Monday, February 11, 2008

Unconditional Forgiveness: Is it Realistic?

I've been thinking about forgiveness! Mainly, is it best to forgive everything? Or, are there some things worth holding on to? Is forgiveness "situational?" Or, should forgiveness be unconditional? Is unconditional forgiveness even realistic?

I try not to hold grudges. Now I may hold onto something for a few days, but I usually try to get it dealt with before it becomes a huge burden on myself and others. Maybe it was someone that wronged me. Maybe it was me that wronged someone else. Maybe it's a major life situation. Maybe it's a minor misunderstanding. Whatever the case, I feel forgiveness is best, and I usually try to deal with the issue/person/situation fairly immediately (are the words "fairly immediately" a bit of an oxymoron? Maybe, but I think you understand my point anyway).

When I'm really bothered by something, I tend to look to God. Why? Well, because his forgiveness is unconditional. He's always forgiving. It doesn't matter what your sin was, you are always forgiven. Think about that for a minute! Isn't that amazing?! I mean, how often can we say that we've truly forgiven everything and everyone for the wrongs committed on us?

I found a blog by Raymond Salas, that speaks about this very issue of forgiveness. His post, The Power of Forgiveness, drives home a lot of good points. I suggest you take a look at it. I really enjoy his new outlook on forgiveness:

“To forgive does not mean that you condone, agree with, or give your approval to anyone or anything. Rather, it is a powerful acknowledgment to yourself that ‘I am willing to let this go. I am willing to move forward in my life.’”

Is it time we realize the power of Raymond's words? Do we need to learn to forgive more? What are your thoughts on forgiveness? Can you truly forgive everything? What situations or interactions would be hardest to forgive?


Michelle Malay Carter said...


I learned an interesting thing about forgiveness recently. Over time, I found myself feeling resentful and snappy toward a specific person and really didn't know why. Sure, he made me angry but that was my problem. I didn't need to forgive him for my anger.

What I realized later was that my anger was really covering up hurt. For some reason, I was "OK with" being angry, but I didn't want to admit I was hurt by anything. I didn't want to allow someone to have that kind of "power" over me. It was probably a combination of pride and the fear of being vulnerable.

So it was only after that I was willing to admit I was hurt, own it, and feel it that I could then take the next step to forgive.

Slowly the resentment and angry episodes have given way to more authentic behavior, which has been more healthy for me.

I've always said that forgiving others is a gift you give yourself. Now, I am living that.


Michelle Malay Carter

Brenda said...

You posed several good questions. I know that I personally need to forgive more ... and I know that forgiveness is an ongoing process, which is what makes it so difficult for me. Too often new slights re-fan the flames of old hurts. (Like Michelle, I also have found that any anger and resentments that I've carried really mask pain). Bottom line:
I believe unconditional forgiveness is key to becoming the best person I can be (and has larger societal repercussions). Still, I've got a ways to go to embobdy forgiveness as I should.

Anonymous said...

Wow some great comments. I agree with Michelle that forgiveness breeds authenticity. Brenda makes a good point about unconditional forgiveness as well. I think the toughest thing to do is forgive yourself. It is kind of like love if you can't forgive/love yourself how can you forgive/love others.

My question is that if we continue to come to grips with the fact that we will "let something go," will we ever hold anyone accountable? I think there is a fine line between forgiving and condoning. If we forgive in private are we not essentially condoning an act?

I think about my three year old and the discussion we have after he has been put in the corner. I let him know I forgive him, I love him but I didn't agree with his choice. I forgive him and let the incident go but let him know that it will tolerated again in the future.

Some food for thought.


Eric Peterson said...

Michelle - Great comment! "I've always said that forgiving others is a gift you give yourself." I love that. It is so true. There may be times when someone really doesn't deserve forgiveness, but we need to give it to them anyway, not for their sake, but for ours! Forgiveness can be a tough thing to give away, but I know many of us need to do it!

Brenda - I think most of us have a ways to go! Unconditional foriveness is a tough concept for many of us to grasp, because we have been hurt so deep. It's hard to let ourselves forgive. Thank you for the great conversation.

Bob- You brought a couple key ideas to the conversation as well.
1) You hit it right on the head with "forgiving yourself." I know that I am very hard on myself when I've realized I've wronged another. And yes, it is tough for me to truly forgive myself sometimes.
2) Forgiveness vs Condoning vs Accountability. I think it's very important to hold people accountable. However, it's just as important to forgive. Can we make these two ideas (accountability and forgiveness) mutually exclusive? Maybe one doesn't have to contradict the other.

I think you also make a great example with your toddler on how to forgive, but not condone!
Thanks always keep the conversation thought provoking!

Raymond Salas said...


Thank you for your reference and support of my article "The Power of Forgiveness." May forgiveness continue to reveal all of its power to you and your readers. Thanks again.

Eric Peterson said...

Raymond - It's my pleasure. Thank you for stopping by here and leaving a comment. I appreciate it. And, yes, here's to the power of forgiveness!