Forgiveness doesn't mean that you deny the other person's responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn't minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Depending on the degree and circumstance of the offense, (typically, in assault and murder), the victim can forgive without the need of the offender's interaction or permission. The offender should never ask for forgiveness if there is any possibility of hurting the victim any further. Forgiveness is the process of ceasing to feel resentment, indignation or anger for a perceived offense, difference or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. This definition, however, is subject to much philosophical critique. Forgiveness may be considered simply in terms of the person who forgives, in terms of the person forgiven and/or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven. In some contexts, it may be granted without any expectation of compensation, and without any response on the part of the offender (for example, one may forgive a person who is dead). In practical terms, it may be necessary for the offender to offer some form of acknowledgment, apology, and/or restitution, or even just ask for forgiveness, in order for the wronged person to believe they are able to forgive. Most world religions include teachings on the nature of forgiveness, and many of these teachings provide an underlying basis for many varying modern day traditions and practices of forgiveness. However, throughout the ages, philosophers have studied forgiveness apart from religion. In addition, as in other areas of human inquiry, science is beginning to question religious concepts of forgiveness. Psychology, sociology and medicine are among the scientific disciplines researching forgiveness or aspects of forgiveness. The Prodigal Son is a well known instance of such teaching and practice of forgiveness. Some religious doctrines or philosophies place greater emphasis on the need for humans to find some sort of divine forgiveness for their own shortcomings, others place greater emphasis on the need for humans to practice forgiveness between one another, yet others make little or no distinction between human and/or divine forgiveness.
In Buddhism, forgiveness is seen as a practice to prevent harmful thoughts from causing havoc on one’s mental well-being. Buddhism recognizes that feelings of hatred and ill-will leave a lasting effect on our mind karma. Instead, Buddhism encourages the cultivation of thoughts that leave a wholesome effect. "In contemplating the law of karma, we realize that it is not a matter of seeking revenge but of practicing metta and forgiveness, for the victimizer is, truly, the most unfortunate of all. When resentments have already arisen, the Buddhist view is to calmly proceed to release them by going back to their roots. Buddhism centers on release from delusion and suffering through meditation and receiving insight into the nature of reality. Buddhism questions the reality of the passions that make forgiveness necessary as well as the reality of the objects of those passions. "If we haven’t forgiven, we keep creating an identity around our pain, and that is what is reborn. That is what suffers.
Buddhism places much emphasis on the concepts of Mettā (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy), and upekkhā (equanimity), as a means to avoiding resentments in the first place. These reflections are used to understand the context of suffering in the world, both our own and the suffering of others. In response to 9/11, Ajahn Jayasaro, a Buddhist monk, reminded his students, "When we give serious consideration to our companionship in birth, old age, sickness, and death with all other beings in the world, it gives us a fresh perspective..." Quotes (more quotes here)
The Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian Churches teach that God's forgiveness is received through personal repentance in conjunction with the ministry of the Church, that is, the Body of Christ. In these churches, and in some Anglican communities it is customary to make formal confession of sins individually in the presence of a priest, and to obtain absolution as a formal expression by the church of God's forgiveness.
Most Protestant denominations teach that a believer receives forgiveness more directly through a sincere expression of repentance to God, and that the believer completes this in the act of forgiving others. Then confession and prayer by the forgiven is about healing(). Protestant denominations generally place more emphasis on the need for private or informal repentance, and less emphasis on the need for formal or public repentance. This is supported by the direction to confess to God, since he is the only one who can forgive sins. However, even Catholics and Orthodox Christians cite scriptural support for a mediated confession through Jesus conferring upon the apostles: "whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." Hence, the distinction that only God can forgive sins is cited by Catholics and Protestants alike.
It is taught by most denominations that the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus via the crucifixion is the vehicle through which God forgives the believer of his or her sins. The sacrament of communion is regarded as central to the reception of divine forgiveness in some Christian denominations.
Narrative Christian Theology understands forgiveness, not as a rule or spiritual duty, but as a form by which the people of God embody their mission to live as a people who are reconciled to God. Since the Church's very existence is formed by God's forgiveness it operates as a people of forgiveness, forgiven and forgiving, inextricably tied to peacemaking and justice. Philip D. Kenneson, associate professor of theology and philosophy at Milligan College, writes in his book Life On The Vine, "God's intent was not that this one divine act of forgiveness [in Jesus Christ] would itself magically transform the creation into God's intended paradise. Rather, this supreme act of forgiveness in Christ is the very large rock dropped into the middle of a pond. ... [I]f I refuse such forgiveness [for others] in the name of justice, is it possible that my view of justice falls short of God's view, where justice, shalom, wholeness and salvation are not opposing goals, but different names for God's singular desire?"
