Must the Offender Make Amends Before a Person Can Forgive?

In reading some recent blogs that focus on forgiveness, I have seen a particular theme, that of the necessity of the the offender making amends before someone can or should forgive. This requirement on the part of the offender seems incorrect to me for three reasons.

First, if the offender must–must–make amends before the offended person can forgive, then he or she is trapped in unforgiveness until the other decides that it is time to make amends. This is not fair to the one in pain from the offense.

Second, why cannot one forgive and seek justice at the same time, forgive and help the person toward amendment? Waiting for the offender to make amends seems to be confusing the mercy of forgiveness with justice itself. Once the other makes his or her behavior right, what is there left to forgive? Surely, there may be issues from the past, but to now offer forgiveness for good behavior confuses mercy and justice.

Third, there is no other moral virtue (such as justice or patience or kindness) that requires a special response from someone else before it is given. Why should forgiveness be the one extraordinary case of all of the moral virtues?

Must the offender make amends before a person can forgive? It does not appear to be the case.

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2 comments

  1. Jazzy says:

    This helps me to appreciate forgiveness. I have been told that the other has to apologize before I forgive. It is nice to know that I don’t have to do that.

  2. Nicka says:

    It seems to me that those religions or people focusing on “making amends” are rightfully trying to improve the one who acted badly. This certainly is a good thing. Yet, as you point out here, a person can try to help the wrongdoer to amend her ways as an issue related to but different from forgiveness.

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