Tagged: “moral virtues”

Thank you for answering my question about getting to know what forgiveness is. I have another question for you: Is it possible for most people to go through the forgiveness process (your 20-unit Process Model) in a genuine way and to the full extent of forgiving?

I again, will refer to Aristotle and his wisdom about becoming perfected in the moral virtues.  According to Aristotle’s observations, all people have the potential for perfection in the moral virtues, but we do not reach that highest level of perfection because we are imperfect beings.  This actually keeps life interesting.  As we strive to get better in forgiveness or justice or love, we always have room for more improvement.  Yes, we do get better with practice, but no matter what our age or experience, we can look forward to more insights, surprises, and growth.

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“I cannot forgive Hitler. To do so would be folly given his evil acts. So, in some cases is forgiving an act of folly?”

Forgiveness is a moral virtue. All moral virtues (such as justice, patience, kindness, and love-in-service-to-others) are good. Therefore, forgiveness is good. Goodness is not folly. Because forgiveness is part of goodness, it follows that forgiveness cannot be folly.

That said, you may not be ready right now to forgive certain people for certain unjust actions. This does not make you a bad person. Forgiveness does not have the same quality as justice. Certain forms of justice are so important that they are encoded into laws of the state: Do not murder, for example. Forgiveness is not codified into law because it is the person’s choice whether or not to forgive a given person for a given unjust action. So, if you do not want to forgive Hitler for the pain he has caused to you (and he can cause pain to those who were born long after World War II), then you need not do so, and remain a good person.

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Do I have to grow in character before I am able to forgive? If so, what character traits do you see as important?

This is one of those chicken-or-the-egg dilemmas. It seems to me that as we forgive, we grow in the moral virtues, particularly of courage (as we decide to move forward), humility (as we try to see the humanity in the one who acted unfairly), and then eventually in love, particularly agape love, or that which is in service to others for their sake. Agape love costs the one who loves; it can be a struggle to offer goodness to another through a broken heart. These three: courage, humility, and agape love, I think, are major fruits of forgiving.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness? 

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