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What is the relationship between forgiveness and love? What is the relationship between forgiveness and love?

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carol-davis eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Real love is total commitment with no separate parts or degrees  and filled with harmony and joy. Hopefully, that feeling is reciprocated by someone.  Love cannot be taught. It is a natural expression coming from the heart or emotional makeup of the individual.   It is a gateway to connection with another human being,  and if a person is a Christian, to God.

Forgiveness is a part of love. If a person is unforgiving, this is a block to love. The ultimate test of love is forgiveness.  When someone that a person loves hurts him, the response is the true record of that love; if there is true love here, the person will not hold a grudge, become resentful, or fill the heart with bitterness.  None of these responses connect with true love.  It blocks that emotion.  So what should the response be: to forgive.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt. True forgiveness is doing the complete opposite of what the emotions tell a person to do.  'I will forgive you if…' is not forgiveness. 

Forgiveness to be real must be unconditional. It does not mean that the hurt that has been experienced is minimized.  Forgiveness cannot be earned, bought, or bargained.  It has to be absolute.

There are two hurtful situations that occur between people who love each other: a wound and a wrong. The wound does not require forgiveness.  It was unintentional and accidental.  Time and patience will take care of this situation.

The other situation though is a different story.  A wrong is when a person knows that what he is doing will hurt the other person and does it anyway. It is a moral dilemma that the person faces and fails. To wrong  someone that  a person loves requires forgiveness. Forgiveness is instant; but trust must be built over a long period of time. Forgiveness takes care of the damage done. It lets the person off the hook.  However, the true test of love will be how the person works to rebuild that loving relationship. 

Forgiveness may be the single most difficult act of love. It is the  difference between forgetting and letting go. The brain never lets the person forget, but the heart will give forgiveness.

Love and forgiveness walk hand in hand in a relationship.


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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Both love and forgiveness are often selective as there are reasons for giving love and for giving forgiveness.  In the broad Christian sense, people are taught to "love one another" and to forgive, or to end one's feelings of resentment and indignation and hurt against those who transgress against them. But, as mentioned in post #4, while a person may forgive the transgressor, it is not always possible, nor reasonable, to love that person in any way other than the very broad Christian sense that people are all children of God.  For, loving involves interaction with another, and in many cases renewing any interaction with those who have transgressed against or abused or harmed a person in some way seems rather foolhardy, if not dangerous.


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Mike Walter eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The answer to this somewhat depends on what kind of love we're talking about. Love between a man and a woman will certainly require a good deal of forgiveness in a long-term relationship. We have to forgive others for hurting our feelings quite often. Hopefully we are able to recognize the fallibility of others and make forgiveness automatic. Easy to say, I know.

Love in the broader sense, as in "love thy neighbor," also requires that we be tolerant of others and forgive their transgressions. We may be called on to forgive them for things other than something they directly do to us. We might need to forgive a harmful lifestyle, or an unethical decision.

Because of our inherent fallibility, we will never be able to love anybody if we cannot forgive. We, and everyone else, will need forgiveness constantly.

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Asher Wismer eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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#4, I'm not sure I agree with your first sentence. While people who love each other can forgive more readily than most, and in more severe circumstances, I don't think that (for example) victims who profess to "forgive" their abusers (in any circumstances) are doing that from a position of love. It is hard enough to profess love for your fellow man with all the normal foibles that people have; harder still for a person who is wilfully abusive, murderous, or otherwise subjectively evil.

As far as relating the two, I think that people get hung up on the idea that you must forgive blood relatives, spouses, or children because of their close relationships and the inherent love you are supposed to feel. I think it is harder to hold people accountable when they are related; consider the idea that you must take in a sibling because of their relation. To forgive a person, it is not necessary to love them, only to understand their position and accept that they felt their actions necessary. This does not preclude personal judgement; while a murderer might feel justified, and while you might understand why they were motivated to commit murder, you are allowed to forgive them while still judging them for the crime.

Consider this case; a drunk driver killed a man's wife and children, and the man has forgiven him and they now work together to raise awareness. I don't know if the man loves the drunk driver, but he has offered forgiveness, allowing them both to have a life beyond the tragedy.

Here are some quotes about forgiveness.

(On a tangential note, I searched "Forgiveness and Love" and got a page of Miley Cyrus hits. Not helpful...)

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Michael Ugulini eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Forgiveness is a manifestation of love. People who truly love each other, whether in a marital relationship, as friends, or as family members, as examples, will forgive one another because of their outgoing concern for each other. Forgiveness is one way of expressing love and commitment to another human being. Even though we may be upset, hurt, wronged, and/or angry, love provides us the capacity for forgiveness.

When we love someone, even though it may be difficult sometimes, we ultimately desire to forgive them for any perceived wrongs against us. If we do not ultimately wish to forgive someone we say we love, then we're fooling ourselves, and them, as we do not truly love them.

Not extending forgiveness is putting ourselves first, well ahead of the person we claim to love. We are seeking our own desires and are not taking into account theirs. We are acting selfish and are not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt - or another chance. If we love them, we will forgive them and try to set the relationship back on the right track.

Love is...

What is Forgiveness?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The two concepts, "love" and "forgiveness" are very different, though they may be related on some levels.

Love has been the subject of countless poems, songs, essays, novels, etc., and it means many different things to different people. Defined, it is...

... a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend...


...sexual passion or desire.

The term is used freely within society with regard not only to human beings and animals, but also towards activities (e.g., football, vacationing, etc.) and even food (e.g., ice cream, chocolate, etc.). It is a central concept to the human experience. It is also defined in terms of philosophy, psychology and religion.

It would be very difficult to explain love to a hypothetical person who had not himself or herself experienced love or being loved. In fact, to such a person love would appear to be quite strange if not outright irrational behavior. 

In terms of psychology, love is seen as a "healthy behavior." "Evolutionary theories" suggest that love is a result of natural selection. From a spiritual standpoint, love is believed to be a "gift from God." Other schools of thought suggest that love is a "unexplainable mystery, very much like a mystical experience."

In Sonnet 116, Shakespeare (who wrote a great deal about love) noted:

Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken…

Love is a positive feeling someone feels for a person or thing. It generally provides one with a positive sense of well-being, though it can cause enormous difficulties as well. It is generally something that is wished for within human society.

Forgiveness, on the other hand, is something one offers to excuse perceived negative behavior.

Forgiveness is typically defined as the process of concluding resentmentindignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.

However, while it may be offered through a sense of love, it does not necessarily have to be connected with love at all. It can be offered as a sign of goodwill from one who may have been harmed or offended, to show that there is no lingering resentment, regret or dissatisfaction. One may forgive out of love, but it is not necessary that love be present in offering forgiveness.

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mizzwillie eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Forgiveness and love go hand in hand.  To forgive is to truly acknowledge the injury and yet be able to understand, require no restitution for the injury, and go on with the relationship.  To be able to understand and go on requires love because I don't think anything else would be enough to enable you to accomplish keeping the relationship intact.   Many would say that religion or God teaches us to forgive and to love one another which is true; however, practice is much easier said than done.  For love of my child, I once had to forgive my father-in-law for keeping a dog which tore my son's face apart requiring 300 stitches when he knew the dog had already bitten two other grandchildren and even then had refused to get rid of the dog.  To enable me to go on and let my child love his grandfather and my husband to let go of his anger, I had to forgive to allow my anger to dissipate, to acknowledge the man's good qualities, and to keep love in the forefront. I believe that forgiveness truly cannot happen without love; they are on equal terms.   

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