Throughout history, forgiveness has often been seen through the prism of religion, rather than of science or psychology.
On Good Friday, the Bible says Jesus Christ said “forgive them Father for they know not what they do” as he was on the cross.
“Freud only mentioned forgiveness three times in his collected works,” says psychologist Prof Ann Macaskill, of Sheffield Hallam University.
“Each time, this is in a religious context. Forgiveness was a religious topic, not a scientific one, and this only changed very recently.
“Especially if people are religious, they feel as though they have a moral obligation to forgive. In a study of how forgiving clergy were, we found they were unbelievably forgiving, but they had to work very hard at it.”
The most obvious example of this is the Catholic confession, where sins can be absolved. But forgiveness between individuals can be complicated.
And Prof Macaskill believes that forgiveness is something that is often misunderstood.
“We’re very sloppy in the way we use the language of forgiveness,” she says. “Take, for example, if a husband has betrayed his wife in some way. She may say ‘I forgive you’ but what she’s actually saying is ‘I will try to forgive you’ and this takes time.
- Should You Forgive Infidelity? (hemantkhurana81.wordpress.com)
- Ask Richard: How Do Atheists Absolve Themselves of Guilt? (friendlyatheist.com)
- Forgiveness (thisido.blogspot.com)
- We must not forgive too easily, says Archbishop of Canterbury (dailymail.co.uk)
- The Audacity of Forgiveness (jimkane.wordpress.com)