Forgiveness question


Recently, I had someone do something that **really **hurt me. I know I need to forgive them and move on. I really never plan on talking to or seeing this person ever (I’ve actually never seen or talked to this person BEFORE, so never again isn’t that big of a deal - long story, one I don’t want to talk about).

When I forgive them, am I obligated to let them know that I forgive them?

Have I forgiven?

From what I heard on CA radio once, you don’t have to tell the person their forgiven. And also go to confession for any feeling of anger or resentment you might have had. (Yes, I know that’'s a hard one. I don’t like it either especially when I’m on the receiving end)


Laudatur Iesus Christus.

Dear RascalJones:

Has this person asked for forgiveness? Do you intend to reconcile with him?

I am interested in this question of forgiveness, because I often do not know what people mean by it when they talk about it. Often the theories that one hears expressed seem to have little to do with Confession or the lessons the Sacrament teaches about forgiveness.

Generally there seem to be two types of things that are loosely referred to by the word “forgiveness.” The first is the willingness to settle with and suffer with one’s brother when he asks for forgiveness. This is difficult and requires work from both parties, the penitent and the person giving mercy. This seems to be the sort of forgiveness that is referred to when the Lord tells St. Peter:

Then came Peter unto him and said: Lord, how often shall my brother offend against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith to him: I say not to thee, till seven times; but till seventy times seven times. (Mt 18:21-22.)

And when He said to the disciples:

Take heed to yourselves. If thy brother sin against thee, reprove him: and if he do penance, forgive him. And if he sin against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day be converted unto thee, saying, I repent; forgive him. (Lk 17:3-4.)

This form of forgiveness is for “brothers,” those who are within the Body of Christ or those with whom we hope to reconcile. For this, which is the sort of forgiveness available in Confession, one needs both repentance and to do penance – the work it takes to reconcile and heal the breach between the two persons. This form of forgiveness has two goals: internal purity and reconciliation between the two parties. It includes a willingness of the merciful one to suffer with the person who seeks forgiveness.

There is another sort of forgiveness which seems to be reflected in the Savior’s saying:

“Let the dead bury their dead,” (Mt 8:22; Lk 9:60).

This form of forgiveness is not for “brothers” but for the “dead.” This does not lead to reconciliation; its only goal is the purity of the heart of the forgiving one – a sort of disentanglement from the pain and emotions that a non-brother might cause.

In the first form of forgiveness, one must communicate with the person forgiven – otherwise reconciliation is impossible – or superficial to the point of being meaningless.

In the second form of forgiveness, communication is ill-advised and often impossible.

If the person is a member of the Church – that is baptized – then the second form of forgiveness, “just letting it go,” may not be an option. The procedures of Matthew 18:15-17 may require that one go to the person one-on-one, and if that fails, try a second time to reconcile with the help of others, and finally to take him to the Church, before being authorized to “just let him go” as though he were not a member of the Body of Christ.

These requirements are often uncomfortable, but if they are followed, then real connection and intimacy is possible among the members of the Church. Sadly, people often neglect these commands of the Lord; and people grow alienated and more silently hostile, contrary to the authentic affection and love, which is the “peace of Christ” and the will of the Lord.

Pax Christi nobiscum.

John Hiner


I had something similar.

Go see your priest. Every situation is different. He will be able to help you work through this and advise you on whether or not you need to see this person again. Also, he can hear your confession at the same time if you desire.



It’s hard, because the person has stated that they hope that they can be forgiven. But it has not been said to me personally.

The person is a Catholic, but that doesn’t really bear on the situation. As I said, I’ve never even spoken to this person or seen them. Part of me wants to keep it that way, and part of me wants to talk to them. To let them know how deeply they hurt me.

I pretty much have put the past behind me, even though memories still linger and hurt. I know that forgiving is not the same as forgetting. I doubt that I’ll ever forget, but I know that with the passing of time, the hurt will become less.

