Forgiveness, defining

Defining Forgiveness

(By Michael McCullough, PhD. National Institute for Healthcare Research in Rockville, Md. )

When someone hurts us, we can react in several ways. Initially, most people try to defend themselves which often leads to resentment, a desire for revenge and as attempt to avoid the offending person.

But another option is to forgive, letting go of our resentment, anger and spite, and feeling compassion for the person who hurt us. The defensive responses are somewhat automatic. Forgiveness takes conscious effort. The psychological concept of forgiveness is not the same as condoning or excusing. We are asking people to forgive despite the knowledge that what was done was unfair.

Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness only involves the person who was hurt.
Reconciliation takes both people and requires a change in the person who did the hurting.

Forgiveness can be liberating. Carrying around a desire for revenge or a need to avoid someone is not healthy: Hostility and aggression are linked to a host of health problems.

People who are able to forgive benefit through a decrease in anxiety, depression and hostility; and an increase in hope, self esteem and well being. Empathy motivates forgiveness. People who feel empathy for the offender are more able to forgive than those who don’t.

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