Sunday, May 06, 2007
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”
During these few days I will be talking about the beautiful act of Forgiveness. I myself am learning as I am taking one step each day in the journey of life. Very few people can say they were able to forgive in an instant decision, for most of us it is a procedure, it is a journey, a journey of healing of souls and relationships. A beautiful journey. As I was writing my Bachelour Dissertation about 3 years ago, for a whole year I read almost everything that was published on 'Forgiveness'. I did my research on what the effects of forgiveness are, physically, emotionally, mentally, etc.
The Dictionary defines Forgiveness as “to say that one no longer has the wish to punish somebody; for an offence, a sin; pardon or show mercy to somebody; no longer have hard feelings towards somebody”. Psychologically speaking, forgiveness involves several aspects – cognitive, emotional, behavioral, spiritual, psycho-physiological and social aspects (Worthington, 2003).
There is no consensus as to the definition of forgiveness. There is general agreement as to what forgiveness is not - ‘condoning’, ‘excusing’, ‘forgetting’ or ‘denying’ (Enright & Coyle, 1998). Enright and Fitzgibbons (2000) have championed a definition that emphasizes the interplay of cognition, emotion, and behavior. McCullough, Fincham and Tsang (2003) have emphasized reductions of motivations of revenge and avoidance over time and increase of conciliation. McCullough, Worthington, and Rachal (1997) state that the essence of forgiveness is a change in one’s motivation toward the offending person. All of the existing definitions seem to be build on one core feature: when people forgive, their responses toward people who have offended or injured them become more positive.
The severity of a transgression might influence the extent to which an individual forgives a transgression (McCullough, Rachal, Sandage, Worthington, Brown and Hight, 1998). Severe transgressions may be difficult to forbear because they can influence the recipient’s life more profoundly and pervasively and have enduring consequences than do minor transgressions.
The fact that someone appraises a situation as hurtful is constituted by a complex set of cognitive, affective, and volitional dispositions and states. Piaget stated that forgiveness implies a sense of ideal reciprocity, which can be expressed as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The understanding that one should forgive because you have been forgiven in the past and in order to be forgiven in the future- is a complex one; forgiveness cannot therefore be fully understood before late childhood. The motive a person has behind their decision of forgiveness and moral reasoning changes from childhood until adulthood.