What exactly is forgiveness

It used to be that forgiveness was considered to be allowing someone to commit acts of evil without trying to hold them accountable. However now the idea has become popular that forgiveness is not an act of saying ‘its ok’ to harm people, or not asking for justice to be served, it is merely letting go of and not wanting to act on feelings of rage and hate.

However this doesn’t really add up. Alot of humdrum was made of the Pope visiting his would be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca in prison, but the pope did not try to get him out of prison. Arguably the pope still wanted this person to suffer for what he did, so how can he have forgiven him? If forgiveness is letting go of desires to punish and harm people, why do many of the posterchilds of forgiveness still encourage the people who hurt them to go to prison? It doesn’t add up, they still seem to crave punishment even if they don’t know it. How is it possible to forgive someone and not desire them to be held accountable for their actions? Is forgiveness the desire to hold someone accountable without making them suffer unnecessarily?


Forgive has, and always has had, multiple meanings attached to it, and not all of them equate to “absolve.”

Nah, I don’t see the point in trying to cite a cultural reference.

I’m not religious, but for me to ‘forgive’ someone means that even though I think I was wronged, I’m not going to let it ruin my overall outlook or attitude as much as possible. This is a separate issue from punishment for me. For me, ‘forgivness’ is all internal.

Bear in mind that forgiving someone is a personal act, while punishment is a social one. In other words, I may forgive someone for hurting me yet still believe he should be in jail, not because of what he did to me, but because he broke the law.

In other words, forgiving someone means that subjectively, you bear him no ill will, but objectively he still deserves punishment.

Besides, sometimes people grant forgiveness to make themselves feel better.

Forgiveness has never been about failure to hold someone accountable. In many Biblical references, forgiveness is preceded by repentance. When forgiveness is given as a free gift, it is hoped that the graceful act of forgiving would lead to repentance and thus healing of the relationship.

Even as a kid, I was taught that the idea that forgiveness is a “free pass” was a shallow interpretation. Forgiveness is intended to heal the wounds done by the act – to the souls of those concerned, and to whatever relationship may have existed prior to the act. The wrong-doer still needs to take ownership of his transgression, and the wronged party needs to be freed of the anger, hate and other negative emotions arising from the transgression. It’s a spiritual health issue, not a justice issue.

The late Pope visited Mehmet Ali Agca and reached a personal reconciliation with him, but he understood that there was still a civil penalty to be paid for his actions – “render unto Ceasar”, and all that. The Pope, being a religious type, was more concerned with the state of the man’s soul than where his physical carcass was situated.

I agree.

Well, if you’re going to claim that it was once a fairly universal stance, then you might want to bring evidence that that was actually the case, especially since that’s the foundation your debate is built upon.

Good for you.

Forgiving others is a practical choice. It is done for the one who forgives and not for the forgiven. It releases the anger and hate and allows the forgiver to start afresh with the situation. This is only true, of course, if the forgiveness is honest and real. It is one of the basic spiritual tools that allow us to mature emotionally.

It has nothing to do with punishment.

I think this is partly true. Certainly when we sincerely forgive it does good for our own peace of mind. I see it as something for the person forgiven as well. To help them forgive themselves and release any guilt they may have. The question is are they ready? Do they acknowledge they are in need of forgiveness?

We all have need to be forgiven for something. We all have our little idiosyncracies and flaws. Forgiveing others helps us forgive ourselves as well.

I think the question is does forgiving the person mean to let go of any desire for amends or some sort of compensation. The Bible says to continue to forgive {seventy times seven} MAn that seems impractical. If my neighbor keeps borrowing things and doesn’t return them do I continue to lend. That seems stupid. However if I refuse to lend anything else have I truly forgiven. If a friend lies to me one too many times and I decide to stop associateing with them , have I truly forgiven? Lingering anger and resentment isn’t good for the soul.

From a legal standpoint I expect someone to pay a price for their crimes. Compensation to the victim if possible. Our legal system doesn’t do that much.
Forgiveness means they are given encouragement and an opportunity to live a decent life. Some things are pretty dam hard to forgive.

And some things just should not be forgiven. If I forgive a personal wrong, particularly one that isn’t acknowledged as such by the offending party, I am in essence giving that person a “get out of jail free” card. Forgiveness must be earned. But even that is not always possible.

The reason forgiving others seems so complicated is the lack of true forgiving. Without going into detail there must be millions of things we feel slighted about, and millions more the times we are treated unfairly. Hopefully not too many times will we become victims of crime.

