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tinyfaery's avatar

What does it mean to forgive, and does everybody deserve it?

Asked by tinyfaery (42544points) June 24th, 2008

I was inspired by the death penalty question. What does forgiveness mean to you? Who does forgiveness serve, the one who forgives, or the one who is forgiven? Does everyone deserve to be forgiven? I’m not looking for bible quotes here, I already know the dogma.

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37 Answers

jballou's avatar

Ultimately I think forgiving someone does way more for the forgiver than the forgiven. It has nearly nothing to do with whether or not they deserve it- it has to do with the person who makes the decision and what the impact is on their spirit and life. I’ve forgiven many people who didn’t “deserve” it because I personally needed to move on and not waste any of my energy continuing to punish that person in my mind and heart.

marinelife's avatar

Forgiveness is an issue that I have struggled with off and on throughout my life. One thing I have found for myself is that I cannot forgive if I have not worked through all of my feelings about someone or their actions. In the end, forgiveness for me is about doing that working through of my feelings and coming out the other side. Once there, I no longer wish to harbor strong feelings for that person or whatever they have done to me. So, forgiveness is about my own letting go and moving on.

Also, for me, forgiveness is separate from punishment or reparation. Thus, if I forgave someone who committed a crime against me that would not mean that I would think that individual should not be punished for their crime.

charliecompany34's avatar

everybody deserves forgiving and you have to forget it no matter how difficult. if you should die today, you never had a chance and you only have one life. who cares? i’m dead, but on the other hand, the person you should have forgiven will live never knowing…

loser's avatar

its up to the forgiver. Its all about them really.

osullivanbr's avatar

Does Hitler deserve to be forgiven?

wildflower's avatar

To me, the very idea of forgiveness is that it isn’t deserved, but given anyway. When someone deserves to be relieved of their blame, it’s a matter of making amends.

nocountry2's avatar

Forgivness is an important part of emotional growth. And I agree with Marina, in order for my forgivness to be genuine, I have to work through my own issues to be able to truly let something go, learn from and not let it have a negative influence on me any longer.

Furthermore, when I screw up it means a lot to me to receive the forgivness of my loved ones. We are human, we do mess up, and that understanding of each other is vital.

marinelife's avatar

@osullivanbr No. Mass murderers do not deserve forgiveness.

gailcalled's avatar

I can only speak for myself; it took me over 20 years and a lot of expensive therapy to forgive my father for having put a gun to his head in the driveway of the house in which I grew up. I have done so now.

Looking back, I see hints that he suggested that he had this planned and I am sorry that I was too scared of him (in my forties) to slap him across the face and say, “Listen to me, would you please?”

I can only imagine the issues involved in child molestation and incest, but I do wonder.

Knotmyday's avatar

I agree that everyone that forgiveness is more of a cathartic process than anything else. It is also part of a learning process. “Forgiving” should never be juxtaposed or even paired with “forgetting.”
For example: Once (long ago), I was scheduled for a business trip last-minute, and the red-eye was the only flight out. The flight was cancelled till late in the evening, so I decided to surprise my girlfriend with breakfast. Unfortunately, she had entertained a male guest the evening before, thinking that I would be out of town… I opened the door and voilĂ ! Naked girlfriend, naked nameless john. Exeunt I.
Forgiveness, in this instance, was the process of coming to terms with the fact that she truly loved being promiscuous, and that lying was less of an occasional pecadillo and more of a pathological lifestyle for her. My acceptance of the immutability of her nature led to forgiveness, and eventual civility upon chance public encounter.
However, having learned that lesson, I am a much more cautious person when it comes to relationships, and less likely to overlook any “danger signs” apparent.
Accept>Forgive>Learn, never forget.

marinelife's avatar

I agree with Knotmyday that forgetting is separate from forgiving. I am not sure we should ever forget.

thebeadholder's avatar

I am a very forgiving person, learning at a very early age how precious and short life is. I want to be forgiven and I am always ready to forgive. However, not everyone deserves to be forgiven. Case and point: the man who killed my sister. While he drove his car 100 mph in a 25 mph zone, hit my sister’s car, split it in two, tried to drive his away and when he couldn’t he fled on foot…my sister lay there dying. He turned himself in 13 hours later (after he was sober). He didn’t care, in fact, he had no remorse for what he did. At the sentencing, as they put the cuffs on, he was facing us with a smirk I will never forget. After he was set free, he continued to torment my family for years. Can someone be forgiven when they don’t value another human beings life or the family’s life in the wake of what happened? For me, the answer is no. I guess if I could find forgiveness in my heart (12 years of therapy obviously didn’t help) then I could let go of the anger I still feel. Should he be forgiven? I do think forgiveness would serve me best in this situation. Does he care that we forgive him for ALL of his sins (and there are plenty)...I think not. This is something you NEVER forget.

kimmielittleone's avatar

I like to put it this way. There is a prayer that Jesus gave U/us called, “The Our Father”. The words say….“forgive me my trespasses as I forgive others”...I change it to…“forgive me my trespasses AS MUCH as I forgive others”. When I release another, and to the degree that I have released another, I am released.

