5 Ways of Misunderstanding Forgiveness

There are many misconceptions about forgiveness.  Here are 5 worth noting:

1. Forgiveness places the burden for healing on the one who was the victim. For example, if someone is assaulted and now is feeling depressed, the burden for healing falls on the one who was assaulted.  Our answer: Of course the burden of healing rests with the one hurt.  That is always the case whether the hurt is emotional (as in the case of depression) or physical (a broken leg, for example).  When we have an injury of any kind, we should never rely on the one who injured us to somehow fix the consequences of our injury because too often the injurer is not concerned one way of the other with our healing.

2. Forgiveness foreswears punishment of the injurer and lets him or her off the hook. Our answer: Forgiveness and justice grow up together.  When one forgives, one should seek justice. In the case of punishment, if the injurer broke the law, the injured one should not take the law into his/her own hands, but leave the punishment to a neutral, third party judge.

3. Forgiveness is morally suspect because one “lets go” of the other’s injustice. Our answer: Forgiveness is not a “letting go” of an offense but instead is a merciful overture to the one who had no mercy on the victim.

4. Forgiveness makes the one injured develop a victim-identity, in essence crippling his or her self-esteem. Our answer: Forgiveness helps one to thrive and rise above the injustice, thus helping the forgiver to shed the victim mentality.

5. Forgiveness is dangerous because it puts the injured one in harm’s way again as he or she reaches out to the injurer. Our answer:  Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. To forgive is a moral virtue. To reconcile is a negotiation strategy of developing once again mutual trust. One can forgive without reconciling.


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Categories: Misconceptions, Our Forgiveness Blog


  1. Chris says:

    Forgetting may be another one. Some people think that if they forgive then they will be vulnerable to what the other person dished out in the past. This need not be the case at all. When I forgive I ask the person to shape up when there is hurt. I don’t forget but I do try to be kind.

  2. Josh says:

    Here is a 6th point—sometimes forgiveness is seen as weakness. It is seen as a person’s only recourse when a boss for example dominates and makes life miserable. Yet forgiveness has nothing to do with playing the weakling in front of the boss. You are actually standing up to the boss with mercy as your guide which might transform the boss.

  3. Amanda says:

    Is it a burden to take healing into one’s own hands and try to get better? I do not understand the thinking in the first misconception. If one concluded that the victim somehow did a bad thing to bring on grave injustice, then that would be a burden but I do not see that at all in the misconception.

  4. Samantha says:

    It is so sad when people reject forgiveness for all the wrong reasons. Knowing the errors may help people make better choices about whether or not to forgive those who hurt them.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    How could anyone think of forgiveness as weakness? Have they really tried it or are they standing on the sideline pretending to be in the game? It is easy to criticize something that one has no clue regarding what it actually is. Such criticism itself is very weak.


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