Author Archive: directorifi
My partner keeps saying that I am “morally superior” because I forgive. He does not mean this in any positive sense. He is using it as an insult. How do you recommend that I respond?
I would say something such as this: “Yes, forgiveness is a moral issue and so, yes, I am showing moral behavior toward you.” Yet, as the philosopher Joanna North has said in a philosophy journal article, when people forgive, they lower themselves in humility so that each person can meet person-to-person. So, yes, forgiving is an admirable moral response, but it does not suggest domination of the other at all.
A key here is to first forgive from your heart so that you can approach the person without a lot of anger inside of you. Then try to have a civil conversation with the person so that there is opportunity for insight and change. A key here is for the other to change. Your forgiveness can play a part in that, but even if it does not, you will be free from the inner resentment that can compromise you if you forgive.
It is not possible to forgive someone who has died unless the forgiver believes in an afterlife, right?
One can forgive the deceased regardless of the belief system of the forgiver. For example, the forgiver can say something nice about the person to others, preserving a good name, not because of what happened, but in spite of this. The forgiver might donate some money to a charity in that person’s name, again as a generous act of forgiving. So, one can forgive someone who has died. Otherwise, the one who was treated unjustly could be trapped with an inner resentment that could last the rest of the person’s life.
Well, actually, that is not what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is a moral virtue of offering goodness to another person who is acting unjustly. You can transcend a situation without any thought or action of goodness toward another person. Here is an example: A person transcends the struggle of disappointment as his home is destroyed by a tornado. There is no person here to forgive, yet there is transcendence. The person is going beyond the disappointment and even anger, but without another person being in that process. Forgiving involves reaching out to another person, even when the forgiver is feeling pain that is not transcended or reduced yet.
We have to make a distinction here between what forgiving is and what it accomplishes, or the consequences of forgiving. Because forgiveness is a moral virtue, it always is for the other. Why? This is because the moral virtues, whether it is justice or patience or kindness, flow out from the person to others. It is the same when forgiving another person. Yet, one consequence can be self-healing. Thus, the self benefits by being good to another person who was unfair. Forgiveness is about the other person and so is for that person. Your doing this to achieve an inner peace is one reasonable goal of forgiving, as are other goals such as wanting to aid the other and to improve a relationship.