I am someone who is part of what they call the “minority” in my country. Quite frankly, I am unhappy with it, with the subtle “put-downs” and the like. People in my country have the expression of, “Fight for justice.” So, then, what place is left for forgiving?

We need to realize that forgiveness and justice are not mutually exclusive. Some people believe that to forgive is to take too soft an approach in striving for justice. In other words, they think that to forgive is to lose what they deserve. Yet, this definitely need not be the case. As people forgive, they can see more clearly through the fog of anger. They can see what is truly fair and then ask for that fairness in a way that is civil. They just might have a better chance of getting fairness than if they let anger dictate how they respond and for what they ask.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

I started to forgive a friend, but then he never responded to me. Can I forgive even if I get no response from him or should I just abandon the process of forgiveness?

Because forgiving is a moral virtue, it can be practiced unconditionally, regardless of the other’s response to you. You would be offering a gentleness to that other in spite of what was done to you. If the other refuses your gift, and if the person is not trustworthy, then you need not reconcile. Yet, you still can proceed with forgiving the person for the past injustice and even for his ignoring you as you offer forgiveness.

For additional information, see Choose Love, Not Hate.

You talk about forgiveness being not only giving up resentment but also developing compassion and even moral love toward the one who has hurt you. What does it mean to love a stranger who had no relationship with you prior to his offense? There is no trust or relationship to restore to start with, but even in that case, do you think it is possible to love that offender? If you do, would you please give some examples?

Yes, we can love strangers when we realize that all people have inherent (built-in) worth. Therefore, we can serve those we do not know. We can come to the aid of strangers. When we give money to a suffering person who has her back to a wall as you pass by, you are showing that she has inherent worth. When you refuse to retaliate toward a stranger who is not good to you, you are showing that the person has inherent worth. As you show such worth to others, you are loving those people as you serve them.

For additional information, see: Learning to Forgive Others.

Forgiveness seems like such a “soft” idea. I need to be strong if I am to solve unjust problems.

When you forgive, you make a commitment to do no harm to the one who hurt you. Is this a “soft” response? When you forgive, you make a commitment to bear the pain that happened to you so that you do not pass the pain to others, including, for example, other family members who were not the ones who hurt you. Is this a “soft” response? When you struggle to love those who have withdrawn love from you, this seems to me to be a heroic response, not a “soft” one.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

How can families persevere in practicing forgiveness? My worry within my own family is that as I introduce the idea of forgiveness, people may get initially excited and then it just fades away.

Perseverance in the practice of forgiveness takes a strong will.  Do you have that strong will to quietly and gently and without force keep the message alive that you value forgiveness and would like it to be a part of your family?  As an analogy, starting a fitness program is good, but continuing with it is even better.  How do people continue?  They establish routines; they enjoy the kind of exercise that they do; they create an expectation for themselves to continue.  The same can occur with becoming forgivingly fit.

For additional information, see:  Learning to Forgive Others.

My cousin says that she forgives me for something I did about a year ago, but when I am around her she seems like she has an attitude toward me now. I think she has not forgiven me. Should I bring this up to her or just let it go?

It seems that you already have been patient, waiting for her to reduce the resentment, but it is not happening. It is time to first forgive her for her unforgiveness and then gently approach her about it. It seems that she still has work to do to completely forgive you. You might want to ask her to forgive you and then wait patiently for her to accomplish the task.

Learn more at Forgiving is not. . .

Please convince me that forgiveness is not some kind of a cop-out. As I see it, when people forgive they are avoiding conflict. It seems to involve a lack of courage.

Forgiveness is a response to injustice and as such it never ignores justice. Instead, it is a response of mercy in the face of such injustice. To give mercy as a conscious choice when experiencing another person’s injustice is a heroic act of virtue, hardly a lack of courage. 

When people practice forgiveness, they do not ignore justice, but instead give mercy and strive for justice at the same time. The justice sought is likely to be good because it is not mingled with resentment. Thus, forgiveness hardly is a cop-out. Did I convince you?

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.