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The meaning of the term forgiveness

Forgiveness is an emotional and cognitive process that the individual goes through in relation to the injustice caused to him by another person. The individual who goes through the process of forgiveness is the forgiver. During this process, the individual reduces and minimizes the negative emotions caused by the offending act, and sometimes even converts the negative emotions into positive ones.

Forgiveness is a mental, emotional or spiritual process in which a person ceases to feel insult or anger against another person for an act that he saw as an injury, dispute or error. Alternatively, forgiveness is the cessation of the demand for punishment or compensation. The concept of forgiveness can be referred to from the point of view of the forgiving person, the person being forgiven, as well as from the point of view of the relationship between the forgiver and the forgiven. In certain situations, forgiveness is given without expecting any compensation and without any reaction on the part of the offender (for example, a person may forgive, or ask for forgiveness, from another person who has passed away. Sometimes, a necessary part of the forgiveness process is some kind of acknowledgment by the offender of his act, an apology, and possibly even compensation to the victim, or simply asking for forgiveness.

The two terms forgiveness (forgiveness) and unforgiveness (unforgiveness) do not have a complete agreement regarding their definition. Most researchers agree that forgiveness is a process that goes through a person who has been deeply and unjustly hurt which leads to a reduction in hostility, a reduction in the desire for revenge and a reduction in the need to avoid contact with the offender. The minority of writers include in the definition, in addition to the cessation of negative feelings, their replacement with compassion, mercy, reconciliation that includes the renewal of relations with the offender, reconciliation and even love.

Despite what has been said, there is an agreement that forgiveness does not necessarily require positive feelings towards the offender. It is possible to forgive without forgetting the injury, without pitying the offender and feeling feelings of compassion and empathy towards him, and without reconciling with the offender and renewing the relationship with him. Benziman Mitzio: “Complete forgiveness is a skipping process in which the offender and the victim carry the memory of the injustice together and embed it in the fabric of their lives, without obscuring the guilt of the one and the scars it left in the soul of the other.”

Baskin and Enright write: “Voluntarily and by free choice giving up hostility in the face of a significant injustice by another person (or people) and adopting an attitude of generosity towards the offender, even though the offender has no right to receive this best treatment.” Other researchers distinguish between two types of forgiveness; Decisional forgiveness and emotional forgiveness The first type involves a cognitive decision and a declaration of willingness to give up revenge and avoiding contact with the offender (unless it is dangerous to continue contact) and releasing him from punishment for his actions. The second type involves reducing negative feelings towards the offender and replacing them with more positive feelings.

The concept of unforgiveness has also received different definitions, Worthington and others, define this concept as a set of negative emotions such as hostility, hatred, anger, and fear towards the offender that accompany the victim over time. Elsewhere, the researchers define unforgiveness as: “a set of suppressed emotions, including resentment, bitterness, hatred, hostility, anger, and fear, which develop after repeated reflections on the injury that occurred and which evoke a desire for revenge or avoiding meeting the offender.”


This review was based on the articles:

  1. Benziman, J. (2008). To forgive and not to forget: the ethics of forgiveness. P. 11. Jerusalem: Van Leer Institute, United Kibbutz Publishing House.
  2. Baskin, W. and Enright, R D. (2004). Intervention studies in forgiveness: A meta-analysis/ Journal of Counseling and Development, 82, pp. 79 – 90.


  1. Worthington, E. L. and Wade, N. G. (1999). The psychology of unforgiveness and forgiveness and implications for clinical practice. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 18(4), pp. 385 – 418.

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