Let me start by stating the goal of this thread: to explore the meaning of forgiveness, its value (for the self, others, and society), and how this has changed over time and might change in the future.
Then, a brief introduction about myself: I am a student currently graduating from my Master’s Design for Interaction at Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. The goal of my project is to come up with a design, pertaining to forgiveness, that contributes to human well-being. I’m glad I’m able to work on this topic academically, as it’s also a personal interest.
Currently, I’m researching how people think about forgiveness, and am therefore interviewing experts on the topic as well as non-experts who have given more thought to forgiveness than perhaps the average person. This forum seems like a good place to start. I’ve heard Sam Harris touch upon the topic in some interviews/debates, and have seen several threads here addressing forgiveness (although these are years old).
Forgiveness is an intriguing topic, and it’s interesting to see how this age-old concept has changed over time, and how parts of it have remained unchanged. I have interviewed two experts on the topic thus far, both propelled the notion that forgiveness has changed from being merely a virtue (the “right thing to do”) to something that can be considered self-healing, and allows people to leave behind hate and resentment. The adage of “forgive and forget” has thus evolved something more complex; forgiving to let go of negative feelings, but acknowledging the situation.
For me, forgiveness is the latter: being able to let go of negative feelings, be it hate and resentment, or less severe emotions such as annoyance. I think you can forgive and still have judgement towards your wrongdoer. Even more so, I think it has value to acknowledge the pain you have been caused, and deciding whether or not to continue the relationship with your wrongdoer. Also noteworthy: you can forgive someone else, but also yourself.
Please feel free to share your opinion.
What does forgiveness mean for you? What are its values? Or its negatives?
What are your experiences with forgiveness? Do you agree or disagree with parts from above?
I’d love to hear and learn from you.
For me, forgiveness is the latter: being able to let go of negative feelings, be it hate and resentment, or less severe emotions such as annoyance.
My first thought on reading that was no, you’ve got it backwards: the act of forgiving is what precipitates the letting go of those negative feelings. And it seems to me that both the old and new ways of thinking about forgiveness seem to bear this out?
The old way of looking at it, as a virtue, motivates those who want to do the “right thing” to forgive. That’s the cause. One outcome, or effect, is escape from negative feelings.
The new way of looking at it motivates those who want to maximize their own well-being to forgive. Self-interest is the cause. One outcome/effect is, again, escape from negative feelings.
Nowadays, it seems that people are less driven by virtue and more by self interest. So the change over time in the way forgiveness is seen seems understandable. I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing, though. If self interest is the motivation, wouldn’t revenge work as well as forgiveness?
Probably it’s more of a two-way street, though: forgiving facilitates getting rid of negative feelings, and getting rid of negative feelings facilitates forgiveness. From that standpoint, forgiveness is more of a process than an abrupt change of mind.
There are numerous entangled concepts. Some of them pretty toxic. Forgiving the crimes of another party for instance.
For my purpose I prefer the most practical sense of the word. The release of debt or obligation. Whether material or personal. I agree that psychological element isn’t especially important. It’s good to let go of grudges but forgiveness, to me is about the active verb.
To forgive is a change of heart. It has nothing to do with an act because to forgive is decidedly the response from an act. Therefore it is unchangeable juxtaposed to changing circumstances. And because it is not biological it cannot evolve over time and is therefore a faulty thesis. Unless of course you are Religious. Then you would be giving reference to God in your heart and not your heart. So yes Religion has certainly changed over time and thus religious dogma. But this is all nonsensical unless you too are a “believer”. To forgive is the change of heart with and without God as a point of reference. To lie might be considered its opposite. This shall not change over time either. Amen.