To me, proclaiming, “I forgive you,” is all about power—-power over the other by basically condemning the other.  After all, what you are doing in this proclamation of forgiving is to point out the other’s flaws.  What do you think?

If your philosophy is based on Machiavelli or post-modernism in which the assumption is that there are no universal truths,  then you will be viewing forgiveness through the lens of power. If  your philosophy is based on classical realism, such as Aristotle, then you will be viewing forgiveness through a moral virtue lens, with the assumption that genuine forgiving is morally good, done for others in a selfless way. The Machiavellian project, within the study of forgiveness, is dangerous because it could lead a person to falsely abandoning the quest for forgiving and shedding of hatred.  After all, if forgiving is abandoned, what is the alternative to expunging hatred?

My point is this: The philosophy with which you begin contemplation on what forgiveness is and its value for you and others has profound implications for how you view this important virtue.  So, as Socrates warned us, the unexamined life is not worth living.  We need to examine very carefully what are our initial assumptions about forgiveness, including being aware of what philosophical model we are bringing to bear on this reflection, prior to judging forgiving as good or bad.

For additional information, see All You Need is Love.

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