Why Forgive if the Other Is Not Likely to Change?

People sometimes feel discouraged when the other person continues to act unjustly despite your best efforts to forgive. Forgiveness as a virtue is for the good of the other whom you forgive and so if he or she is not receiving your goodness, why continue? An assumption behind the question is that the other will never change because of the forgiveness, but you do not know that. A seed of love planted today could have an effect on the person years from now.

But, you may ask, “I may never see the fruit of my forgiveness.” The answer, with a gentle reminder that forgiveness is for the other person, is this: It does not matter if you are there or not to see the result. The forgiveness task is to be loving. If the other can grow from that love, then you have done something wonderful for him or her. Even if the other refuses your gift, you have given a gift nonetheless. You have given love in a world that too often is devoid of it. You again have done something wonderful because love is an end in and of itself as well as a means to the end of transforming the world through the action of love.

R.E.

3 thoughts on “Why Forgive if the Other Is Not Likely to Change?

  1. Abilard July 4, 2012 / 11:07 am

    This is helpful. I used to think that I have no right to forgive unless the other finds a way to change. I did not realize that I was restricting myself when I refused to forgive.

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  2. Chris July 4, 2012 / 11:09 am

    But, don’t we still have to be careful not to give the wrong message, which is this: I will put up with anything you have to give me. As we forgive, we can still hold the other person to a high standard so that we are not hurt by his actions.

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  3. Persona July 8, 2012 / 12:21 pm

    Great point, Chris. That “wrong message” is not only morally wrong but also conceptually wrong. “Putting up with” is not what forgiveness is.

    Like

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