ADDED: Forgiveness doesn’t require the forgive-ees’ acceptance. After I forgive it becomes T/their burden.

I released a child molester, mass murder, I am not sorry.

Just my thoughts

kimmielittleone's avatar

The Question arises… who deserves forgiveness.?

I dono.
But then I have to ask…Do I.?


Bri_L's avatar

I have a hard time with it. I am not good at forgiveness.

aaronou's avatar

To forgive is divine. Let us imagine the most gruesome of scenarios, perhaps that would look a bit different for each of us. In this case, let us say that a man has brutally slaughtered my entire family, my wife, my children, even my parents. This would surely present some difficulties in forgiveness. In fact, most of us would probably assume that this specific crime would not be deserving of any forgiveness whatsoever.

Still, addressing the question, just what would it mean then for me to forgive this man? It would not be, to any degree, coming to terms with what he did and passing it off by saying, “well, its just the way he is, he’s just a psychotic murderer.” Clearly here, forgiveness does not necessitate that I accept what he did as reasonable by any means. In other words, there is no need to relate with the sin committed and attempt to make an explanation for the behavior. No excuse is necessary.

aaronou's avatar

Ok, I did not finish that answer, so here it goes:

In a similar way, forgiveness in this case could might not even have anything to do with any emotional maturity. I would think that it is possible that my emotions may never fully recover from an incident of this degree. Thus, to forgive here would not necessarily come with time and patience, and it may have nothing to do with how I have recovered emotionally.

So again, if forgiveness is even a possibility at this point, I reiterate that to forgive is divine, for how else ought we to expect me to forgive any such atrocity without the help of a chorus of angels singing down from heaven upon my soul. Honestly, I think forgiveness in this instance would merely be a pardon, not so much different than the way in which an official pardons a criminal today. It is not erasing the crime; it is not trying to say that it was justifiable or reasonable; it is not pretending to forget that it ever happened. It really is only as simple as a slight change of heart, one that frees the person from vindictive judgment. It is like giving them a renewal, like a new beginning. It frees both the one forgiven and the one forgiving. Though I must say it would probably be much more difficult for any of this to occur without forgiveness being sought on the other end.

Gigi's avatar

I feel that forgiveness is more for you than for the other person. Doc Childre, an author that wrote The HeartMath Solution and a bunch of other books said something like why let them live rent free in your head. I loved that line and could really identify. I think we choose not to forgive because we feel justified in our hurt or anger. But we are the ones that suffer. It drains us emotionally and in turn ages us. We end up hurting ourselves to hold onto resentment, anger, hurt. We end up give our precious time and energy away to someone else.

Trance24's avatar

To forgive is to let go. To let go is to detach yourself from the things that bother you, and move on with your life. The longer you do not “forgive” the longer you hold negativity in your being, making it difficult for you to operate and think.

chatnoir's avatar

It’s good for me to forgive, if I want to be happy.

ashlee198521's avatar

I agree with everyone on here forgiveness to me is letting go, and starting over. You can’t except to move on without it really, cause even if you say it at the time it means nothing if you don’t mean it and it comes from the heart, and i would think it would drain a person. And it contiues to harbor more anger, more suffering. you should really forget it if you can.I know sometimes that would be hard if to do but i found that to be easier in my situtation with my mom. I felt at one point my mom abused me when i was little, i went and talked to her when i was an adult. And i wanted to comfront her for what had happened and she looked at it as she did all she could at the time. So like sometimes people may never see what they did, but i harbor some anger for a long time, cause i felt she didn’t understand the pain she put me through. I finally felt i didn’t want to be mad, nor angry anymore, so i forgave her for that. It actually helped me in a way cause i felt like a wave of the anger was gone. So sometimes its good just to forget and just let it go. So My point was you can let it hurt you and cosume you or you can let it go and be happy, oh and one more thing i know people don’t wanna here from the bible but it does say Jesus so faithful and true forgives us of our wrongs, so shouldn’t we forgive others too, Thats what he wants us to do. mathew chapter 18 has a story about that thanks!

mjtan's avatar

I find it easier to forgive if it is being asked for. The opposite scenario is just difficult: it is not easy to forgive someone who does not feel sorry for what he has done. I have learned, however, that to forgive someone sets us free. It stops us from being attached to the past. It makes us live in the present, and look forward to the future.

stratman37's avatar

@tinyfaery: trusting you’ve gotten a good answer by now, I must say….
My karma ran over your dogma. (sorry, couldn’t pass it up!)

