Forgiveness doesn't mean that you deny the other person's responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn't minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Depending on the degree and circumstance of the offense, (typically, in assault and murder), the victim can forgive without the need of the offender's interaction or permission. The offender should never ask for forgiveness if there is any possibility of hurting the victim any further. Forgiveness is the process of ceasing to feel resentment, indignation or anger for a perceived offense, difference or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.American Psychological Association. "Forgiveness: A Sampling of Research Results". September, 2006] This definition, however, is subject to much philosophical critique. Forgiveness may be considered simply in terms of the person who forgives, in terms of the person forgiven and/or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven. In some contexts, it may be granted without any expectation of compensation, and without any response on the part of the offender (for example, one may forgive a person who is dead). In practical terms, it may be necessary for the offender to offer some form of acknowledgment, apology, and/or restitution, or even just ask for [ forgiveness] , in order for the wronged person to believe they are able to forgive. Most world religions include teachings on the nature of forgiveness, and many of these teachings provide an underlying basis for many varying modern day traditions and practices of forgiveness. However, throughout the ages, philosophers have studied forgiveness apart from religion. In addition, as in other areas of human inquiry, science is beginning to question religious concepts of forgiveness. Psychology, sociology and medicine are among the scientific disciplines researching forgiveness or aspects of forgiveness. The Prodigal Son []

The central and most sacred book of Islam: the Qur'an, teaches that there is only one error that Allah cannot forgive, the error of ascribing partners (or equals) to Allah. Islam ranks this error as a denial of monotheism, and therefore of the supreme nature of Allah himself ("shirk").

: "God does not forgive idol worship (if maintained until death), and He forgives lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who idolizes any idol beside God has strayed far astray." (Qur'an 4:116)

But if he returns to God and pleads sincerely for forgiveness and abandons worshiping other than the one and only God, He will be forgiven. The Qur'an does on occasion make allowances for violent behavior on the part of Muslim believers, [Qur'an 9:12- "Fight ye the chiefs of the unbelievers."] and such allowances have been construed by some observers as condoning "unforgiving" behavior. Still such allowances are only made within the Qur'an in the case of defending one's religion, one's life or one's property. Outside of this, the Qu'ran makes no allowances for violent behavior. From time to time certain Muslims have interpreted such Qur'anic allowances for "defensive violence" to include what other Muslims have viewed more as unwarranted and overly aggressive violence. This interpretative debate about when to forgive and when to aggressively attack or defend continues to this day within the Muslim community.

The Qur'an makes it clear that, whenever possible, it is better to forgive another than to attack another. The Qur'an describes the believers (Muslims) as those who, "avoid gross sins and vice, and when angered they forgive." (Qur'an 42:37) and says that "Although the just requital for an injustice is an equivalent retribution, those who pardon and maintain righteousness are rewarded by GOD. He does not love the unjust." (Qur'an 42:40).

To receive forgiveness from God there are three requirements:

# Recognizing the offense itself and its admission before God.
# Making a commitment not to repeat the offense.
# Asking for forgiveness from God.

If the offense was committed against another human being, or against society, afourth condition is added:

# Recognizing the offense before those against whom offense was committed and before God.
# Committing oneself not to repeat the offense.
# Doing whatever needs to be done to rectify the offense (within reason) and asking pardon of the offended party.
# Asking God for forgiveness.

There are no particular words to say for asking forgiveness. However, Muslims are taught many phrases and words to keep repeating daily asking God's forgiveness. For example:

* "Astaghfiru-Allah", "I ask forgiveness from Allah"
* "Subhanaka-Allah humma wa bi hamdika wa ash-hadu al la Ilaha illa Anta astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk", "Glory be to You, Allah, and with You Praise (thanks) and I bear witness that there is no deity but You, I ask Your forgiveness and I return to You (in obedience)".

