Recently, one of my high school students approached me and said this, “I am kind of ambivalent about forgiveness. If I forgive, some of the other students seem to think that I am a weakling.” I was not sure how to answer this. Do you have some insights for me?
The student is confusing forgiveness with giving in to others’ demands. This is not forgiveness. To forgive is to know that what the other person did is wrong and yet mercy is offered nonetheless. When one forgives, one also asks for justice and so this idea of weakness or giving in is not correct. There are two basic ways of distorting forgiveness: to let the other have power over you or to seek power over the other because of that person’s transgressions. True forgiveness avoids these extremes.