This is the nature of the world we live in, it happens to everyone, those that can forgive quickly and get on with their lives will overcome the world. This is what Jesus was teaching. It is not impractical. Forgiveness is best used with non-judgment. These two spiritual values bring peace and calm to anyone using them correctly.

Forgiveness in the Oprah sense is easy. Only Oprah could make it out to be such a big deal. Once you’ve “forgivien“, say, that creep who murdered your child, or that boss who stole your ideas and made YOU out to be a pariah, or that great friend who utterly betrayed your trust, the question becomes: Do you ever trust that individual again? Does forgiveness not include complete absolution of the particular transgression? If not, why not? After all, if you’ve truly forgiven another, I think you’ve committed to wiping the slate totally clean.

Utterly impossible, of course. Letting go of the anger and resentment are one thing. I think that can be healthy. But if we’re talking about completely erasing the memory from one’s personal record, it ain’t happening. And that would have to include a reemergence of the memory, reencountering the emotions that were involved for oneself, and thinking, “To hell with you, asshole. I remember what you did to me before. I’m not falling for that again.”

Oprah is right, forgiveness does wipe the slate clean if it is honest. As for trusting someone who cheated you before, it depends on “what” you are trusting. If a known con man offers you a deal, you can always say no. You are not obligated to deal with, work with, or even be around people who make you feel uncomfortable.

Jesus taught forgiveness, non-judgement, and love one another. These are the basic spiritual values. He walked His talk nearly all the time. He was not perfect, said so Himself. But He did show us the path to enlightenment. In order to understand these values better it is necessary to believe in the afterlife. Without an afterlife our personal existence is futile. No purpose, meaning, or future to guide us, no vision of hope to sustain us. But there is an afterlife, so we have a direction and goal. Something to do and some where to go. We are preparing ourselves for that afterlife now. We use the spiritual values to help us understand who we are and where we are going.

Forgive you once, shame on you.
Forgive you twice, shame on me.

Or something like that.

I don’t believe that forgiveness is equivalent or fundamentally tied to “forgetting”. Hence, the phrase, “forgive AND forget”.

I believe that sometimes it is worthwhile to forget, other times it is not. Neither is made necessary by the choice to forgive.

I see forgiveness as a personal choice, the intention of the decision to be of primary benefit to self. If there are positive results to other involved parties, that is certainly gravy, but forgiveness itself is for self.

I see forgiveness as acceptance. I accept that something happened. I accept that I may attach negative emotions to it. I accept that I cannot do anything to make it not happen, as it is now in the past. My forgiveness lies in the fact that I choose not to harbour ill will, hateful thoughts, notions of retribution, nor do I wish to suffer from a victim mentality. I release what has happened to me and any negativity that may as a result have affected the way I interact with my world.

Let’s say I forgive an ex-girlfriend for having cheated. In forgiveness, I choose to not let the revelation affect my desire for other relationships, the degree to which I will trust others, my overall feeling about the “goodness” of humanity, or any other filter that put on the world around me. I also choose to believe that the event does not make her a “bad” person. Does it mean I’m free to date her again? Not necessarily. I may not believe that she won’t do it again. For that reason, I may not be desirious of re-entering an intimate relationship with her.

Luckily, however, that has nothing to do with the choice of forgiveness. It resides fully within me and is almost completely independent of the event itself.

I don’t believe forgiveness must be earned. I do think it’s something we need to do for ourselves even if the offendor never acknowledges their offense. It can be something healing for the offendor but I do think that gift requires an understanding of the offense, recognition, and true repentance. {Go your way AND SIN NO MORE}

Non forgiveness has a long term effect. If we’re holding on to hurts our parents did to us, or betrayals in previous relationships, that takes its toll on current relationships. Haveing an offense that remains unacknowledged by the offender makes forgiveness more challenging but I think it’s just as nessecary.

It is a spiritual mystery. If someone lies to me and never acknowledges the lie, I may forgive them for the human failing of lieing, but does that mean I have to trust them?

Does true forgiveness require that I continue to be friends with someone who I believe will be dishonest again? I am free to choose what I believe is a positive path for myself which may mean I don’t choose to be around negative energy.

Forgiveness is, IMO, a personal decision to let go of an internal emotionally negative feeling. It is possible for forgiveness and the relinquishment of a desire for retribution to be intertwined, but it does not have to be so.