Without the other guy apologizing to me, it seems so phony to offer forgiveness. How am I helping him if i just forgive? If he apologizes, then he sees the error of his ways. Waiting to forgive after the other apologizes is more loving than unconditional forgiveness. Do you agree?

Thank you for your challenging question. I think you and I have a confusion of terms. To forgive is to exercise a moral virtue of mercy toward an offending other person. All moral virtues, whether it is justice, or patience, or kindness can be expressed unconditionally. By this I mean we can choose to be fair or patient or kind without permission to do so, without someone else doing something first that then allows us to exercise the virtue.

Why should this not be the same with the moral virtue of forgiveness? Why should forgiveness be the one and only moral virtue that is conditional on someone doing something (apologize or repent or pay back something) before we can exercise that virtue?

I think you might have in mind the issue of reconciliation, which of course is related to forgiveness (but different than it). Reconciliation is a negotiation strategy in which two or more people come together again in mutual trust. It probably is prudent (depending on the severity of the offense, of course) to withhold reconciliation until the person sees what he/she did, feels sorry for it, expresses the sorry as an apology, and decides to not be hurtful again (within reason because we are all imperfect).

So, you can lovingly and unconditionally forgive and then hold the person to a high standard in the act of reconciliation. This, then, does not render forgiveness “phony,” but instead shows the link between the moral virtue of forgiveness and the negotiation strategy of reconciliation.

Please follow and like us:
Categories: Ask Dr. Forgiveness