What Is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness means confronting (not forgetting) a painful, hurtful event and morally processing it (balance justice, mercy, and humility) so that it produces growth (I’ve learned something and am moving forward), personal well-being (I’m more at peace, so I can function better & live healthier), and better relationships (I’m communicating, setting boundaries, feeling safe).

Forgiveness is NOT ignoring or condoning abuse, bad behavior, or oppression.

Forgiving requires confronting and dealing with a painful transgression through an effortful, compassionate, transformative process that enables one to let go of destructive thoughts and emotions that impede growth. Forgiveness is not excusing, condoning, or pardoning bad behavior. Forgiveness gives memory a future.

Forgiveness may or may not involve reconciliation. It is important to set boundaries with people who may hurt and abuse you, and you may need to cut off communication with some people to ensure your safety or theirs. Sometimes we need to work on forgiving someone who has passed away before we could resolve our issues with them. Or perhaps we regret things we did or didn’t do before someone died. The purpose of forgiveness is to heal our pain so that we become more empowered; that may or may not mean restoration of a relationship. Reconciliation is a personal decision based on safety and the value you place on a relationship.

Here are some words of wisdom from people I interviewed who explained what forgiveness meant to them:

Forgiveness is like freeing yourself. Letting go. Allowing yourself to breathe with a full heart and lungs. It empowers you. Forgiveness is the basis for happiness.

Forgiveness is being able to accept what someone has done to hurt you and then not hold that against them, and be able to actually act fairly towards that person. It means being aware of what the other person can still do to hurt you, and protecting yourself, but without trying to be malicious and hurt them back.

Forgiveness is being able to let go and not holding on to negative thoughts and letting them affect you. You can move forward.

It’s the act that you don’t have to accept in life, but you accept and forgive the person because they’re still human beings, they’re on their path.

Forgiveness is understanding that the people you need to forgive aren’t bigger, or stronger, or more powerful than you are. They are no better or worse than you. You see a person as an equal, and you know you can stand up for yourself and make the necessary boundaries.

Feel free to share what forgiveness means to you on the Share Your Story page on this website!