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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Can we forgive the past?

Rika Kayama (Mainichi)

Recently, a teenage girl was safely recovered after going missing for over two years. A 23-year-old man was arrested over the case, on suspicion of kidnapping a minor.

    The truth of what happened will be brought to light in court, but if the man admits to the allegations, I hope he will properly recognize the gravity of what he has done, and atone for his crime.

    The man was a university student when he allegedly kidnapped the girl, and in March this year he received his graduation diploma. However, his school, Chiba University, has announced it will "temporarily cancel and hold in suspension" the man's diploma.

    The university's explanation for why it did so was "A crime committed while someone was a student at our school may be grounds for disciplinary action, and may violate our policy of only giving university diplomas to students who have abided by the rules of society."

    Indeed, if the alleged kidnapping had come to light before the student received his diploma, I am sure he would have received punishment such as expulsion. However, at the time he received his diploma, the kidnapping had not yet been discovered. In this case, can we punish a student for past events?

    Although it can't really be used as a comparison, I sometimes have patients who come to my consultation room and tell me, "There was a problem in my husband's past. I married him without knowing, and I've been told just now. Should I forgive and accept my husband?"

    It depends on the seriousness of the problem, but in these cases usually I will ask, "What is your husband like now?" When the response is, "I think he is a very kind and diligent person," I advise them, "Well then, why not consider your husband as being a different person than he was when that problem happened?"

    People change, and even if we bring up the issues in a person's past and press them about it, there is nothing they can do about it now. Instead, I think looking at "What do we want to do now?" is better for everyone involved.

    Of course, there are things that cannot just be forgotten. Still, I think it is important to sometimes have the attitude of "Let's not go looking in the past."

    As for the alleged kidnapper, the courts will now judge him. I don't think that evaluating the severity of former students' crimes is something that universities should be doing. Or is my own view biased? (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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