The Seven Living Virtues*: Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves that allows us to get on with our lives instead of being trapped in the past by resentment. – Rick Warren


Here are three types of forgiveness to consider:

Forgiveness that we extend to other people

Our fellow humans rarely intend to, but it’s almost inevitable that someone somewhere eventually is going to offend you or hurt your feelings. You might meet somebody who doesn’t like you, or who feels threatened or insecure about you.

People make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes hurt will hurt us, too.

Forgiving others can be a challenge, but the alternative is letting anger toward someone else fester.  That ultimately only harms you.

Forgiving is not the same as forgetting, and allowing yourself to forgive someone doesn’t mean you have to still associate with the person you’re forgiving. What it means is looking at what you can learn from the situation, and then letting go of the anger. It means freeing up your brain space to do something instead of plotting revenge.

Forgiveness from God

If your spiritual beliefs allow for seeking forgiveness from God, spirit, the Universe, etc., then by all means do it! Trust that your higher power wants you to be happy and well. Ask for help in taking whatever steps you need to for forgiveness. And while you’re at it, ask for help in letting you forgive others, too.


Forgiving ourselves can be the hardest of all three. We tend to hang onto what we’ve done wrong, feeling consciously or subconsciouly guilty for the harm we’ve caused to others. This can hold us back in a number of ways by making us feel unworthy of having good things happen to us.

Sometimes forgiving ourselves means apologizing to someone else. And sometimes it does not. Before making someone else revisit the past, or sharing information he or she didn’t already have, consider whether doing so will hurt them. If so, try writing a letter asking for forgiveness, but then don’t send it. The goal is to forgive yourself, not create pain for another person.


* The seven living virtues are the positive version of seven deadly sins. This entry is part of a seven-part series:

  1. Fortitude
  2. Honor
  3. Compassion
  4. Charity
  5. Acceptance
  6. Forgiveness
  7. Humility

The idea is to learn to recognize and cultivate these traits in yourself, and to recognize and appreciate others who have them, with the intention of being happier and more fulfilled while on the path to accomplishing your goals.


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