Still debating whether to contact this person or not…

I’ve been to confession, and I always confess my anger, short temperedness, and lack of patience. This particular case I did not single out, however.


forgiveness in this context is all about you, not about the person who offended you. You don’t have to have any contact with them at all. If you happen to encounter them in a situation where the original problem comes up for discussion, merely say, I think we all need to forgive and forget and move on, and say no more about it. Forgiveness here is about your own attitude, refusal to be mastered by resentment, refusal to allow another person’s behavior dictate your reactions and destroy your personal happiness and peace.


The most succinct description of forgiveness I’ve encountered is that when A injures B, then B forgives A by forgoing the returning of injury to A, based on the fact that A injured B first.

A couple of things forgiveness has nothing to do with. One is entering into a conspiracy to behave as if nothing has happened. Where someone’s behaviour has indicated that there is, say, a definite lack of character in a certain area, withholding trust may indeed be both appropriate and prudent. If I’m looking for a club treasurer, I am not likely to appoint someone who just got caught with his hand in the till even somewhere else.

The other is full reconciliation. It just may not be possible. Forgiveness is a duty of agape love. It has nothing to do with either filias or storge (certainly not eros), so the relationship may never be what it once was. But as long as the duty to agape is fulfilled, there has been forgiveness. An act may be forgiven, but that does not call for the ignoring of the act’s consequences.

And who knows? People do change. But not, typically, in a day or a week where character issues are concerned.




This is pretty much how I’ve been handling it.

Thank you for the input.


Laudatur Iesus Christus.

I am not sure what you mean by the above. Certainly there is a difference between one’s obligations in Christ to another member of the Body of Christ and to any another person who is not a member of the Body. The Catholic Church is most certainly a significant delimiter in this regard – Baptism being the mark that draws the line and Baptism into the Catholic Church the fullest form of this membership.

I am interested in the many distinctions that are being drawn: agape vs. eros vs. filias vs. storge. What are the bases for these distinctions? Do such distinctions serve to lessen or increase the intimacy demanded by love as commanded: “Love one another as I have loved you,” (Jn 15:12).

The recent encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, seems to suggest a telescoping or “folding into” agape rather than a distinction among these forms of the concept of love. One would not want to become evasive through drawing distinctions that ought not differentiate.

Pax Christi nobiscum.

John Hiner


You lost me.


It is not accurate to characterize them as “distinctions.” Whereas English has but the word “love”, Greek had the four words noted above. And the words find usage in Holy Scripture, even though they are all translated as “love.” The limits of the English language in that regard should not blur the differences.

One difference is extremely critical. At the sticking point, agape (it used to be termed “charity”, and had nothing to do with almsgiving) is a Christian duty which has absolutely nothing to do with things like feelings. This is a real problem in Western society today. “Love” has become “luv” (to use Peter Kreeft’s useful distinction), and is all about feelings and not much else in common parlance.

In the context of forgiveness, the difference is most important. The nature of the act that calls for forgiveness may be such that trust can never be fully restored. (It is absolute tommyrot to characterize forgiveness as some magic potion that puts things back to the way they were.) Yet the call to agape is compelling for the Christian. Forgiveness enables someone to be responsive to that call, rather than being shackled to the dead weight of things like resentment or vengence. The forgiving person is then freed from the burden of the wrong done, irrespective of the attitude and actions of the offender. Over time, given changes, there MAY be the re-emergence of some of the other things we translate as “love”, but perhaps not, and certainly not necessarily.

All forms of what English terms “love” can, in their proper and correct forms, be seen as manifestations of the true love that God is in his nature. (Each can become disordered in creation, but that is not God’s doing.) So yes, it is certainly valid to point to the interrelationship between these aspects of what English labels “love.” But the distinctions are not “being made.” They simply ARE, as the distinct character of agape, against the others, illustrates. My “feelings” for someone may be utter revulsion – and with very good cause and reason – so that none of filias, storge, or eros are, or properly can be, at all manifested, but agape MUST NEEDS be manifested.




DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit