Mind: What is Forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a gift that contains the power to restore damaged relationships given by someone who has been offended to the person who caused the offence. It is a decision to choose mercy over justice.
Terms used to describe forgiveness include pardon for an offence or fault; renouncing anger or resentment; absolving the other party from payment. The general purpose of forgiveness is to surrender one’s right to retribution by seeking revenge or demanding justice and facilitate reconciliation with the offended party.
Forgiveness does not always mean that the relationship is instantly restored as it may take time to rebuild any trust that was lost as a result of the offence which may have emotionally painful. To forgive an offence does not necessarily mean that it is forgotten:
How do We Forgive?
“Forgiveness says I care about our relationship, therefore I choose to accept you apology and will no longer demand justice… It is essentially a gift. Forgiveness is not an emotion it is a decision… Forgiveness is always requested but never demanded.” Gary Chapman, 'The Five Languages of Apology'.
The need for forgiveness is universal. Unacknowledged offences contribute to relationship difficulties. The person causing the offence can feel guilt or self-righteousness; whilst the offended party is left to feel hurt, disappointment or anger.
When a person requests forgiveness they are asking for something difficult and costly. In order to forgive, a person has to give up their right to feel offended and their pursuit of justice and vindication. In doing so they are also required to relinquish associated feeling of hurt, anger, embarrassment, humiliation, rejection or betrayal. By contrast, unforgiveness has emotional and physical effects which can be long lasting and detrimental to the health and wellbeing of our relationship with others.
An apology is an essential requirement for genuine forgiveness to take place. To sincerely apologise is to attain forgiveness for the offender and reconciliation in the relationship. When we become aware of the need to apologise we will also see that we have caused offence to the other person by violating their trust through our words or behaviour. Where there is forgiveness and reconciliation, there is scope for healing and growth within the relationship.
Fears and Forgiveness
- Losing Control -The person may feel discomfort when not in control of the situation- particularly as asking for forgiveness requires relinquishing control and empowering the offender.
- Rejection -The offended party may reject your request for forgiveness and you may feel it personally.
- Failure -Admitting you were wrong may feel like you have failed.
Difficulties Associated with Forgiveness
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- It may require the forgiver to give up their quest for justice
- The forgiver may need to forgive offences that have had a long term detrimental affect upon the relationship.
- The forgiver may have been affected by the seriousness of the offence or it may have occurred repeatedly.
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