Not all the time, but sometimes I feel guilty when I forgive someone who has been very cruel to me. I question whether the person deserves to be forgiven. What can you offer me to reduce my feeling of guilt?

You may be feeling guilty when you forgive because you think you are letting the other person off easily. If so, then you are thinking of forgiveness as part of the virtue of justice (doing what is fair, giving someone what he or she deserves). If you are thinking this way, then it follows that you might see yourself as thwarting justice as you forgive, which would increase guilt. After all, we want to do what is fair, not contribute to injustice. Yet, forgiveness is part of mercy (giving goodness to a person who hurt you, not because of what he or she did, but in spite of this). When you forgive, please try to remember two issues: a) You are not letting someone off easily, but instead you are expressing mercy, and b) as you express mercy in the form of forgiveness, you can exercise justice. In other words, hold the other to a high standard. This should help you not feel guilty as you forgive.

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Categories: Ask Dr. Forgiveness

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