What Is the True Definition of Forgiveness?

Reviewed on 3/19/2021
Different people perceive forgiveness differently.
Different people perceive forgiveness differently.

Different people perceive forgiveness differently. Generally, it involves a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. Forgiveness is not only about letting go or moving on, but there is more to it. True forgiveness is way beyond letting go and involves:

  • Offering something positive
  • Developing empathy, compassion, and understanding toward the offender

For example, your parents may have constantly criticized you while growing up, or you might have faced sexual abuse during your childhood. These wounds can leave you with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness, or vengeance.

It is quite common to hold grudges against the person who hurt you the most. However, studies have shown that holding grudges against that person would cost you more dearly. By embracing forgiveness, you also embrace peace, hope, gratitude, and joy. Forgiveness can also be a boost for your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you forget or excuse the harm done to you or reconcile with the person who caused the injury. However, you can still come to a place of empathy and understanding. Reconciliation isn’t the option if:

  • The victim of abuse wants to reconcile with the abuser who remains potentially dangerous.
  • The offender isn’t ready to change for good.
  • The offender has died.

Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.

What are the benefits of forgiveness?

Forgiveness has numerous benefits that would prove beneficial in the longer run. It can improve your health and peace of mind. Some of them include:

What are the side effects of holding grudges?

If you are revengeful, you might end up having the following issues:

  • Depression and anxiety issues
  • Develop anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience
  • Dwell on the negative emotions and forget to enjoy the present
  • Feel that your life is meaningless and purposeless or you are at odds with your spiritual belief
  • Lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others

Thus, holding grudges or being revengeful will end up harming you and your conscience. It is seen that spiritual people or those with strong religious beliefs have the upper hand in forgiving. Hence, praying and meditation can help to loosen the grip of negative emotions. It also helps free you from the control of the person who harmed you.


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How can you practice forgiveness?

You can start forgiving your offenders by following these four steps:

  1. Uncovering one’s negative feelings about the offense
  2. Deciding to forgive
  3. Working toward understanding the offending person
  4. Discovering empathy and compassion for your offender

Also, understand these things to reach the state of forgiveness:

  1. The importance of forgiveness and how it can enhance your life.
  2. Consider joining a support group or seeing a counselor.
  3. Move away from being a victim and release the control of the offending person or the situation in your life.

If you can’t forgive someone even after trying your maximum, you can:

  1. Try seeing the issue from the offender’s perspective.
  2. Ask yourself as to why they would behave in such a way.
  3. Think about times when you have hurt others and those who have forgiven you.
  4. Pray or use guided meditation to develop forgiveness.

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Mayo Clinic. Forgiveness: Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692

Weir K. Forgiveness Can Improve Mental and Physical Health. Monitor on Psychology. January 2017; 48(1): 30. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/01/ce-corner

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