About Forgiveness

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Forgiveness is the renunciation or cessation of resentmentindignation or anger as a result of a perceived offence, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand. punishment or restitution.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as ‘to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offence or debt’.  The concept and benefits of forgiveness have been explored inreligious thought, the social sciences and medicine.  Forgiveness may be considered simply in terms of the person who forgives including forgiving themselves, in terms of the person forgiven or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven.  In most contexts, forgiveness is granted without any expectation of restorative justice, and without any response on the part of the offender (for example, one may forgive a person who is incommunicado or dead).  In practical terms, it may be necessary for the offender to offer some form of acknowledgment, an apology, or even just ask for forgiveness, in order for the wronged person to believe himself able to forgive.

Most world religions include teachings on the nature of forgiveness, and many of these teachings provide an underlying basis for many varying modern day traditions and practices of forgiveness.  Some religious doctrines or philosophies place greater emphasis on the need for humans to find some sort of divine forgiveness for their own shortcomings, others place greater emphasis on the need for humans to practice forgiveness of one another, yet others make little or no distinction between human and divine forgiveness.

Factors determining the likelihood of forgiveness in an intimate relationship.

Although there is presently no consensus for a psychological definition of forgiveness in the research literature, agreement has emerged that forgiveness is a process and a number of models describing the process of forgiveness have been published, including one from a radical behavioral perspective.

Dr. Robert Enright from the University of Wisconsin–Madison founded the International Forgiveness Institute and is considered the initiator of forgiveness studies.  He developed a 20-Step Process Model of Forgiveness.  Recent work has focused on what kind of person is more likely to be forgiving.  A longitudinal study showed that people who were generally more neurotic, angry and hostile in life were less likely to forgive another person even after a long time had passed.  Specifically, these people were more likely to still avoid their transgressor and want to enact revenge upon them two and a half years after the transgression. 

Studies show that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments.  The first study to look at how forgiveness improves physical health discovered that when people think about forgiving an offender it leads to improved functioning in their cardiovascular and nervous systems. Another study at the University of Wisconsin found the more forgiving people were, the less they suffered from a wide range of illnesses.  The less forgiving people reported a greater number of health problems.

The research of Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University shows that forgiveness can be learned.  Dr. Frederic Luskin’s work is based on seven major research projects into the effects of forgiveness, giving empirical validity to the concept that forgiveness is not only powerful, but also excellent for your health.  Dr. Fred Luskin author of the book “Learning to forgive” was presented with a Champion of Forgiveness award by the Forgiveness Alliance for his groundbreaking work with forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.

In three separate studies, including one with Catholics and Protestants from Northern Ireland whose family members were murdered in the political violence, he found that people who are taught how to forgive become less angry, feel less hurt, are more optimistic, become more forgiving in a variety of situations, and become more compassionate and self-confident.  His studies show a reduction in experience of stress, physical manifestations of stress, and an increase in vitality.

Here’s another  book titled ‘Ancient Forgiveness’…. by Charles L. Griswold, David Konstan

http://books.google.ca/books/about/Ancient_Forgiveness.html?id=efWaHPpaLYAC

Cambridge University Press, Dec 29, 2011 – Philosophy – 260 pages

In this book, twelve eminent scholars of classical antiquity and ancient and medieval Judaism and Christianity explore the nature and place of forgiveness in the pre-modern Western world.  They discuss whether the concept of forgiveness, as it is often understood today, was absent, or at all events more restricted in scope than has been commonly supposed, and what related ideas (such as clemency or reconciliation) may have taken the place of forgiveness.  An introductory chapter reviews the conceptual territory of forgiveness and illuminates the potential breadth of the idea, enumerating the important questions a theory of the subject should explore.  The following chapters examine forgiveness in the contexts of classical Greece and Rome; the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, and Moses Maimonides; and the New Testament, the Church Fathers, and Thomas Aquinas.

Interesting comment on the book ‘Before Forgiveness’ by David Konstan

Cambridge University Press, Aug 9, 2010 – History – 192 pages

“In this book, David Konstan argues that the modern concept of interpersonal forgiveness, in the full sense of the term, did not exist in ancient Greece and Rome.  Even more startlingly, it is not fully present in the Hebrew Bible, nor again in the New Testament, or in the early Jewish and Christian commentaries on the Holy Scriptures.  It would still be centuries– many centuries– before the idea of interpersonal forgiveness, with its accompanying ideas of apology, remorse, and a change of heart on the part of the wrongdoer, would emerge.  For all its vast importance today in religion, law, politics, and psychotherapy, interpersonal forgiveness is creation of the 18th and 19th centuries, when the Christian concept of divine forgiveness was finally secularized.  Forgiveness was God’s province, and it took a revolution in thought to bring it to earth and make it a human trait”–