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Forgiveness is a fundamental process in daily life, therefore it is important to consider the impact of the definition of forgiveness by applying it on a society level. In my definition, forgiveness is being able to look at a bigger picture of the event, demonstrating understanding and empathy toward the offender; in addition, the victim is justified in some way, and eventually let go of the negative feelings to achieve inner peace. If I take this line of reasoning seriously, which means that everyone in the society uses my definition of forgiveness, then the benefits will include it will be a peaceful society, because people can achieve inner peace by forgiving, so there will not be conflicts. Also, by looking at a bigger picture and do not put emphasis only on present events, it prevents people from limiting their scope to the negative emotions they feel at that moment. This is beneficial to the individual, because that provides a feeling of hope and possibilities, and it helps the individual to move on and stop dwelling on the past. At last, the offender will receive punishments for the wrongdoing, since the victim has to feel justified in a way to move on. It is important for a society to provide some forms of punishment to the offender to prevent the reoccurrence of the offending action.
On the other hand, some might argue that if offender has to be punished in order to make the victim feel justified, it means that the victim has to hold on to the negative feelings until the offender receive the negative consequences. But looking at the justice system mentioned in the ideology of religions, compensation to the victim or punishment to the offender can happen across time and space, and it can be overt or covert. In my model case, my mother forgave my father because base on her Buddhist background, she believes that everything happens for a reason due to Karma. Since my father felt guilty (emotional punishment) and promised to treat her and the children better (positive outcome), she felt justified and eventually achieve inner peace. Therefore, the victim can feel justified without really seeing the offender being punished, the reason to forgive can be imaginary and it lies within the individual. However, one might also argue that an offender might not be punished by the victim in a visible way, because justification can be achieved through the cognitive process of the victim. And this limits the offender’s chance to learn a lesson, as he/she might not even know what they did was an offense to others.custim essays
Other pitfalls include offenders take advantage of their own miserable past, and use it as a valid reason for them to be forgiven, as there should be understanding and empathy demonstrated toward the offender; at the same time, if reason for the wrongdoing is unknown and understanding cannot be achieved, then the victim will not experience inner peace. Finally, this definition implies that only religious people, who trust that a justice system is imposed by a supernatural force, would be able to forgive. In other words, atheists are not forgiving because they do not believe in a religious justice system. However, a justice system can exist without the basis of a religious background, because the concept of justice lives in everyone’s mind, and it is part of one’s moral standard. So this will not be a drawback of the definition.
Alternatively, there are benefits if this definition does not apply in the society. First, inner peace can be achieved even if the victim does not understand the offender and the purpose of the offense; it can simply be the victim’s desire to move on. Also, the offender will not be able to take advantage of people’s compassion, and all offense actions will lead to consequences.
Despite the benefits mentioned above, the pitfalls of not taking this line of reasoning serious are much more serious. First, the victim is not justified after the transgression causing emotional distress, making the victim unable to move on. Also, not looking at a bigger picture of the event causes people to stuck with the negative feelings at that particular moment, this prevents the victim from looking forward to the pleasant moment in the future, and it creates a feeling of hopeless and helplessness in the victim. Finally, the inability to achieve inner peace will cause various conflicts in the society.
The concept of forgiveness can have different interpretations and views on forgiveness may vary consistently but still it is possible to define key features which may be attributed to forgiveness (Fincham, 2006). In this respect, it should be said that forgiveness implies the ability and will of an individual to take others’ perspectives. In fact, this is very important to be able to take others’ perspective. For instance, it is possible to refer to the interview when a boyfriend cheated the girlfriend and she forgave him because she proved to be able to take his perspective and understand that he could hardly keep from cheating.
Another important feature of forgiveness is looking at the bigger picture over the event. In fact, this feature helps people to understand better their problems and forgive. At the same time, it contributes to the re-evaluation of the subject of forgiveness and circumstances which led to the situation when forgiveness is needed. In this respect, it should be said that the forgiveness is impossible when people are focused on their problems solely and cannot have a bigger picture over the event. In such a way, they can understand why other people acted in a wrong way and they can forgive them. This is exactly what Christianity and Buddhism offer and from a psychological perspective this approach is very effective because it allows individuals to extrapolate from their own problems and evaluate critically the event and problem which involves forgiveness (Miles, 2003). In this respect, it is possible to refer to Christian idea of forgiveness of enemies and obedience to hardships. In fact, through forgiveness of enemies Christians understand and emphasize their offenders. The similar idea can be traced in Buddhism which lays emphasis on the necessity to treat people as they want to be treated by others. In case of forgiveness this concept implies the necessity of understanding and emphasizing of offenders.
At the same time, both religions accept the necessity of letting go of the negative feelings to achieve inner peace. in this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that in Buddhism, the renouncing of anger and resentment toward the offender (possibly corresponding to the lasting resentment factor), and the removal of an expectation of retribution (possibly corresponding to the willingness to forgive factor), are considered as distinct virtues” (Paz, Neto, Mullet, 2007, p.298).
Obviously, forgiveness is impossible when people still have negative feelings. They can forgive only when they forget about their negative feelings and, thus they arrive to the inner peace. Both Christianity and Buddhism imply that the inner peace is achievable through forgiveness and letting go of negative emotions. Christianity implies that it is through pray people purify their soul and mind and they get rid of negative emotions to achieve the inner peace because in pray people get closer to God and communicate with God (Worthington, 2006). In such a way, Christians reach the inner peace. Likewise, Buddhists reach the inner peace through meditation, which implies getting rid of emotions, especially negative ones.
At the same time, the aforementioned features of forgiveness do not mirror the essence of forgiveness to the full extent. In this respect, it should be said that forgiveness should also include the conscious choice of an individual to forgive instead of revenge avoiding the solution of the problem.
In this respect, it is possible to refer to the study conducted by Donald Hope, who has revealed the fact that choosing to forgive releases a person from the need to seek repayment or revenge. Hope lays emphasis on the fact that forgiveness “refers to a voluntary act, a decision, a choice made about how a person deals with the past” (Hope, 1987, p.240). In such a way, when a person forgives, he or she does not need to revenge anymore because the person finds the inner peace. At the same time, Hope argues that forgiveness is a core value of Christianity and other religions, including Buddhism (Hope, 1987). Therefore, Christianity and Buddhism promoted the idea of reconciliation through forgiveness and religious teachings of Christianity and Buddhism had and do have a therapeutic effect on believers.
Hui et al. (2006) argue that there is no significant difference between believers and non-believers. The researchers have revealed the fact that “a significant and strong religious effect was found on people’s conception of forgiveness” (Hui et al., 2006, p.188). They stand on the ground that in real life situations believers and non-believers act in the similar way. Nevertheless, the interview reveals the opposite facts, which has been already mentioned above, including the reaction of a Buddhist girlfriend on cheating of her boyfriend or the case of beating a girlfriend by a boyfriend. The reaction of believers apparently contrasts to the reaction of non-believers that proves the different attitude of believers and non-believers to forgiveness.
As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery. We have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger and attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion, a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness. (Toussaint, et al., 2001).
In this respect, it is possible to refer to the interview, which reveals the act of forgiveness from the part of a Buddhist girl. To put it more precisely, in response to her boyfriend cheating, the girlfriend did not attempt to revenge but, instead, she felt her responsibility because her boyfriend was lonely and she was not with him that led to his cheating. Remarkably, such a situation and outcome of a boyfriend’s cheating is not always the case among atheists who quarrel and break up their relationships in case of cheating.
In this respect, it is quite noteworthy to refer to Dalai Lama’s words about the purpose of religion:
The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, forgiveness. (Rye, 2005).