Forgiveness - an ethical debate

by Taifallos June. 23, 2013 513 views

Tell me what forgiveness is.

Who is the offender accountable to?


I had a critical conversation with a colleague of mine regarding forgiveness. Our question in theory at the end of our conversation was, does the definition of forgiveness differentiate between culture and religion?

If you asked a Catholic would they say that forgiveness is ultimately demonstrated by Christ?

If you questioned a Buddhist would they speak of compassion in order to move on?

Wikipedia describes forgiveness as:
“Forgiveness is the renunciation or cessation of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offence, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.”

The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness:
“As to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offence or debt.”

I find this fascinating as I do not believe either. To believe one or both of those descriptions would be to prostitute the moral standing of the actions forgiveness applies in exchange for social conscience restoration for either survivors guilt or the guilt of possibly having shamed someone. (And please, feel free to disagree with me, I would be greatly interested in reading arguments/different POV- I just ask that although critical, to please keep it non-attacking). After working in crisis/high risk environments, and so forth, it got me wondering who can really forgive? During this time I grew a lot and began to wonder about the different steps of forgiveness. To me, forgiveness is arriving at a spiritual and emotional level where you are prepared to move on from what happened. It does not imply that you do not hold that individual(s) responsible, or that you no longer suffer, have anger, or feel broken down. It is a milestone in which you can comfortably say that you are prepared to now heal from what has happened.

On another note, I find myself at odds because I believe that ultimately it is God who forgives you. That if forgiveness was to be accompanied by any release of conviction and accountability to natural consequences it would ultimately be a higher power, or God, to grant this. Speaking from a spiritual POV, I have decided that who am I to pardon moral offense when it is a higher power who created and laid responsibility in us to follow basic civil morality. It no longer appears to be my responsibility- even more so if I am not the one holding you accountable at the end of it all…. Much like the expression, “Let go and let God.” Biblical reference is that there are corrupt offenses against the Holy Spirit- then is it only up to the Holy Spirit to forgive in that case? Or, when you do forgive, does it erase spiritual accountability? Personally, I do not believe it does.

I believe forgiveness is a two way street. The one forgiving suffers the consequence of the crime, whereas the offender suffers the guilty conscious that motivates a change in behaviour. -But only if everyone felt that way! We would all be committing less crimes than yesterday.

Well, that's my 2cents.

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Teo Montana 5 years, 10 months ago

Beautiful Post!

5 years, 10 months ago Edited
Mujay 5 years, 11 months ago

perfect !!

5 years, 11 months ago Edited
Pete 6 years, 4 months ago

excellent post

6 years, 4 months ago Edited
Sara G 6 years, 4 months ago

My 2 cents...yes, the ultimate One to judge is God..Jesus set the example for forgiveness when He said on the cross "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do"..and He said to forgive over and over..Our human self cannot see it at first..then after a period of growth, we can move on as you stated and forgive..To forgive another benefits the one forgiving..and brings us peace. That's why Jesus set the example, to bring us peace.

6 years, 4 months ago Edited
Jennifer Venter 6 years, 4 months ago

Well done !

6 years, 4 months ago Edited
Mikkal Noptek 6 years, 4 months ago

Great picture and text !!

6 years, 4 months ago Edited
Taifallos 6 years, 4 months ago

Please don't grit! :-) My favorite form of learning is through conversation, I'm sure what you have to say has substance for this.

6 years, 4 months ago Edited
Stefan Fletcher 6 years, 4 months ago

"Tout savoir, c'est tout pardonner", as they say. I do like you image and am gritting my teeth not to jump into this conversation from an atheist POV and as someone who's done a lot of volunteer work in twelve-step programs.

6 years, 4 months ago Edited