The Olive Branch Blog

The Definition of Forgiveness

Have you ever thought about what it means to forgive another person? In order to better understand the concept, I turned to a familiar source, the dictionary. Here is what I found.

To forgive someone means:

a. to give up resentment of, or claim of requital: To forgive an insult.
b. to grant relief from payment: To forgive a debt.

c. to cease to feel resentment against an offender: To forgive one's enemies.

I think that most of us have at some time made efforts to practice each of the three definitions of forgiveness, each to varying degrees of success. I would like to spend a little time on the third definition and what it means to me.

Forgiveness can be very powerful. Just think if you could bottle it and pass it out to others, it would undoubtedly save a lot of marriages, friendships, and precious relationships. When we cease to feel resentment against another, we are releasing the offender from the penalty of their offense so that the relationship can be mended.

In the process of forgiving, the first barrier that must be removed is within yourself. When we are wronged, our first inclination is to punish the offender. We need to begin by making a conscious decision to see the offender as who they really are, a spouse, a family member, a close friend, rather than as the offender, and as the offense they have committed. Often, this decision needs to be reinforced, daily, even hourly. It isn't easy letting go, especially if the offense is a major transgression.

The less we dwell on an offense and feed our anger, the easier it becomes to let go. Making the decision to forgive is important to understand because our emotions play such a major role. Forgiveness ebbs and flows as our emotions ebbs and flow like the tide. We might make the decision to forgive, our anger subsides and we think we have forgiven, but then the anger resurfaces and we are back to square one.

You begin to see that this business of letting go, and forgiving can be quite complicated. I think in the coming we weeks we will explore the ways that we can learn to forgive and begin to heal our fractured relationships. I hope I will give you something to think about.

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