General Question

Pandora's avatar

What does it really mean to forgive?

Asked by Pandora (29751points) May 26th, 2010

For some it is straight forward but for others its not so clear.
Does it mean you forgive the action of their transgression but you will never forget or trust them again?
Or does it mean you forgive the transgression and give them the benefit of the doubt that they will never repeat the offense?
Or does it mean you will forgive but they must work at proving themselves trustworthy?

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31 Answers

Draconess25's avatar

It means that I won’t bring it up in conversation. I tend to revoke forgiveness, though.

Pandora's avatar

@Draconess25 Do you revoke it because the same transgression has been done or because of another trangression?

xxii's avatar

To me, forgiveness is absolute. You treat and think of the person as if they never wronged you. You start afresh, brand new slate, etc etc. You don’t doubt them in the future anymore than you would before the transgression was committed. And you certainly don’t seethe in silence and bring it up some time later during a subsequent conflict. If you can’t do this, you’re not ready to forgive. Period.

When you say you’ve forgiven someone, you should mean it. It can take months or years for me to forgive someone, but when I do it, I do it completely.

eden2eve's avatar

For me, when I feel that I have forgiven it means that I have eliminated any anger or desire for revenge. I have “let go”. I don’t need to see justice done to the person. It’s not so much for the other person, it’s for me so that I don’t have to carry around a bunch of negative junk. I never do tend to bring up past issues, that’s just not how I roll, but I THINK about them a lot.

That being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I give them the benefit of the doubt. That would depend upon the person, and the circumstances. Sometimes people have temporary lapses in judgment and behave in atypical ways. When the bulk of my experience with the individual is positive, I might feel comfortable trusting them again. And eventually I might forget.

If the person has shown me a history of similar behavior, I do not forget, and I am wary of any further opportunities the person may have to hurt me again. Mostly, I tend to end my association with these types of people, and choose to be safe from their abusive behavior. I am probably much more cynical than I once was, and less likely to overlook serious issues. Probably because I have had enough time on the planet to see that most people don’t vary substantially from their core behaviors.

AustieZ's avatar

For me:

1) Forgiveness is loving someone because of their transgressions. 2) Forgiveness is seeing a transgression as something to be thankful for because it gave you the chance to forgive. Therefore, 3) Forgiveness is thanking someone for letting you love them. Because you forgive them, you love them; since you love them, you forgive them; and because you love them and forgive them, you trust them. There is no inbetween level; you trust them or not, love them or not, forgive them or not; and you won’t be happy, they won’t be happy, if you try to put them inbetween trust and no-trust. If you can, forgive fully, love fully, and trust fully. If you can’t, then don’t at all, because fallacy and mistrust, by their very nature, can only lead to a worsened state. If they need help, if there is something wrong, then help them; but only if you can truly forgive them first. When you put conditions on the relationship, it isn’t a true relationship; there is a mistrust built upon the terms of satisfying or not satisfying conditions. If you are only willing to help someone for the end result, if you only love them on the condition that they change, then it is fallacy.

Pandora's avatar

@xxii What if you do mean it but the person is self destructive and tends to take anyone out around them. Like Eden said. You no longer harbor any hurt feelings but you know the person really isn’t trust worthy.
An example maybe someone who you know is an acoholic an hurtful to people when drunk. You may forgive them because you know them to be kind when sober but you know until they stop drinking they can’t be trusted.

mikey_ca's avatar

If I understand @eden2eve properly, I think we have a pretty similar view.
Forgiveness means that you would not wish for revenge nor have any negative feelings towards the person that wronged you. You could, however; know that the person might do the same wrong to you again, and therefore try to use caution the next time around.

Example: You walk into your bedroom and your spouse hits you (no reason given), and you forgive them by not feeling angry with them or desiring to slap them back. Then this behaviour persists a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th time after walking into your bedroom. At this point you would begin to be cautious when you walked into your room.

By being cautious you are being perfectly wise and yet you can still have no feelings of anger or revenge for the person. So, in my opinion you can still perfectly forgive someone, and not trust them blindly. Forgiveness is a wise action, but being blind to danger could result in a negative outcome. Forgiveness is NOT meant to put you at risk, but it is guaranteed to free your mind and give you peace.

AustieZ's avatar

@mikey_ca =) I quite enjoyed your answer. For the sake of intellectual argument, I would like to bring up a point of my own, if I may. By not, as you say, trusting them blindly, you are expecting that they may hit you. You expect them to hit you, so you are cautious. Because you are cautious, you express the fact that you do not want to be hit. You must not have perfectly forgiven, because to perfectly forgive and yet expect that they may hit you, (in my view) you imply that you do not mind that they hit you; but since you do not want to be hit, you must not have forgiven them.

perspicacious's avatar

To neither harbor ill will nor seek revenge for an act by another.

mikey_ca's avatar

@AustieZ Well my friend, I quite enjoy intellectual arguments :)

Let me try another scenario that might explain my perspective better:

Example: You have a little girl and you tell her to never touch the top of the stove. She later touches the stove top and burns her little hands (her pain is your pain). You are not happy with your because she disobeyed you and hurt herself, but you forgive her. You decide to leave the child gate open and she goes in and burns herself two more times, and you fogive her again. Forgiving her by not being angry with her, nor having any bitterness in your heart towards your little girl. However, you decide to close the child gate because the probability is that she will burn herself once again.

