Which Moral Principle Underlies Forgiveness?

Sophia: And which is the most excellent way among civility, respect, and moral love as your basis for forgiving others?

Inez: This one is easy to answer and hard to implement. Moral love encompasses civility and respect in its response and so is the most complete. Civility is the least demanding and also the least complete. I can be civil and rather detached from a person. I can even be civil without respecting the person. Even respect does not go far enough. I can respect a person who is homeless by writing out a check to the soup kitchen. That is a somewhat detached way to treat someone who is deeply suffering. Yet, if I love another, I not only must be civil and respectful, I must be more than that. In the soup-kitchen example, I must be personal with the homeless person by going to the shelter, dipping the ladle into the soup, and serving that person. Moral love asks the most of me.

Sophia: How then do you understand moral love?

Inez: It is different from romantic love or brotherly love or the natural love between a mother and her child. It is the kind of love that “goes to the wall” for the other by being in service to him or her without burning yourself out, of course. That would hardly be love if I destroyed myself in the process. I think it is a paradox. As I become personal with another for her good, I can and do experience a kind of refreshment.

Enright, Robert D. (2012-07-05). The Forgiving Life (APA Lifetools) (Kindle Locations 1789-1801). American Psychological Association. Kindle Edition.

Dr. Bob

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