Islamic teaching presents the prophet Muhammad as an example of someone who would forgive others for their ignorance, even those who might have once considered themselves to be his enemies. One example of Muhammad's practice of forgiveness can be found in the Hadith, the body of early Islamic literature about the life of Muhammad. This account is as follows:
"The Prophet (may peace be upon him) was the most forgiving person. He was ever ready to forgive his enemies. When he went to Ta’if to preach the message of Allah, its people mistreated him, abused him and hit him with stones. He left the city humiliated and wounded. When he took shelter under a tree, the angel of Allah visited him and told him that Allah sent him to destroy the people of Ta’if because of their sin of maltreating their Prophet. Muhammad (may peace be upon him) prayed to Allah to save the people of Ta'if, because what they did was out of their ignorance." [cite web | year = 2006 | url = | title = Pakistanlink. "Forgiveness in Islam" | accessdate = 2006-04-15]

; Quotes ( [ more quotes here] )

* "Keep to forgiveness, and enjoin kindness." Qur'an 7:199-200

* "But if you endure patiently (and do not punish), indeed it is better for the patient. Endure you patiently." Qur'an 16:126-127

* "But withal, if one is patient in adversity and forgives — this, behold, is indeed something to set one's heart upon." Qur'an 42:43

* "Let them (the worthy) forgive and show indulgence. Yearn ye not that Allah may forgive you? Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." Qur'an 24:22

* "There is no compulsion in religion." Qur'an 2:256 (And thus, it can be reasoned, no need to hold grievances or unforgiveness, believing these to be amongst one's religious obligations.)


In Judaism, if a person causes harm, but then sincerely and honestly apologizes to the wronged individual and tries to rectify the wrong, the wronged individual is religiously required to grant forgiveness:

* "It is forbidden to be obdurate and not allow yourself to be appeased. On the contrary, one should be easily pacified and find it difficult to become angry. When asked by an offender for forgiveness, one should forgive with a sincere mind and a willing spirit. . . forgiveness is natural to the seed of Israel." (Mishneh Torah, "Teshuvah" 2:10)

Aruguably, if the wrongdoer does not apologize, there is no formal obligation to grant forgiveness; but "it is proper to forgive everyone who wronged you and caused you pain, for by merit of this one's life is prolonged." Mishna Berura, 239:9, citing BT Megilla 28. Similarly, "Who is forgiven iniquity? he who overlooks transgression." BT Rosh Hashana 17a Based on this teaching, many Jews recite a prayer before going to sleep each night that includes a section where they grant forgiveness to anyone who caused them harm.

In Judaism, one must go "to those he has harmed" in order to be entitled to forgiveness.cite web | year = 2006 | url = | title = "JewFAQ discussion of forgiveness on Yom Kippur" | accessdate = 2006-04-26] [One who sincerely apologizes three times for a wrong committed against another has fulfilled his or her obligation to seek forgiveness. (Shulchan Aruch) OC 606:1] This means that, unlike in Christianity, in Judaism a person cannot obtain forgiveness from God for wrongs the person has done to other people. Thus the "Tefila Zaka" meditation, which is recited just before Yom Kippur, closes with the following:

* "I know that there is no one so righteous that they have not wronged another, financially or physically, through deed or speech. This pains my heart within me, because wrongs between humans and their fellow are not atoned by Yom Kippur, until the wronged one is appeased. Because of this, my heart breaks within me, and my bones tremble; for even the day of death does not atone for such sins. Therefore I prostrate and beg before You, to have mercy on me, and grant me grace, compassion, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all people. For behold, I forgive with a final and resolved forgiveness anyone who has wronged me, whether in person or property, even if they slandered me, or spread falsehoods against me. So I release anyone who has injured me either in person or in property, or has committed any manner of sin that one may commit against another [except for legally enforceable business obligations, and except for someone who has deliberately harmed my with the thought ‘I can harm him because he will forgive me'] . Except for these two, I fully and finally forgive everyone; may no one be punished because of me. And just as I forgive everyone, so may You grant me grace in the eyes of others, that they too forgive me absolutely." [emphasis added]

Thus the "reward" for forgiving others is not God's forgiveness for wrongs done to others, but rather help "in obtaining forgiveness from the other person."

Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, summarized: "it is not that God forgives, while human beings do not. To the contrary, we believe that just as only God can forgive sins against God, so only human beings can forgive sins against human beings." [cite web | year = 2006 | url = | title = "Covenant and Conversation" | accessdate = 2006-03-14]

Jews observe a Day of Atonement Yom Kippur on the day before God makes decisions regarding what will happen during the coming year. Just prior to Yom Kippur, Jews will ask forgiveness of those they have wronged during the prior year (if they have not already done so). During Yom Kippur itself, Jews fast and pray for God's forgiveness for the transgressions they have made against God in the prior year. Sincere repentance is required, and once again, God can only forgive one for the sins one has committed against God; this is why it is necessary for Jews also to seek the forgiveness of those people who they have wronged.

Popular recognition of forgiveness

The need to [ forgive] is widely recognized by the public, but they are often at a loss for ways to accomplish it. For example, in a large representative sampling of American people on various religious topics in 1988, the Gallup Organization found that 94% said it was important to [ forgive] , but 85% said they needed some outside help to be able to forgive. However, not even regular prayer was found to be effective. The Gallup poll revealed that the only thing that was effective was "meditative prayer". [Gorsuch, R. L. & Hao, J. Y. " [ Forgiveness: An exploratory factor analysis and its relationship to religious variables] ", June 1993 "Review of Religious Research" 34 (4) 351-363.]

Forgiveness as a foundation for authoritarian control

Yoga teachers Joel Kramer and Diana Alstead analyse the use of unconditional love and the associated concept of forgiveness as a foundation for authoritarian control. [ Kramer, Joel and Alstead, Diana, "The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power", ISBN 1-883319-00-5] They survey religions worldwide to make their assertion that religious imperatives of forgiveness are often used to perpetrate cycles of ongoing abuse. They state that "to forgive without requiring the other to change is not only self-destructive, but ensures a dysfunctional relationship will remain so by continually rewarding mistreatment."

For instance, one Christian sect, the Anabaptists, take Christian imperatives to forgive particularly seriously, interpret them literally and apply them rigorously inside their closed churches. As such, they are a case where one can assess the effects of applying religious-based forgiveness in all situations, 'no matter what'. Not surprisingly, they have a well-deserved reputation for being gentle people but, inside their communities, rigorously obeying (Christian) religious imperatives to forgive, 'no matter what', has been reported to cause effects similar to what Kramer and Alstead theorize in their abstract analysis. [] , [] . Kramer and Alstead also point out similar dynamics operating in Eastern 'Oneness' religions in their wide-ranging analysis of the religious roots of authoritarian control.

Kramer and Alstead assert that of faith-based ideals of forgiveness, while appearing selfless, contain implicit selfish aspects. They state that "when forgiving contains a moral component, there is moral superiority in the act itself that can allow one to feel virtuous". They ask: "As long as one is judging the other lacking, how much letting go can there be?" They note that "Where the virtue in 'moralistic foregiving' lies is also complicated by the fact that it is often unclear who benefits more from it, the one doing the forgiving or the one being forgiven." Not surprisingly, they note "that for many people, forgiving is an area of confusion intellectually."

Psychological theories about forgiveness

Only in the last few decades has forgiveness received attention from psychologists and social psychologists. Psychological papers and books on the subject did not begin to appear until the 1980’s. Prior to that time it was a practice primarily left to matters of faith. Although there is presently no consensual psychological definition of forgiveness in the research literature, a consensus has emerged that forgiveness is a process and a number of models describing the process of forgiveness have been published, including one from a radical behavioral perspective [Cordova,J., Cautilli,J., Simon, C. & Axelrod-Sabtig, R (2006). Behavior Analysis of Forgiveness in Couples Therapy. "IJBCT, 2(2)," Pg. 192 [ BAO] ] .

