There are many misconceptions about forgiveness. Here are 5 worth noting:
1. Forgiveness places the burden for healing on the one who was the victim. For example, if someone is assaulted and now is feeling depressed, the burden for healing falls on the one who was assaulted. Our answer: Of course the burden of healing rests with the one hurt. That is always the case whether the hurt is emotional (as in the case of depression) or physical (a broken leg, for example). When we have an injury of any kind, we should never rely on the one who injured us to somehow fix the consequences of our injury because too often the injurer is not concerned one way of the other with our healing.
2. Forgiveness foreswears punishment of the injurer and lets him or her off the hook. Our answer: Forgiveness and justice grow up together. When one forgives, one should seek justice. In the case of punishment, if the injurer broke the law, the injured one should not take the law into his/her own hands, but leave the punishment to a neutral, third party judge.
3. Forgiveness is morally suspect because one “lets go” of the other’s injustice. Our answer: Forgiveness is not a “letting go” of an offense but instead is a merciful overture to the one who had no mercy on the victim.
4. Forgiveness makes the one injured develop a victim-identity, in essence crippling his or her self-esteem. Our answer: Forgiveness helps one to thrive and rise above the injustice, thus helping the forgiver to shed the victim mentality.
5. Forgiveness is dangerous because it puts the injured one in harm’s way again as he or she reaches out to the injurer. Our answer: Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. To forgive is a moral virtue. To reconcile is a negotiation strategy of developing once again mutual trust. One can forgive without reconciling.