SeekerSeekiing's avatar

Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. It doesn’t mean we condone or approve of what happened. It just means we are not going to ‘carry it around’ any more.

I was raped at 9 years old. I’ve forgiven that man. I never saw him again and he doesn’t know it. But it freed my heart to heal and live.

I try to live in forgiveness also because I also err, have hurt people on purpose and inadvertently. Because I am not perfect—I forgive others who are also not perfect.

Johnny_Rambo's avatar

Those who cannot forgive should not expect forgiveness. Justice in the form of Karma.

essieness's avatar

I would venture to say that forgiveness is better for the person doing the forgiving. You can’t carry hate and anger around for too long without being greatly affected by it. When you refuse to forgive someone, you are giving them your power.

Raean's avatar

Whether or not people deserve to be forgiven!? That depends. What I do know is that people deserve to give forgiveness. Why carry around hurt and pain the rest of your life? Why harbor resentment forever? Forgiveness is essential to acceptance. Even if you can’t excuse someone’s behavior you must find a way to come to terms with it. It is only through acceptance that we can truly move past the hurt.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

People who are sorry for their actions or didn’t do them on purpose should be forgiven. Of course the Bible says to forgive everyone, but that is very difficult for most humans and something many Christians struggle with.

Just_Justine's avatar

It is the key to your own jail.

SmashTheState's avatar

“To know all is not to forgive all. It is to despise everybody.” — Quentin Crisp

ItsAHabit's avatar

It is we, not they, who benefit from forgiving others.

Spider's avatar

Without forgiveness, there is no peace.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Who does forgiveness serve:
The one who forgives?
This one I think is most important because it’s painful to be bitter.

The one who is forgiven?
Sure but not as important because not all offenders give a damn.

Does everyone deserve to be forgiven?
No. It’s a shame for victims of rape, torture and abuse to carry the pains inflicted on them and so if forgiving the offender relieves any of that then great but I don’t forgiving as an excusing or justifying the offense in any way.

Stefanie's avatar

To forgive is to let someone off the hook for doing something. We are humans and mistakes are done, so yes after a certain point everyone should be forgiven. BUT CORRECT ME IF IM WORNG BECAUSE A THING SUCH AS MURDER, SLAUGHTER OR RAPE OF A LOVED ONE IS NOT JUST A MISTAKE…..
I’m not saying you should stay hurt all your life. Try to get help..anything that works for you so that you can get over whatever happened but forgivin a person that was done something so terrible won’t change anything. Once you have forgived a person that has hurt you so much , does the pain just go away? Do you simply forget everything that has happened that way? No. I would never in my life be able to look at that person, let alone tell him he is forgiven. I don’t understand how you guys can share such sad stories and at the end im reading that you have forgave…honestly?
If you have any comments to what i said please answer me because i think open minded.
I am 15 by the way.

zenele's avatar

Only he who has suffered, against whom a crime has been committed, is entitled to forgive, if he so desires. He alone can exercise that right.

The story is told of the rabbi of Brisk who was once unassumingly traveling home on the train. He shared company with a group of callous Jews playing cards. Bothered by his aloof attitude, one of them demanded that he join the game or leave the car. When the rabbi didn’t comply, the fellow physically removed him from the train car.

When the train arrived at Brisk, also the stop of the offender, he was shocked to see the throngs of people who stood there waiting to greet their rabbi. Mortified, he ran over to ask forgiveness but was denied. Not able to be calmed, he tried again and again. Finally he made contact with the rabbi’s son and begged him to find a way for him to be absolved.

The boy, surprised at his father’s uncharacteristic behavior, agreed to do whatever possible. He visited his father and began discussing the laws of forgiveness. Their discussion touched upon the law that a person must not turn away someone asking his forgiveness more than three times. Taking his cue, the boy asked his father, “What about So-and-So, he’s asked you to forgive him numerous times; yet you deny him forgiveness?”

He replied, “Him? I cannot forgive him for he didn’t offend me, the rabbi of Brisk; he offended the simple Jew he took me to be. Let him ask forgiveness from a simple Jew.”—

Mr_Paradox's avatar

I believe that almost everyone can be forgiven. However, there are crimes that can never be forgiven. Genocide, Terrorism, Stealing millions of dollars from people who need it (Bernie Madoff, I’m looking at you), and crushing peoples dreams when that’s all they have.

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