I understand that forgiving is not pardoning, but is there an aspect of pardoning in forgiveness? When the language of forgiveness is used, it’s often taken by many that the forgiver no longer seeks restitution or recompense. In this case, it’s not an inner release but a decision not to seek revenge or recompense of the damage done. Then, although it’s not a matter of legal pardoning, can it be a matter of canceling the offender’s responsibility to repay? Is there any way to distinguish forgiveness as a moral virtue practiced toward persons versus forgiveness as a cancellation of the offender’s responsibilities to repay (e.g. physical materials or physical harms)? Is there a difference between when you say you forgive the offender or his/her offenses? Thank you.

These are very interesting distinctions worthy of further thought and discussion.  For now, let me say this: When a person forgives another he or she does not necessarily cancel the need for recompense.  Recompense is an issue of justice and so it seems to me to be perfectly reasonable to forgive and then ask for recompense.  For example, suppose someone drove your car without permission and dented the fender.  Your forgiving the person would not cancel the recompense of his/her now paying the body shop bill.  Yes, there can be an aspect of pardoning if the forgiver chooses not to seek the recompense (such as not asking the person to pay the bill), but this is not part of the essence of what forgiveness is.

With regard to the final issue of forgiving offenders or offenses, forgiveness is always person-centered.  Thus, we forgive persons and not offenses.  We forgive persons because of offenses, but we do not forgive the offenses themselves.

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