Tagged: “moral virtue”

Can you think of a situation in which forgiveness would definitely not be appropriate at all?

Let us first make a distinction between forgiveness itself and people who forgive.  Some people will not forgive others for certain horrendous situations.  This is their choice and they should not be criticized for their decision.  In contrast, forgiveness itself, as a moral virtue, is always appropriate (for those who choose it) because it centers on goodness and goodness itself is always appropriate.  Here is an essay on wrote on this subject at the Psychology Today website:

Is Forgiving Another Person Always Appropriate?

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What is the difference between forgiving and accepting what happened?

When you forgive, you are engaging in a moral virtue in which you are choosing to be good to those who are not good to you.  When you accept that something bad happened to you, it is possible to do so without even caring about the one who created the difficult situation for you.  Acceptance can focus on adjusting to a situation; forgiveness focuses on goodness toward persons in particular, on those who acted badly toward you.

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When you say that agape is our highest form of humanity, isn’t that too high a goal? The Medieval philosopher, Thomas Aquinas, referred to agape as “charity” and said we cannot fully appropriate this moral virtue without divine grace.

Yes, Thomas Aquinas did distinguish certain virtues, which he called theological virtues, which are so high, so difficult, that we need divine grace in order to appropriate them correctly.  People can try agape even if they do not reach it more fully, but grace helps us go higher in this virtue according to Aquinas.

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I have been reading some of the social scientific literature on forgiveness and I am a bit confused.  I see a lot of different definitions of forgiveness out there.  Is forgiveness more than one thing?

To forgive another is a moral virtue of being good to those who are not good to you.  I am going to give you a little philosophy here based on Aristotle.  He made the distinction between what he called the Essence of any moral virtue and the Existence of that virtue.  Essence asks this question: What is the objective meaning of forgiveness that is consistent across cultures and across historical time?  Existence asks this question: How does the fundamental sense of forgiveness (that is fixed across cultures and historical time) have nuances for each person and within different cultures?  So, there is a fixed definition of what forgiveness is (its Essence) and yet it can behaviorally vary according to each person’s ability to forgive and according to different cultural norms for expressing forgiveness (its Existence).  The differences in the definition of forgiveness (its Essence) within the social scientific literature is caused by different researchers having different views of forgiveness (including misunderstandings of what forgiveness is) and not something inherent within forgiveness itself.

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Some people forgive better than other people.  Is this because of certain neurotransmitters in the brain?

I have an essay at Psychology Today entitled, “Does Your Brain Cause You to Forgive?”  My answer is no.  Instead, I think it is continual practice of the moral virtue of forgiveness that makes certain people excellent in the forgiveness process.  Here is a link to that Psychology Today essay:

Does Your Brain Cause You to Forgive?

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