Forgiveness is the process of ceasing to feel resentment, indignation or anger against another person for a perceived offense, difference or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. This definition, however, is subject to much philosophical critique. Forgiveness may be considered simply in terms of the person who forgives, in terms of the person forgiven and/or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven. In some contexts, it may be granted without any expectation of compensation, and without any response on the part of the offender (for example, one may forgive a person who is dead). In practical terms, it may be necessary for the offender to offer some form of acknowledgment, apology, and/or restitution, or even just ask for forgiveness, in order for the wronged person to believe they are 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. However, throughout the ages, philosophers have studied forgiveness apart from religion. In addition, as in other areas of human inquiry, science is beginning to question religious concepts of forgiveness. Psychology, sociology and medicine are among the scientific disciplines researching forgiveness or aspects of forgiveness. The Prodigal Son is a well known instance of such teaching and practice 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 between one another, yet others make little or no distinction between human and/or divine forgiveness.

Studies show that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments. One study has shown that the positive benefit of forgiveness is similar whether it was based upon religious or secular counseling as opposed to a control group that received no forgiveness counseling.

It is reckoned that forgiveness is not a necessary condition for a victim's healing, and that premature forgiveness can harm well-being. Inappropriate forgiveness, perhaps motivated by a desire to re-connect and restore a sense of community, carries the risk of encouraging a false sense of self, harming a victim's self-image and making true forgiveness harder to achieve.

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Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Forgiveness. The Official Guide to Forgiveness is Colin Tipping. Colin Tipping is the creator of what has come to be recognized as the most powerful leading-edge technology for personal and spiritual growth today – Radical Forgiveness. His book, “Radical Forgiveness: Making Room for the Miracle,” has become an international best-seller, leading to the healing of individuals, families, races, corporations and communities. Tipping has authored other books and online programs to help people apply the Radical Forgiveness Technology to numerous practical, real-life applications including self-forgiveness, improving relationships and weight loss.

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Colin Tipping, The Official Guide to Forgiveness