To forgive, to be forgiven, to ask for forgiveness

One of the most complicated topics, especially in the times we live in, is forgiveness. Forgiveness as the act of forgiving and as receiving forgiveness from others.

April 1, 2024-Reading time: 2 minutes

Pope Francis' frequent allusion to international conflicts and tensions is well known when he says that we are living through "a third world war in pieces".

It is a war consisting of many clashes, in principle not global but local, and perhaps not only warlike.

They may take the form of unilateral conquests, wars, international affronts, humiliations and many other expressions, but they are always situations that give rise, in addition to terrible damage to lives and property, to divisions and hatred between peoples that often outlive the generations that lived through them.

Since this is an experience we are all familiar with, it seems almost superfluous to say that the same phenomenon also occurs in the lives of individual people.

We sometimes suffer from a lack of respect for people and their rights, we endure real injustices, sometimes openly real and sometimes perceived as such, or not rooted in intentionally harmful behavior.

This can lead to tensions between people, temporary estrangements or long-lasting enmities, and even psychic problems can appear.

It must be recognized that it may not be easy to break out of this dynamic, and to offer forgiveness as a game. This other logic presents several variants: the benevolence to forgive, the audacity to ask for forgiveness, the openness to receive forgiveness when it is offered to us. 

For this reason, it is worth pausing to consider what all these behaviors mean. Some texts in this issue provide different approaches: the basically anthropological aspects, the psychological explanation, the philosophical and theological consideration.

The difference and reactions between forgiveness and forgetting, or between forgiveness and cancellation, are discussed; and the narrow line that separates the true request for forgiveness from the strategy that uses it to achieve political objectives or to whitewash an image is analyzed.

Forgiveness is more difficult if it is intended to be adopted without a predisposition rooted in behavior.

Education in the family and outside it, and more broadly the habit of tolerance and understanding that forms virtue, have very direct positive personal and social effects. And in the context of the life of Christians, the grace received from God makes the ability to forgive a characteristically Christian reaction.

In this area, the one who forgives does not find the source of his disposition in his own condition: he first receives forgiveness and learns it from a God who knows how to forgive, no matter what happens.

The authorOmnes

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