Should We Forgive & Forget Mark Sanford?

Lewis B. Smedes said: “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”

It is a virtue in our society to forgive; and it is becoming an increasingly rare thing to see. The saying goes like this: “Forgive & forget.” I’ve heard that axiom over and over again throughout the course of my young life. Forgive and forget. When someone does something wrong, it is imperative that you forgive them, even if they don’t care to be forgiven. However, I have always taken issue with the latter half of that adage. To forget a wrong that someone has done only serves to make you the fool in the end. Rather, I would simply say: forgive.

Following the appointment of Tim Scott to the Senate by Governor Nikki Haley, of South Carolina, a Congressional seat is now vacant. A run-off election is being held to fill that recent vacancy. There are many candidates vying for the Congressional seat, but one in particular is stirring my nerves. That candidate is Mark Sanford.

Remember Mark Sanford? He was the Governor of South Carolina that cheated on his wife, lied about it, then became engaged to his mistress. Following the obvious public outcry, he later resigned in shame. Now, this same Mark Sanford is running for Congress.

On a campaign stop at a local restaurant, Sanford said this: “Are you ready to change things in Washington?…I’m incredibly humbled by the outpouring of support we have seen tonight.”

He also said this: “We all hope for a second chance. I believe in a God of second chance.”

According to Town Hall: “Unofficial results show Sanford received about 37 percent of the vote in the southern coastal district. It was unclear who he would face in the April 2 GOP runoff.”

This situation has put me in an unusual state of mind. On one hand, his record as Governor–prior to the scandal–was pretty solid. On the other hand, the nature of the scandal, and his deception makes me extremely wary about his candidacy. There is so much to consider when looking at a person, such as Sanford, who has been mired in scandal, and whose name is scarred so badly.

Will his appointment to Congress–should he be elected–harm or benefit the country and the Republican Party? Should his prior indiscretions forever prevent him from holding a position of political power? Can we truly examine Sanford’s heart, and reach an accurate conclusion? Do his prior indiscretions show a crack in his integrity that is beyond repair? Does this chink in his character matter in terms of elected office?

There are so many questions in regard to Mark Sanford that need to be thought about carefully. In the end, it depends on whether or not you believe Sanford to be a competent leader, despite his failings. It also depends on whether you believe that he is truly remorseful, or that he is simply a con-artist.

If we can’t let go of what Sanford did; if we mercilessly scrutinize his every move, we may destroy a forgiven man, and lose this seat unnecessarily. On the other hand, if we simply accept him as a Phoenix that has risen from the ashes, we may be made the fools with yet another scandal, which would ultimately damage our Party.

Trust, but verify. Maybe there’s a middle road. Perhaps we can trust that Mark Sanford is truly a changed man, while also keeping a close eye on him. We can give him our trust on limited terms.

If we reject him outright based on his past indiscretions, we are hypocrites. No one among us is perfect. This is a thin wire upon which we walk, but it is a wire that needs to walked upon.