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    Belle Rose

    What is forgiveness? I mean really. And to what extent is forgiveness really important? Is it important?


    Simon Paynton

    I think, if someone pisses you off, there are two choices: break off the relationship, or forgive them and continue the relationship.

    Forgiveness means to move on past the troublesome behaviour without necessarily overlooking it.  It’s important because it allows a relationship to continue.

    Without forgiveness we can end up with an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth: a land of blind toothless people.



    If someone harms me and at some future point tells me they apologize I am not obliged to forgive them. This is independent of whether or not I am feeling aggrieved by their actions. The event may be long forgotten, it may never have harmed or hurt me or it could be impacting heavily on my life to the point of consuming me.

    If the person that caused the hurt made a full and unprompted admission of their guilt, without duress and I considered it to a genuine apology that came from a place of understanding the damage or hurt they caused rather that one delivered for the sake of their own self-interest, then I would consider accepting it.

    I would never tell someone I forgave them unless they apologized to me first. Forgiveness is earned.

    As an aside, in humorous (but serious) manner, I always tell Christians that I forgive them and that I am prepared to turn the other cheek when they swear or curse at me when I host atheists meetings or events. Just to see the expression on their pious little faces.


    Belle Rose

    And if someone has wronged you and it consumes you with anger and vengeance? Then what?



    Perhaps you should consider that we all create all of our emotions and that we are the only ones who experience our emotions. If you are self aware enough, you can modulate your emotions so that they don’t harm you.



    Forgiveness to me means that I will not exact any penalties. It doesn’t mean I will forget or things will ever be the same.


    Simon Paynton

    if someone has wronged you and it consumes you with anger and vengeance? Then what?

    I would say, don’t forgive, and that probably means, the relationship looks very different than what it might have been before the offence.


    Simon Paynton

    If I’m still feeling the effects of the offence, and it’s serious, then I can’t forgive.

    The one thing I never forgive is untrustworthiness.


    And if someone has wronged you and it consumes you with anger and vengeance? Then what?


    First deal with the feelings of anger and vengeance and forget about forgiveness for now. Maybe forever because some actions should be considered unforgivable even when you get beyond those feelings of anger and vengeance or even when you no longer feel effected by the event. It is up to the person that caused your anger to seek your forgiveness. Some people just don’t care or are not even aware that their actions cause harm to others.
    A drunk recently punched a friend of mine in the face, breaking her nose and a front tooth. When I confronted him he  was very contrite and but full of excuses with the usual “I love her, it will never happen again, will you speak to her for me” routine. She kicked him out of her house. He asked for my forgiveness but I said that was not up to me. I told him I would consider it if he stayed sober for one year and if not I would take it that he was not being sincere. His demeanor changed and he laughed at the idea and said I had no right to make such a demand of him.
    Forgiveness is not given. It is earned. If he bothers my friend again I know I won’t ever be asking for his.


    Daniel W.

    I think forgiveness means, not holding resentment or wishing harm to someone who has caused hurt.

    It took me a long time to learn forgiveness.  I am still not perfect about it.  There are even some dead people who I have not forgiven, and they cant do anything to me now.  But mostly, I try to forgive bad things that people do.

    I don’t think it’s healthy to hold a grudge or to resent someone.  I think it’s bad for the blood pressure, and heart health, and mental health, and other relationships.  Why lose sleep, or have higher risk for stroke or heart attack?  There might even be musculoskeletal issues, with the body having tenseness and lack of flexibility resulting from unresolved emotional injuries and betrayals.  Maybe back pain, or sprains and strains, because holding resentments might make one less agile.

    So I think it’s better to let bygones be bygones.  That doesn’t mean forgetting.  People don’t usually change.  If someone has done something bad, such as taking advantage, cheating, manipulating, or lying, they will probably do it again.  So it’s important not to get burned again.  A leopard does not change its spots.

    If I was close to someone, or depended on them, or thought there was a bond of some kind, or collegiality, and they turned out to be a jerk, stabbed me in the back, then I may not make that bond again.   But unless they were really vile, I won’t wish them harm either.

    I think of some people as being like yellow jackets in my yard.  I don’t hate them.  I don’t resent them.  But give them a chance, I know they will sting me and I don’t like that one bit.  So I keep my distance.  I don’t hold a grudge about their prior stings.  I just don’t want more.


    Simon Paynton

    I don’t think it’s healthy to hold a grudge or to resent someone. I think it’s bad for the blood pressure, and heart health, and mental health, and other relationships.

    I agree.  What’s more, sometimes people aim to produce these effects in us – the slights are intended to get under our skin.  So if we lose, they win.



    @gerardwood I like that.  I think it gets easier to put aside negative things as you get older.  I can’t remember the last time I was consumed with anger.


    Simon Paynton

    The British author and poet Sophie Hannah has just been on the radio talking about the redeeming power of holding a grudge.  It sounds like an interesting point of view.  I think I might buy her book.



    If someone has wronged you and is seeking forgiveness, why not? If their position hasn’t changed, forgiveness may be the only way to put the grievance behind you. Christianity, in most traditional sects, is all about forgiveness, sometimes to a fault, as when the Catholic Church forgives child abusers who presumably say “I won’t do it again” and thus are given a second (or third, or fourth, or…) chance in another parish. How often have I seen Christians forgiving a killer who may not even be asking for it?


    @unseen – I think it was yourself that mentioned an interesting conundrum about Christian forgiveness in a similar post a few years ago on TA.

    Consider the following scenario: A depraved Catholic priest spends most of his life physically and sexually abusing hundreds of young boys. Many of the victims become alcoholics and drug users and some end up in jail. One of them has come to reject everything about the Church and the merciful and loving God it claims to represent. All he knows are the lies and the horrors committed by those priests that should have protected him.  He never had a chance to reach his potential, form relationships or get meaningful employment. He decides he cannot take the pain of living any more. At the height of his depression he ends his own life. His final thoughts are full of hatred for the Church and the God he feels abandoned by. As he dies his curses God and wants nothing to do with him.

    That same night the old priest, at the age of 95, is given the last rites. On his death bed he confesses his sins and begs his Gods’ forgiveness. His confessor, in the name of their God, absolves him from all of his sins and tell him that their God forgives him.

    According to Christianity the priest goes to Heaven but the unbelieving victim of his “sins” goes to Hell.

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