Since I do not want her to be burned once again does not negate the fact that I have forgiven her

Forgiveness and trust are two seperate things. Trust should be earned in my opinion.

To unconditionally love someone does not require you to trust that person, but it does require you to forgive that person over and over again.


Pandora's avatar

There have been some really good answers on here. Well it way past my bed time so I’ll look at any new responses tomorrow. Thank you all and have a good nite. ;D

AustieZ's avatar

@mikey_ca =) I see. Well.

Your child disobeyed, but you still love her, and you close the gate (hopefully you continue to work on the stove = hot equation as well). As I said, because you love them you help them change. What makes this case different is that you make an effort, out of your love and forgiveness, to prevent her from touching the stove in the future, thus cultivating the trust. In the previous situation, instead of working through the transgression, hypothetical “you” was complacent and expectant, thus destroying the trust and preventing forgiveness. In the case of the child, it is because you took the steps to work with her to end the stove-touching that trust can be cultivated from your love and forgiveness.

*I do not mean to imply that trust should simply be given without consideration; however, in a situation where trust has been violated or damaged, it cannot be regained if you are not willing to give it; you can not give it if you do not forgive. You can never trust the child alone with the stove if she is never trusted around it with you there. You can never trust your spouse to not hit you if you expect your spouse to hit you.

Unconditional love, in my opinion, implies absolute trust. In my view, that absolute trust is what allows you to always forgive them, and to love them without regard to anything else; this is what makes it un-conditional love. Trust and forgiveness my seem like conditions, but in fact they are simply two more parts of the same whole. Love, trust, and forgiveness together are unconditional love.

Mahal ko kayo.

mikey_ca's avatar

@AustieZ I’m sorry my friend, I am going to have to go to bed now. I just posted a question about being “Addicted To Fluther”, and because of this “addiction”, I am going to bed 3 hours later than I should be LOL. I will respond to your above response tomorrow, I’m sure I will have fun with it then.


vbabe96's avatar

To me when I forgive it basically means that I trust the person not to do the same thing. However I have been burned before and my forgiveness is not as cheap as it used to be. It takes a lot of apologizing before I forgive now.

LeotCol's avatar

Forgiveness in my book is when you don’t judge any of their future actions, or your own actions based on whatever they did that you forgave.

JLeslie's avatar

For me I forgive when I begin to have some understanding of where they were coming from, or that they have learned why their trangression was wrong and truly want to work past it. Generally I have to believe that their intention was not mean or evil, but that whatever they did to me they possibly did not understand how painful it would be for me, or were blinded by some pain thy were in themselves.

As far as the future, if they simply think they did nothing wrong, then I will probably be reluctant to trust them again. Even if their intention was not to be harmful, if they cannot see how something has hurt me, I figure they will hurt me again. But, I still can forgive this person, I am just deciding not to subject myself to how they conduct themselves.

So forgiveness is not one simple definition for me, it depends on the circumstance. Mostly it means I will be free of the pain that was caused me, it has more to do with me than the other person really.

xRIPxTHEREVx's avatar

By basically forgeting that it ever happened and going back to normal with those that hurt you, showing no hate.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Only God has perfect forgiveness: “I will throw your sins in the Sea of Forgetfulness, and remember them no more.” Humans seldom have that option. Many of us who truly WANT to forgive have great trouble doing so. This is why, many times we have to work at it. It becomes a process: forgive, the transgression comes to mind again, forgive again, and so on. It’s easy to say, “I forgive you,” but many times the bitter feelings remain. Sometimes talking it out with a kind person who can actually listen will help.

Like a lot of other things, true forgiveness seldom comes easy.

Pandora's avatar

@CaptainHarley GA, So true. To truly forgive is Devine. Thats why that saying exist. Forgive and forget. Unless you suffer from some brain damage where you only remember short term memory or have amnesia, the memory of the transgression is hard to forget.
So as flawed humans are we only able to forgive conditionally?

CaptainHarley's avatar

Because unconditional forgiveness is very close to unconditional love and you KNOW how difficult THAT is! **SIGH**

xxii's avatar

@Pandora – I guess if you still look at that person with wariness and suspicion, even if you’ve put an incident behind you, in my opinion you haven’t fully forgiven. In the alcoholism example, it could be that the person is still committing a wrong (until he becomes completely sober and cuts his drinking habit).

CaptainHarley's avatar

Forgiveness doesn’t imply stupidity. If someone continues to transgress against you, you still should find forgiveness in your heart, but that doesn’t mean you continue to allow yourself to be victimized.

mattbrowne's avatar

Forgiveness means letting go of the past.—Gerald Jampolsky

CaptainHarley's avatar

“Letting go of” is not synonymous with “memory loss.”

Pandora's avatar

What did you say?? I forgot. Wait! Who are you?? LOL

CaptainHarley's avatar

Cute, @Pandora , real cute! LOL!

cessy's avatar

Try to laugh it out works for me

CaptainHarley's avatar

Laughter can cure a multitude of problems, that’s for sure! : ))

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