Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.
Just as important as defining what forgiveness is, though, is understanding what forgiveness is not. Experts who study or teach forgiveness make clear that when you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.
Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees them from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.
How has forgiveness, or the lack thereof, impacted your life? Come and join in on the discussion. All are welcome to join in the open-minded, spiritual discussion.
These words about forgiveness come from an article “Forgiveness Defined,” on The Greater Good Magazine: Science-Based Insights for a Meaningful Life, published by The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley, 2019. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/forgiveness/definition