Tagged: “trait forgiveness”

I hear such expressions as “State and Trait Forgiveness” and “Specific Forgiveness vs. Dispositional Forgiveness.”  Are there really different forms of forgiving?

I think this dichotomizing of forgiving is a philosophical error.  “State” forgiveness refers to individual people forgiving specific people who have hurt them.  “Trait” forgiveness refers to individual people having a general tendency to forgive many other people for many different offenses.  Aristotle reminds us that as each person grows in any moral virtue through practice (and forgiveness is one of those moral virtues), then there is a tendency to develop a love of that virtue.  As the person develops this love of forgiveness then there is a tendency to forgive others whenever there is an injustice.  So, “Trait” or “Dispositional” forgiving occurs when a person first has a lot of practice with specific forgiving toward specific people.  Such a person eventually shows a maturity in how this now is understood, valued, and expressed.  Forgiveness should not be dichotomized into “State and Trait” forgiveness.  Instead, we should see these as being on a continuum, with the love of the virtue appearing after a period of struggle and time.

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I read on social media that there are different kinds of forgiveness, like state forgiveness and trait forgiveness.  Are there really different kinds of forgiveness?

Some psychologists use exclusive psychological language and concepts to try to understand what forgiveness is.  I disagree with this approach because psychology generally does not examine moral virtues to the depth that philosophers do.  Thus, I prefer the philosophical approach to first understanding what forgiveness is prior to doing psychological research with forgiveness.  From Aristotle’s viewpoint, forgiveness has an objective, absolute, and universal character to it, which means that it is unchanging across time and cultures. This core meaning to forgiveness is what Aristotle calls its Essence.  There are large difference in how forgiveness is expressed in different cultures and this is what Aristotle calls the Existence of forgiveness.  So, Essence remains constant (across time and cultures) and Existence changes according to traditions, norms, and circumstances without altering its Essence.  So, state and trait forgiving for Aristotle are the same, but on a continuum from how you forgive at the moment (state forgiveness) and how you tend to forgive in general (trait).  This, then, should not imply that there are different kinds of forgiveness, but instead the same forgiveness at the moment and how we develop to generally offer forgiveness to others.

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