The importance of forgiveness

What is forgiveness?

When forgiveness comes about, it is because somebody who has been wronged in some way can pardon it. To many people, forgiving something is not a single act, but rather a type of process that allows them to move from feeling harmed and resentful to a position of equanimity, something that can mean a level of psychological release is possible. People forgive one another for minor indiscretions all the time, especially when some offence or other has been caused by accident. However, the ability to forgive can be harder when a major indiscretion or a crime has been committed. As such, an act of genuine forgiveness is often considered to be a virtue, one that frequently takes moral courage.

What does religion say about forgiveness?

In Judaism, forgiveness is encouraged, although it is not a requirement of the religion, according to most followers. In Christianity, forgiveness is central to the redemption of the soul because it is God's love that offers the chance for sinners' indiscretions to be forgiven. As such, forgiving others is regarded as a Christian thing to do. In Islam, Allah is said to favour forgiving others, and numerous Hadiths recommend it. To Hindus, the issue of forgiveness is bound up with the concepts of daya and karuna, terms which translate as kindness and compassion respectively. In Hinduism, forgiving is said to be a cardinal virtue.

Is forgiveness a concept in Buddhism?

According to the majority of Buddhist traditions, forgiving people for their wrongdoing serves a specific purpose. If one is not able to forgive others, then negative and even harmful notions will continue to remain in the head of the person concerned. This can have a detrimental effect on karma, so it is best to invoke the Buddhist concept of metta, a term which is usually translated as benevolence. Therefore, being benevolent to our wrongdoers is akin to forgiving them, something which has a beneficial effect on karma. In short, forgiving someone helps to prevent a mindset that is tied up with resentment and negativity.

Can forgiveness heal your body?

Healing the body by forgiving someone is not possible in any direct sense. That said, the psychological plus points of forgiving can have an indirect effect on bodily health. From the point of view that forgiveness allows for an inner release of resentment and tension, so the production of stress hormones within the body will reduce. In turn, this can have a positive effect on the body from symptoms associated with stress, such as stomach cramps, headaches and sleep loss, for instance.

Can forgiveness be earned?

Seeking forgiveness does not always lead to it. However, by showing genuine contrition for wrongdoing, the chances of being forgiven are augmented. Some people who are not forgiven but wish to be will seek atonement by undertaking good works to demonstrate their regret.

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