Tagged: “moral virtue”
I am somewhat confused. I thought that forgiveness is getting rid of resentment toward an offending person. That is what I read the most. So, what’s wrong with this as a definition of forgiving?
While reducing resentment is part of the definition of forgiveness, it cannot be the complete definition because one can reduce resentment, for example, by dismissing the offending person. In other words, a person might reduce resentment and then says to oneself, “That other person is worthless. I am moving on.” Failing to acknowledge the personhood of the other and dismissing that other person is not a moral virtue. Therefore, it cannot be all that encompasses forgiveness, given that forgiveness is a moral virtue.
You said earlier to me that when we forgive we do not acquiesce to the other’s demands. May I respectfully disagree on this. I disagree because I have been reading recently and seeing on media videos some people discussing what they call “toxic forgiveness.” To those who use this term, there is an element to forgiveness that is out of balance with fairness. Is it not reasonable for all of us to be aware of how forgiveness can get out of balance to such a degree that it becomes “toxic” for the one who forgives?
I think there is a serious misunderstanding of what forgiveness is and what it is not by people who use the words “toxic forgiveness.” They usually refer to people who “forgive” and then just put up with the unfairness of the other person. This is not an issue of forgiveness at all, but instead of a serious misunderstanding of what forgiveness is. When we forgive, we do not give in to the other’s demands. When this happens, the one who supposedly is “forgiving” is instead deciding to turn away from a fair solution and then is calling this “forgiveness.” Forgiveness as a moral virtue of goodness does not give in to unfairness. Otherwise, it would not be a moral virtue at all. Here is an analogy to make my point clearer. Suppose a person wants to become physically fit. This person walks about 200 steps, then sits down and eats a gallon of ice cream. This occurs every day and the person gains 20 pounds. Suppose now that this person says, “I have tried physical fitness and it is toxic. All it does is put weight on me.” Is it really physical fitness that is the problem, or a distortion of what it truly means to start a physical fitness program? Suppose now that many people start saying that physical fitness is “toxic.” Where does the error lie, with physical fitness itself or with a conceptual distortion, and a serious one at that, regarding what it actually means to engage in physical fitness? It is the same with “toxic forgiveness.” People distort the meaning of forgiveness and then proclaim that forgiveness is “toxic.”
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?
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.
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.