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ninjacolin's avatar

What is forgiveness and what do you think about it?

Asked by ninjacolin (14238points) October 15th, 2013
32 responses
“Great Question” (3points)

The concept. The practice. The potential.. What do you think about it?

Firstly, what is forgiveness? How is it best defined? How do you understand it?

Buncha questions: Does forgiveness have any effects in the real world? Does it have any real potential to help a situation at all? Is forgiveness sometimes a good idea and sometimes a bad idea? What makes the difference? Do you know anyone who forgiveness could help? Is there anyone you think you ought to forgive?

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Coloma's avatar

It works. You’ll know it when it happens.
Forgiveness is freeing yourself not the other.
Forgiveness is really acceptance.

Accepting that those who have done us wrong or hurt us were incapable of behaving any differently, therefore, it is never “personal” just the actions of an unconscious persons ego.
It’s always a good idea, but it doesn’t mean you keep people in your life that are harmful to your well being in whatever manner they are. It just means you FEEL compassion for the screwed up person and understand that their actions and behaviors are the results of their own bullshit.

KNOWITALL's avatar

It’s not forgetting, it’s letting go of anger, resentment & it’s a beautiful thing. One of life’s best lessons for me.

tom_g's avatar

I agree with the answers above. For me, it is acknowledging that anger and resentment is only harmful to me. When I have been able to forgive, it is simply dropping the anger and resentment, which is quite a liberating experience.

Also, in my experience, when I have truly forgiven someone, it has allowed defensive walls to come down (in the person I have forgiven). Sincere compassion and love seem to fill in the holes left by the defensiveness.

zenvelo's avatar

@Coloma and @KNOWITALL pretty much summed it up. And it does have real effects in the world, without forgiveness the world would be a much worse place. And it is never a bad idea, if it seems a bad idea, then you’re mistaking some kind of excuse or forgetting as forgiveness.

Forgiveness is reconciling our selves to the world and to the cosmos, allowing us to move on. It is not easy, but it is necessary if we wish to be at peace with the world.

JamesHarrison's avatar

Forgiveness may be good or bad decision because it totally depends on condition, time, person. Forgiveness is good if the person is loyal & he/she made that mistake conditionally. But, it may be bad if the person made that mistake unconditionally or to harm any person without a proper reason.

SABOTEUR's avatar

The concept of forgiveness is misunderstood. The way we usually practice it is backwards: someone says or does something that I decide to take offense to. Then I bestow grace upon that person by pretending to overlook whatever the offense was.

True forgiveness is finding no fault. If there’s no one to fault, there’s nothing to forgive.

Seek's avatar

‘I forgive you.’

If those words don’t let the wrong doer off the hook, I’m hanging up this language now.

I get that there’s been a big push by self help authors to make the concept of forgiveness a healing thought activity, but that’s complete hokum. They need to come up with a new word.

Forgiveness is a gift to be granted to those who have recognized their wrongdoing, apologised in sincerity, and have attempted to make amends.

Too often we offer forgiveness to those who don’t deserve it. That’s how abuse cycles start. And continue.

SABOTEUR's avatar

I was taught a while ago that you do as great a disservice in taking offense as you do when giving offense.

Seek's avatar

@SABOTEUR – assume for a moment that you were the lifelong victim of an emotionally abusive family. There was no escape, since all outward appearance was normal, and this abuse leaves no bruises.

Now, as an adult, you experience severe social anxiety, cannot focus on tasks, and fear judgment from any authority figure. Even the idea of making a phone call makes you nervous.

Are you to blame for your condition? Will forgiving your wrongdoers change your situation, or just lower your guard for the next person to come take advantage of you? What disservice is done by the victim in this situation?

SABOTEUR's avatar

I look at it this way…holding offense of any kind does greater physical and emotional damage than the actual occurrence. Forgiveness offers nothing to the offending party, it frees you from carrying negativity and it’s inevitable destructive effects.

Seek's avatar


I’m starting to think ‘negativity’ is just another woo-woo buzzword, like ‘toxins’.

filmfann's avatar

I think it is important to forgive people who ask to be forgiven.
Letting them off the hook for something is not the same as forgetting they ever did it, but I couldn’t tell you where to draw the line. The result is that I just let things go, or try to.

SABOTEUR's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr lol…call it what you will, the effects of carrying anything self destructive is an act of insanity. Who in their right mind intentionally carries within them anything that hurts them unless they like feeling hurt?

So it always comes down to a choice…do I want to place what happened to me in perspective and let it go, or do I entertain the memory, continually relive the experience and surrender my peace?

The answer you accept will depend upon what you value most.

