Digest of terms

forgiveness

readiness to accept someone in spite of what they have said or done. The need for forgiveness arises from a sense of having wronged another - a particular individual, a group of people, a larger social entity (a nation, perhaps), or even, in the context of religion, God. Penitence following awareness of wrongdoing is widely, but not universally, regarded as a moral precondition for forgiveness. Parents, for example, may forgive their children even if they do not show penitence - otherwise the parents would harbour a grudge. (Perhaps this is what is meant by 'unconditional love'.)

There is a long tradition expressed in terms of forgiveness being bought with a gift or sacrifice - sometimes very simple, sometimes highly elaborate. The ethics of purchase power are sometimes described as appropriately compensatory for hurt or damage caused. Paying a great price in terms of finance, animal life or even human sacrifice have all featured in the currency of seeking forgiveness.

There is also a tradition which finds the attempt to buy forgiveness - or love - as morally demeaning. Compensation is one thing, restitution of a broken relationship or a lost trust requires an attitude and expression of a different order. In this regard, working out the means of achieving reconciliation is a challenging task for anyone who would engage in moral education, and one in which change of heart and mind is involved. See Concept Scenarios.

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