that an ethical obligation will be considered a financial debt. An apology from the victim might well be accepted or denied. If the apology were perceived as disingenuous or did not adequately acknowledge the injury, it would likely be rejected.

Forgiveness − In most cases, an apology is accompanied by, or suggests, a request for forgiveness. The victim has the option of granting or refusing it. Only the victim can forgive, as stated throughout the South African Truth and Reconciliation process. This is important when third parties, like the church or the government, are working to promote reconciliation and fervently want people to show their forgiveness to others who are not yet ready to do so. However, there were numerous other victims besides the main target of the brutality, and atonement may be appropriate for all those who suffered. Forgiveness is a complex inner operation for the victim. It requires shifting from anger, bitterness, the conviction that the offender owes them a moral debt, the desire for vengeance, and undertaking the association with the perpetrator while still harbouring these emotions and beliefs to a stance of letting go of fury, rescinding the debt, forgoing vengeance, and, if the relationship is to continue, dropping any mention of the wrongs that have previously been committed Many people who undergo this process view it as liberating because it allows them to let go of loads of rage, resentment, or thoughts of retaliation.

Justice − Finding appropriate definitions for our setting is challenging because notions of justice are crucial to our moral behaviour. We could distribute goods and bad fairly. Which is just? This will be determined by culture. The most straightforward response is equal or altered as necessary (for example, some individuals require more healthcare than others). Many societies consider it acceptable to give women less of the available resources. Not only should things be divided appropriately, but also "bad", like taxes in society and household chores. We tend to feel that there ought to be some equilibrium in those significant "bad" we are contemplating here when harm is committed by one being on another, and the offender should suffer some bad. No one should let them "get away with it." Discourse now criticises the "culture of impunity." Retaliation is the most overt and primary method of countering negatives.

What Helps and Hinders Reconciliation?


  • Strongly endorsed cultural values of forgiveness,

  • Complex understanding of causality

  • Blame’ distributed in many players

  • Aspiration to inner peace or psychological healing after harm, coupled with the belief that forgiveness will foster that peace

  • Impartial ourside party


  • Strong values of revenge and retribution, particularly if linked to 'masculinity

  • Suppression of painful memories

  • One party being strong in a military or economic sense and not acknowledging harm done

  • Avoid adopting supplicant position of making an apology


Building a climate of peace via bringing peace and reconciling requires establishing stable and long-lasting amicable connections between opposing sides to an unresolvable conflict. This refers to the peace procedure, which in principle is a protracted process of significant social reform encompassing the development of a new socio-psychological oeuvre that enables coming to an understanding with the antagonist and the establishment of an allied partnership rooted in trust and acknowledgement, collaboration, and forethought of reciprocated necessities. Success in this challenging socio-psychological project could give people hope for a life without suffering and bloodshed.

Updated on: 20-Feb-2023


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