Forgiveness as a Balancing Act

Inez: I’m finally beginning to understand the answer to my question, “What, exactly, do we do when we forgive?” But now I am worried. Can a person forgive too much?

Sophia: Aristotle talked about the balance of the virtues. Each virtue can be distorted in two ways, on either end of a continuum. In Balance 4the case of forgiveness, if we practice forgiveness as a way of caving in to another’s request (by failing to see the injustice and acting without courage), our forgiving will look like “too much,” but it is not forgiving in any genuine sense.

Inez: I know why— because caving in is not a sign of goodness at all. The extreme expression of forgiveness as caving in distorts its essence.

Sophia: Yes, and the other extreme is to use forgiveness as a weapon against the other as you constantly remind her that she has needed your “virtuous” forgiveness.

Inez: In this case, rather than my being dominated, I dominate. That, too, is not morally good, and so I am not really forgiving.

Enright, Robert D. (2012-07-05). The Forgiving Life (APA Lifetools) (Kindle Locations 1920-1930). American Psychological Association. Kindle Edition.

4 thoughts on “Forgiveness as a Balancing Act

  1. Chris November 15, 2014 / 5:55 pm

    This analysis can go far in diffusing criticism against forgiving. The central criticisms seem to target the imbalance of what it means to forgive. They do not target forgiveness itself.


  2. Samantha November 18, 2014 / 9:49 pm

    Humility and caving in are very different. Humility is an attribute of the strong, who do not need to feel superior to other people. Caving in is an attribute of fear and a lack of willingness to stand and face injustice.


  3. Nadine November 19, 2014 / 8:47 pm

    I never received this kind of instruction in my education. I honestly think that is neglectful of educational systems. This kind of information should be taught and done so without question. Why has this been suppressed in educational institutions from childhood through the college years?


  4. Brian November 20, 2014 / 9:13 pm

    I’ve had people use forgiveness against me as a weapon in the past. It can get really confusing. This helps clarify and at the same time reduce my confusion. Thanks.


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