When Christian forgiveness is discussed, it is primarily within the context of God forgiving man. In his book Balancing the Scales of Justice with Forgiveness and Repentance, ex-lay prison minister Randall J. Cecrle makes the point that both forgiveness and repentance focus on the satisfaction of justice, each one side of the two-sided scales that addresses the human need to have justice satisfied. He writes that the means for humans to forgive other humans is the same means as God’s forgiveness of mankind, the substitutionary death of Jesus. When God through the Apostle Paul said “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13), he was giving clear instructions on how to forgive. The author goes on to say “Forgive as God forgave you. Forgive in the same way, using the same means and power that God used to forgive you and me. And God forgave you and me how? He forgave by accepting the blood of Jesus (death at the hands of the executioner) as the substitutionary satisfaction of His justice. To forgive those who have caused us harm, have injured us, caused us loss, we are likewise to: Accept Jesus’ Death as the Satisfaction of Justice!”
Key Biblical texts on the subject of forgiveness include (here quoted from the New International Version):
For some of the principal Christian teachings regarding the forgiveness of sins by God, see Atonement.
The concept of performing atonement from one's wrongdoing (Prayaschitta — Sanskrit: Penance), and asking for forgiveness is very much a part of the practice of Hinduism. Prayashitta is related to the law of Karma. Karma is a sum of all that an individual has done, is currently doing and will do. The effects of those deeds and these deeds actively create present and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one's own life, and the pain in others. Forgiveness is a great power
Addressing Dhritarashtra, Vidura said: "There is one only defect in forgiving persons, and not another; that defect is that people take a forgiving person to be weak. That defect, however, should not be taken into consideration, for forgiveness is a great power. Forgiveness is a virtue of the weak, and an ornament of the strong. Forgiveness subdues (all) in this world; what is there that forgiveness cannot achieve? What can a wicked person do unto him who carries the sabre of forgiveness in his hand? Fire falling on the grassless ground is extinguished of itself. And unforgiving individual defiles himself with many enormities. Righteousness is the one highest good; and forgiveness is the one supreme peace; knowledge is one supreme contentment; and benevolence, one sole happiness." (From the Mahabharata, Udyoga Parva Section XXXIII, Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli).
An even more authoritative statement about forgiveness is espoused by Krishna, who is considered to be an incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu by Hindus. Krishna said in the Gita that forgiveness is one of the characteristics of one born for a divine state. It is noteworthy that he distinguishes those good traits from those he considered to be demoniac, such as pride, self-conceit and anger (Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 16, verse 3).
Huston Smith in his book The World's Religions says
"Enter Hinduism’s myths, her magnificent symbols, her several hundred images of God, her rituals that keep turning night and day like never ending prayer wheels. It is obtuse to confuse Hinduism’s images with idolatry, and their multiplicity with polytheism. They are 'runways' from which the sense-laden human spirit can rise for its "flight of the alone to the Alone".
Even village priest will frequently open their temple ceremonies with the following beloved invocation:
Islam teaches that God (Allah in Arabic) is 'the most forgiving', and is the original source of all forgiveness. Forgiveness often requires the repentance of those being forgiven. Depending on the type of wrong committed, forgiveness can come either directly from Allah, or from one's fellow man whom received the wrong. In the case of divine forgiveness, the asking for divine forgiveness via repentance is important. In the case of human forgiveness, it is important to both forgive, and to be forgiven.
The central and most sacred book of Islam: the Qur'an, teaches that there is only one error that Allah cannot forgive, the error of ascribing partners (or equals) to Allah. Islam ranks this error as a denial of monotheism, and therefore of the supreme nature of Allah himself (shirk).
But if he returns to God and pleads sincerely for forgiveness and abandons worshiping other than the one and only God, He will be forgiven. The Qur'an does on occasion make allowances for violent behavior on the part of Muslim believers, and such allowances have been construed by some observers as condoning unforgiving behavior. Still such allowances are only made within the Qur'an in the case of defending one's religion, one's life or one's property. Outside of this, the Qu'ran makes no allowances for violent behavior. From time to time certain Muslims have interpreted such Qur'anic allowances for "defensive violence" to include what other Muslims have viewed more as unwarranted and overly aggressive violence. This interpretative debate about when to forgive and when to aggressively attack or defend continues to this day within the Muslim community.
The Qur'an makes it clear that, whenever possible, it is better to forgive another than to attack another. The Qur'an describes the believers (Muslims) as those who, avoid gross sins and vice, and when angered they forgive. (Qur'an 42:37) and says that Although the just requital for an injustice is an equivalent retribution, those who pardon and maintain righteousness are rewarded by GOD. He does not love the unjust. (Qur'an 42:40).
