Ten Things Forgiveness Is Not

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  1. Forgiveness is not the acceptance of injustice.
  2. Forgiveness is not a reason to keep things the way they always have been.
  3. Forgiveness is not incompatible with loving anger.
  4. Forgiveness does not eliminate the need for mutual communication.
  5. Forgiveness is not yet reconciliation.
  6. Forgiveness is not a moment but a process.
  7. Forgiveness does not forget history.
  8. Forgiveness does not create illusions but engages deeply with what is real.
  9. Forgiveness is not a straight line.
  10. Forgiveness is not something that we do alone, but only with the grace of God.

Photo by Jose A.Thompson on Unsplash.

About Marina McCoy 64 Articles
Marina McCoy is an associate professor of philosophy at Boston College, where she teaches philosophy and in the BC PULSE service learning program. She is the author of Wounded Heroes: Vulnerability as a Virtue in Ancient Greek Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2013). She and her husband are the parents to two young adults and live in the Boston area.
Contact: Website

18 Comments on Ten Things Forgiveness Is Not

  1. The person who has done the harm can go about their life unaffected (At times) while the harmed one is sick, resentful and in torment. So one is suffering and one is not. One must forgive, as apart from it being what we are supposed to do as Christians, it can effect our Health as well as our soul. This does not mean we forget, but wasn’t the saying: To forgive is divine??? I had to learn the hard way to forgive , as it really did affect my soul and my health, even if some people thought I was being delusional. No one is perfect. A.M.D.G.

  2. I am only getting down to replying now. This article was varying meaningful to me as i have gone through a lot hurt this year. However I would appreciate come clarification of ‘Forgiveness is not a reason to keep things the way they always have been’. For some reason I just can/t get my head around this.

    • Hi,
      In writing, “Forgiveness is not a reason to keep things the way they always have been,” I was thinking of situations where I have sometimes thought,” if I forgive, then it means I have to believe that I have to go back to the situation as it currently exists or that I am affirming it is okay. For example, in a marriage or friendship, there could be an unhealthy dynamic between the two people that needs to change. I can forgive the other person for his or her part, and myself for mine, but still realize: in the present and future, we need to change the dynamic between us. Or I might forgive another person for making a sexist comment, and still think about how can I work to change sexism. I hope that helps to clarify what I had in mind. Thanks for asking.

  3. This is important to learn, I’ve found that forgiveness has helped me to heal, to live in the present. Being unforgiving keeps you stuck in the past and the pain.

    Forgive for Good, I learned a a lot about forgiveness.

    • Probably a subject for another post but I think forgiveness is releasing resentment and hurt over time, choosing to desire the other’s good, and, more deeply, loving others (and oneself) as God loves.

  4. Thank you. My sister and I were raised in a disfintional family, were more like competitors than friends. We are the last in our family, still live in the same town, are fearful and distrustful of each other, we have disagreements with each other and stay away, then try again to communicate. Gratefully we are both Catholics and are praying for healthy relationships, a long road worth traveling.
    I have appreciated a number of your articles. Thank you, Sheila

    • You are welcome. I like that image of forgiveness as a long road, worth traveling. Thanks for sharing that with this community.

  5. Love this meditation as I struggle with “forgiveness”. Would like more insight on what is meant by-Forgiveness is not incompatible with loving anger. Are we loving our anger or holding a loving type of anger?

    • That is a good question.

      I did not mean loving the anger, but rather loving the person or persons with whom one is angry and expressing it as an aspect of love.

      For example, if an institution that I love has harmed others, I could be angry with the institution or its leaders as a way of expressing not only love for the persons harmed, but also as part of love for the very institution itself and a desire that it do better. Eventually the anger will also have to be let go, but it can serve a purpose for a time, and be part of the emotional dynamics of a longer process of forgiveness.

      • Marina, once again thank you for your explanation. So often when we hear about forgiveness and we can forget that often although we have forgiven as we have been forgiven we still often live with the side effects of the wrongs committed, which as you stated in your 10th point; for healing we need that wonderful grace of God.

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