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Webster’s Dictionary says that forgiveness is letting go of resentment against someone
or giving up the desire to punish. Forgiveness is where a victim changes their feelings and attitude regarding an offense and lets go of negative emotions.

“It is counterproductive to tell someone that you are forgiving them. They may not even be aware that they have upset you. I see it as nothing more than a form of manipulation, which is very likely to create a backlash such as a feeling of resentment in that person.

To make reciprocity a condition of forgiveness gives all the power to the perpetrator and compounds victim consciousness. The confusion arises when people mix up the meaning of the words forgiveness and reconciliation.”

Shawn Achor

Self-forgiveness is letting go of the guilt and shame and giving up the need to dwell on ‘what happened that made you feel that way‘.

Webster’s also gives the word ‘pardon’ as a synonym for forgiveness.  If we pardon ourselves, we have to ask who is pardoning whom?

This is a critical question, because if I can pardon myself, then why would I seek external pardon?

Forgiveness needs to be differentiated from condoning , excusing , forgetting , pardoning, or reconciliation.

“Forgiveness means only that I do not want to continue feeding anger for an age-old wrong, hence ruin my life. I forgive, yes, but I keep well in mind the harm done to me, and I will be
mindful that it does not happen again. 

Someone who has forgiven can still live in a world where injustice is not tolerated. He just does not keep his alarm systems forever switched on, his guns always aimed at the enemy.

Nor is forgiveness an act of self-righteousness, in which I affirm my moral superiority and pat myself on the back for how noble and generous I am, meanwhile thinking of the miserable
fool who wronged me, who is burning in hell for the mischief he has done. No.

Forgiveness is the inner act of making peace with the past and of finally closing accounts.

Sometimes, however, forgiveness is impossible. Try though we may, we cannot find it in us to forgive. The offense has been too serious, the hurt too great, and forgiveness seems impossible.
But there still is a way out. It is in just such a situation that we can understand what it truly means to forgive. It is at this point that we need to change our viewpoint. Many problems cannot be resolved at their existing level: We must learn to see them from another vantage.

If we find in ourselves the place where we feel happy and whole, forgiveness is already a fact. We do not need effort or mental acrobatics. Gone are fear, suspicion, the desire to get even.
Forgiving becomes the easiest thing in the world: It is not something we do, but something we are. 

We have only to give ourselves permission to be so.”

Piero Ferrucci

Use of the word forgive.

In the Christian and Islamic religions ‘forgiveness’ is commonly used interchangeably with ‘pardoning’ (mercy or grace granted by a judge to a perpetrator/sinner for an error or offense).

The interpretation of the following is completely different if the word forgive is replaced with pardon.

 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Jesus of Nazareth, Luke 6:37 (NIV)

If modern humans are to gain clarity about forgiveness, there is a need for separating the usage of the word into non-overlapping meanings.

To illustrate, if Jesus meant “pardon, and you will be pardoned” that implies a person can pardon – to act as judge over another. Yet the first part of the verse says: Do not judge, and you will not be judged.”  

The act of ‘seeking forgiveness’ also confuses ‘forgiveness’ with ‘reconciliation’ (restoration of a relationship) and assumes that the divine has an intent of punishment or retribution.

For example in the following Islamic quote the word is used in association with penalty or punishment for a second offence.

Allah forgives what is past: for repetition Allah will exact from him the penalty. For Allah is Exalted, and Lord of Retribution.

Quran 5:95

You can discover more about how you wish to interpret forgiveness in this IQS.

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