Forgiveness is a quality we need to have, and a practice we need to apply.

Forgiveness of others involves our showing them unconditional mercy and refusing to hold against them, the wrong they have done to us. Such wrongdoing against us can be accidental or deliberate. We refuse to seek revenge against them but may ask them to correct a course of action to restore a state of just behaviour toward us.

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We may, for example, (especially if the wrongdoing was deliberate) ask them to return property they have taken from us or ask them to compensate us for that property. We may also ask them to promise that they will not commit such wrongdoing against us in the future.

Forgiveness is not a reserve of religion. Its principle can be embraced and it can be practised by everyone including theists, atheists, skeptics and agnostics. It also is not peculiar to a particular people or culture.

The underlying principle of forgiveness is good and worthwhile in itself; and it is universal and timeless. When we practise forgiveness we further develop it as a quality thereby contributing to the development of true character.

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The practice of forgiveness is related to and may involve the practice of such other qualities as sympathy, empathy, forbearance and so on. The practice of these qualities also contribute to the development of our character.

The practice of forgiving and the attendant development of our character can be of benefit to both the forgiver and the forgiven. Such ability to forgive and the corresponding enhancement of character can also benefit all of our relationships. The practice of forgiveness can also benefit the social units to which we belong and the wider community in which we live. At the community level, physical violence, crime and incarceration and the economic cost of these areas of activity are but a few of the areas that can benefit from the practice of forgiveness as it is viewed above.

By Edward Fagan

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