The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Forgiveness has been described as a quality by which one ceases to feel resentment against another for a wrong he or she has committed against oneself. Forgiveness can be granted with or without the other asking for forgiveness. Some people also believe that persons can forgive themselves, that it is possible to forgive groups of people, or that it is possible to be forgiven by God.

Forgiveness can be seen as a religious value. However, belief in a deity is not necessary for forgiveness. It can be motivated by love, philosophy, appreciation for the forgiveness of others, empathy, or personal temperament. Even pure pragmatism can lead to forgiveness, as it is well documented that people who forgive are happier than those who hold grudges.


Religious and spiritual views of forgiveness

Forgiveness is recognized in Christianity as a spiritual gift. Spiritual forgiveness does not necessarily have any connection with material or financial forgiveness. One may spiritually forgive another, yet expect that the other should still make material or financial amends. God is believed to be the source of all forgiveness, which is made possible through the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus.

For more on Christian concepts of forgiveness, see:

In Roman mythology, Clementia was the goddess of forgiveness and mercy.

Psychological theories about forgiveness

In the last decades, forgiveness has also received attention from social psychologists. Although there is no consensual psychological definition of this concept in the research literature, many researchers assume that forgiveness is related to a pro-social change in interpersonal motivations towards another person who has committed an offense. Specifically, three changes in motivations are thought to occur when someone forgives an offender:

  1. An increase in motivation to act in ways that benefit the offender or the relationship with the offender.
  2. A decrease in motivation to take revenge on the offender.
  3. A decrease in motivation to avoid the offender.

The role of forgiveness in society

Forgiveness may be necessary for civilization, since without it, all wrongs would demand revenge, which may themselves be taken as wrongs requiring revenge, resulting in a spiralling escalation of retaliation, leading ultimately to utter destruction.

See also

Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04