Dr. Robert Enright from the University of Wisconsin-Madison is regarded to have placed forgiveness on the map. He founded the International Forgiveness Institute and is considered the initiator of forgiveness studies. [cite web | year=2006 | url= | title = Forgiveness and Health – History and Philosophy | accessdate = 2006-06-18] Dr. Enright developed a 20-Step Process Model of Forgiveness. [Dr. Robert Enright, "Forgiveness is a Choice", American Psychological Association , 2001 ISBN 1-55798-757-2 ]

Dr. Everett Worthington, a known lecturer and author on the subject of forgiveness has developed the Pyramid Model of Forgiveness. [Dr. Everett Worthington, "Dimensions of Forgiveness", Templeton Foundation Press, 1998 ISBN 1-890151-22-X ] This model involves: recall the hurt; empathize; altruistic gift of forgiveness; commit to forgive; holding onto forgiveness. [cite web | year=2006 | url= | title = Forgiveness and Health – Frequently Asked Questions | accessdate = 2006-06-18]

Dr. Guy Pettitt of New Zealand, provides a comprehensive set of materials on both the need and benefits of forgiveness as well as the process to accomplish forgiveness. These materials are available as a free download. [cite web | year=2006 | url= | title = The Heart of Healing | accessdate = 2006-06-18]

Health aspects of forgiveness

Studies show that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments. [cite web | year = 2006 | url = | title = Forgiving (Campaign for Forgiveness Research) | accessdate = 2006-06-19] One study has shown that the positive benefit of forgiveness is similar whether it was based upon religious or secular counseling as opposed to a control group that received no forgiveness counseling. [cite web | year = 2006 | url = | title= Gregg Easterbrook: Forgiveness is Good for Your Health | accessdate = 2006-06-19]

See also

* Breaking The Cycle
* A Course in Miracles
* Apology
* Clementia was the goddess of forgiveness and mercy in Roman mythology.
* Compassion
* Contrition
* Doug Schmidt learning to forgive the remorseless
* Ethics in religion
* Human
* Human self-reflection
* Kindness
* Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops
* Mercy
* Pardon (a concept in law)
* Unconditional love
* Conflict Resolution



* "Balancing the Scales of Justices with Forgiveness and Repentance", Randall J. Cecrle, 2007, ISBN 1-6026-6041-7
* "Radical Forgiveness: Making Room for the Miracle", Colin Tipping, 1997, ISBN 0-9704814-1-1
* "Forgiving and Not Forgiving: Why Sometimes It's Better Not to Forgive", Jeanne Safer, 2000, ISBN 0-380-79471-3
* Hein, David. "Regrets Only: A Theology of Remorse." "The Anglican" 33, no. 4 (October 2004): 5-6.
* Hein, David. "Austin Farrer on Justification and Sanctification." "The Anglican Digest" 49.1 (2007): 51–54.
* Kramer, J. and Alstead D., The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power, 1993, ISBN 1-883319-00-5
* Lampert, K.(2005); Traditions of Compassion: From Religious Duty to Social Activism. Palgrave-Macmillan; ISBN 1-4039-8527-8
* Schmidt D. (2003); The Prayer of Revenge: Forgiveness in the Face of Injustice; ISBN 0-7814-3942-6
* "Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life", Susan Forward, 1990.
* "The Railway Man: A POW's Searing Account of War, Brutality, and Foregiveness", Eric Lomax,

External links

* [ "What Is Forgiveness?"] : an article in the [ TLS] by Roger Scruton, December 12 2007
* [ Institute for Radical Forgiveness]
* [ The Campaign for Forgiveness Research, doing research and providing education on the dynamics of forgiveness]
* [ The Fetzer Institute, doing research and providing education on the dynamics of forgiveness]
* [ Forgiveness web]
* []
* [ "Bitterness & Vengeance vs. Gratitude & Forgiveness"] from Project Worldview
* [ A new spiritual symbol based on the hold trinity and the seven pillars of the Cross of Forgiveness]
* [ Greater Good magazine] Peace Center at
* [ Learning To Forgive] Website for Director of the Stanford Forgiveness Program and leading books on forgiveness
* [ Apology and Forgiveness]
* [ Breaking The Cycle]

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  • forgiveness — A re establishment of personal relations after a rupture. Although in the OT God does not forgive automatically, as though that is what he exists for, he is described as always ready to forgive when the right conditions are in place (Neh. 9:17).… …   Dictionary of the Bible

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