To receive forgiveness from God there are three requirements:
If the offense was committed against another human being, or against society, a fourth condition is added:
There are no particular words to say for asking forgiveness. However, Muslims are taught many phrases and words to keep repeating daily asking God's forgiveness. For example:
Islamic teaching presents the prophet Muhammad as an example of someone who would forgive others for their ignorance, even those who might have once considered themselves to be his enemies. One example of Muhammad's practice of forgiveness can be found in the Hadith, the body of early Islamic literature about the life of Muhammad. This account is as follows:
The Prophet (may peace be upon him) was the most forgiving person. He was ever ready to forgive his enemies. When he went to Ta’if to preach the message of Allah, its people mistreated him, abused him and hit him with stones. He left the city humiliated and wounded. When he took shelter under a tree, the angel of Allah visited him and told him that Allah sent him to destroy the people of Ta’if because of their sin of maltreating their Prophet. Muhammad (may peace be upon him) prayed to Allah to save the people of Ta'if, because what they did was out of their ignorance. Quotes (more quotes here)
In Judaism, if a person causes harm, but then sincerely and honestly apologizes to the wronged individual and tries to rectify the wrong, the wronged individual is religiously required to grant forgiveness:
Aruguably, if the wrongdoer does not apologize, there is no formal obligation to grant forgiveness; but "it is proper to forgive everyone who wronged you and caused you pain, for by merit of this one's life is prolonged." Mishna Berura, 239:9, citing BT Megilla 28. Similarly, "Who is forgiven iniquity? he who overlooks transgression." BT Rosh Hashana 17a Based on this teaching, many Jews recite a prayer before going to sleep each night that includes a section where they grant forgiveness to anyone who caused them harm.
In Judaism, one must go to those he has harmed in order to be entitled to forgiveness. [One who sincerely apologizes three times for a wrong committed against another has fulfilled his or her obligation to seek forgiveness. (Shulchan Aruch) OC 606:1] This means that, unlike in Christianity, in Judaism a person cannot obtain forgiveness from God for wrongs the person has done to other people. Thus the Tefila Zaka meditation, which is recited just before Yom Kippur, closes with the following:
Thus the "reward" for forgiving others is not God's forgiveness for wrongs done to others, but rather help in obtaining forgiveness from the other person.
Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, summarized: "it is not that God forgives, while human beings do not. To the contrary, we believe that just as only God can forgive sins against God, so only human beings can forgive sins against human beings.
Jews observe a Day of Atonement Yom Kippur on the day before God makes decisions regarding what will happen during the coming year. Just prior to Yom Kippur, Jews will ask forgiveness of those they have wronged during the prior year (if they have not already done so). During Yom Kippur itself, Jews fast and pray for God's forgiveness for the transgressions they have made against God in the prior year. Sincere repentance is required, and once again, God can only forgive one for the sins one has committed against God; this is why it is necessary for Jews also to seek the forgiveness of those people who they have wronged.
Yoga teachers Joel Kramer and Diana Alstead analyse the use of unconditional love and the associated concept of forgiveness as a foundation for authoritarian control. They survey religions worldwide to make their assertion that religious imperatives of forgiveness are often used to perpetrate cycles of ongoing abuse. They state that "to forgive without requiring the other to change is not only self-destructive, but ensures a dysfunctional relationship will remain so by continually rewarding mistreatment."
For instance, one Christian sect, the Anabaptists, take Christian imperatives to forgive particularly seriously, interpret them literally and apply them rigorously inside their closed churches. As such, they are a case where one can assess the effects of applying religious-based forgiveness in all situations, 'no matter what'. Not surprisingly, they have a well-deserved reputation for being gentle people but, inside their communities, rigorously obeying (Christian) religious imperatives to forgive, 'no matter what', has been reported to cause effects similar to what Kramer and Alstead theorize in their abstract analysis. , Kramer and Alstead also point out similar dynamics operating in Eastern 'Oneness' religions in their wide-ranging analysis of the religious roots of authoritarian control.
Kramer and Alstead assert that of faith-based ideals of forgiveness, while appearing selfless, contain implicit selfish aspects. They state that "when forgiving contains a moral component, there is moral superiority in the act itself that can allow one to feel virtuous". They ask: "As long as one is judging the other lacking, how much letting go can there be?" They note that "Where the virtue in 'moralistic foregiving' lies is also complicated by the fact that it is often unclear who benefits more from it, the one doing the forgiving or the one being forgiven." Not surprisingly, they note "that for many people, forgiving is an area of confusion intellectually."
Only in the last few decades has forgiveness received attention from psychologists and social psychologists. Psychological papers and books on the subject did not begin to appear until the 1980’s. Prior to that time it was a practice primarily left to matters of faith. Although there is presently no consensual psychological definition of forgiveness in the research literature, a consensus has emerged that forgiveness is a process and a number of models describing the process of forgiveness have been published, including one from a radical behavioral perspective .
Dr. Robert Enright from the University of Wisconsin-Madison is regarded to have placed forgiveness on the map. He founded the International Forgiveness Institute and is considered the initiator of forgiveness studies. Dr. Enright developed a 20-Step Process Model of Forgiveness.
Dr. Everett Worthington, a known lecturer and author on the subject of forgiveness has developed the Pyramid Model of Forgiveness. This model involves: recall the hurt; empathize; altruistic gift of forgiveness; commit to forgive; holding onto forgiveness.
Dr. Guy Pettitt of New Zealand, provides a comprehensive set of materials on both the need and benefits of forgiveness as well as the process to accomplish forgiveness. These materials are available as a free download.