Judi's avatar

Forgiveness is giving up your right to revenge.
Forgiveness is releasing your heart from the anxiety and anger that consumes you like a cancer.
Forgiveness is NOT allowing people to repeatedly abuse you. It is NOT accepting unacceptable behavior. It is NOT putting yourself in a position to be hurt.
Forgiveness is releasing the anger and seeing the other person for the flawed broken person they are and maybe even with compassion. It doesn’t mean you give them power over you or your emotions again.

SABOTEUR's avatar

@Judi Well said.

OneBadApple's avatar

Forgiveness should always be gauged while considering the enormity of the offense. Two of my very good, lifelong friends are brothers, one of whom was caught screwing the other’s wife on a regular basis. Thirty years later, the brothers are still estranged and in my opinion, no forgiveness is deserved or should be expected.

Should we all forgive Tim McVeigh ?....bin Ladin ?.....Hitler…??

Olive branches in many cases are nice….but are not always a catch-all magical “healing” device….

tom_g's avatar

Might be relevant for Radiolab fans. In particular, check out the Dear Hector section.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@OneBadApple I have a situation with a family member that I’m really finding difficult to forgive since it involved their treatment of my mom during cancer treatment.

I told them I didn’t want them in my life, etc…, but I need to let go of my anger towards them and usually I’m pretty good at it, but hurting my mom at that time in her life is almost unforgivable, I gotta pray more I guess. :(

SABOTEUR's avatar

@OneBadApple Good point. Let’s not forget slavery, General Custer and Jerry Springer. Not to mention those dudes that nailed that other dude to a wooden cross. How the hell do you forgive something that atrocious?

Somebody ought to do something about it!

Seek's avatar

I think there is an important difference between wilfully separating yourself from people who harm you, and forgiving them.

In my mind, forgiveness is complete.

I have forgiven my father for disappearing when I was twelve. I understand his reasons and sympathise with them. So no matter how much it hurts to not have him around, if I saw him this afternoon, I’d hug him and call him Daddy.

My mother made choices, disliked the results, and punished her children for it. Her sin was wilfully committed and to this day she disavows any blame. I have removed myself from her life and do not intend to return. I do not forgive her and do not see forgiveness happening.

Judi's avatar

If forgiveness is giving in I totally agree with you. You shouldn’t ever put yourself in an abusive situation. But if forgiveness is purging the anger and resentment from your heart, then it is possible (but hard) to forgive even those choices that people refuse to acknowledge were harmful.
That doesn’t mean you have to let thm back into your life. To do so would be unhealthy. It just means that they no longer have power over things like the way you feel now. Your inability to focus, your fear of judgment. Forgiveness takes that power awayfeom the abuser.

Seek's avatar

Someone has granted way too many definitions to one word.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Judi That’s what my mom always said, when you hate or hold negativity, you give the ‘abuser’ your power, or power over your emotions. That always really irritated

Judi's avatar

To me, unforgiveness is holding on to hate and anger. The result of forgiveness is release of those negative emotions.

ninjacolin's avatar

hahahaha.. watch out people.

It’s interesting to see how many views there are on the matter. You’re all wrong of course. The real answer is.. jk.. I don’t know. I once defined forgiveness as a going back into the past and permitting the person to do whatever it was they did to you before they did it. So that the fault is removed. Blah..

This conversation has made me rethink it quite a bit of course.. I think I’m now somewhere around seeing forgiveness as state of being “released” (as so many have described) from the chore of aggravation towards an individual who did something against you.

While it seems like a good idea, sometimes you just aren’t really so released. And I do think some behaviors (like telling someone they are forgiven) can help create that state inside you even before it’s actually there.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at so far.

tom_g's avatar

^ There’s also the issue of where you stand on the concept of free will.

Seek's avatar

Well that was uncalled for, @ninjacolin. And entirely untrue.

I withhold forgiveness from those who are undeserving.

ninjacolin's avatar

Yes, @tom_g, that’s something on my mind.. the concept that you can’t really choose whether or not you forgive someone. You kinda just either do or don’t forgive them. Although, that isn’t the main subject.

@Seek_Kolinahr Just kidding. Please forgive me. :)

KNOWITALL's avatar

@ninjacolin I’m not sure about that. I want to forgive my uncle, but what he did was so bad to my way of thinking that I can’t seem to get ‘there’. I’m not sure how to resolve it actually except to tell him I love him and I’m trying.

flutherother's avatar

You can decide to ‘let bygones be bygones’ and put the past behind you but I don’t think you can truly forgive someone who doesn’t show contrition.

ninjacolin's avatar

@KNOWITALL curious, what does your uncle say about the incident? Maybe he has a story about it that may help you understand where he was coming from during that time?

KNOWITALL's avatar

Ugh, he defends his wife’s right to not help basically. She’s never liked our family much, just superfically, and is done pretending apparently. But if the church family calls, they are so there.

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