Why is it important to forgive?

Not sure if this is the correct area for this question, it looked like i could go into a few categories.

This morning i heard a prominent protestant evangelist say that people must forgive others for themselves, to feel better and to be able to move forward (this had to do with the Boston incident and the families of the victims). It got my little “spidey senses” tickling when i heard this and thought THATS NOT RIGHT!

so, now i am in a conversation with a family member who loves this evangelist and i was attempting to explain why this was wrong from a Catholic or protestant view point. I tried to explain that Jesus doesnt forgive us so HE will feel better and be able to move on, he does so out of extreme love for us and with mercy and that is why we forgive others in the same manner-- out of extreme love and mercy, that it must be sincere and from the heart towards the offender to count as true forgiveness.

She is saying that forgiveness is forgiveness no matter how or what extent it is given. What say any of you???

Forgiveness certainly doesn’t always make us feel better. Sometimes, our fallen nature would rather wallow in hostility or bitterness. But we are commanded to forgive, regardless.

Still, I kind of understand what the preacher is saying. Forgiving and letting go of grudges can be good for ourselves. I know that there was someone in my own life who I carried a chip on my shoulder about for a long time. It tainted the way I viewed many events in my life. When I finally learned to shrug it off, it made the burden much lighter.

I suppose the crux of your complaint is that this evangelist is making forgiveness an emotional issue. If so, then you are correct. However, the central message that we must forgive others remains and is taught by the Church. Forgiveness is about mercy and God’s justice rather than feelings. (I write “God’s justice” to distinguish from human justice, which required incarceration or capital punishment).

This is embedded in the Lord’s Prayer:
Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

If we forgive others, even terrorists, we will find forgiveness when we encounter God. However, if we do not forgive, even if only a terrorist, how will we find ourselves when we encounter Him whom we have terrorized by our sins?

Again, forgiveness here has nothing to do with civil justice.

The most important reason to forgive is because Christ commanded us to. In the Lord’s Prayer (or Our Father if you prefer) we pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

A lot of times people think of forgiveness as an emotion, but it is an action, a choice that we make. You can still feel angry (emotion), yet still choose to forgive.
Forgiveness does not mean that what happened is okay or fair or right. It does not mean you should not be vigilant to prevent it from happening again. But forgiveness does release you from being a prisoner of your circumstances. By holding on to that hurt, you allow that person to continue to victimize you - because you still hold on to them.

I remember one homily Father gave about forgiveness. He said that sometimes forgiveness seems too hard and too big to even think about it. So we take it in steps. Pray to God for the desire to forgive. Then pray to God to help you to not wish evil on the person. And then, with God’s help, move on to forgiveness. This has helped me a lot in my life - particularly dealing with heinous things that have happened. I am not at total forgiveness yet, but I do not wish them harm, so that is progress.

I hope my rambling makes sense :slight_smile:

Isn’t somehow loving oursleves and loving our neighbor - and loving God - not that different at all? Isn’t this one of the things that LOVE, and COMMUNION, is about - somehow becoming one? So that what is good for the other is also good for me, is also what God wants… what God IS: LOVE?
Is this too abstract, too philosophical?

In this sense, of course forgiving also makes US feel better. but not because we need to separate from and finish up with the “perpetrator”, but because it comes from a perspective from whcih we see the whole wrold through the eyes of love? Closer to the way God sees it?


i hear what all are saying, i guess it just came across to me this morning that forgiving so that we feel better for ourselves seems “egotistical or individualistic” - the ole whats in it for me attitude with a side of insincerity. you know…if you dont mean it in your heart = kind of like a child who learns to say “i’m sorry” just to get out of trouble and not really mean it

i think, i think too much.

I know how that goes. :slight_smile:

There is no such thing as thinking too much. Unlike our muscles or body joints , a human mind does not wear out by overuse.:slight_smile:

That said, forgiveness is NOT about making the forgiver feel better; often it does not, at least in my experience as a forgiver, it very often does not. Nor is it about restoring a relationship that was there before. We are to forgive even when no such connection exists or is desirable.

Rather, forgiveness is about becoming like our LORD. We need to become like HIM if we hope to attain HIS embrace; and HE is the ultimate forgiver.


Well - don’t be too hard on the evangelical preacher…
Your reference to children is actually a good one. St Paul refers to feeding the Corinthians “milk” because they were (spiritually) still babes and not yet ready for meat.
So yes - forgiving because it makes us feel good is part of the process…but certainly not all or even the core.

Forgiveness is necessary because it promotes the Kingdom of God and aligns us with the Spirit of God which is Love.
Forgiveness is necessary because we have, by our anger, hate, resentment, or whatever…have become separated from God. Part of the healing is letting go of these infectious agents. Forgiveness accomplishes this.


Our forgiveness unto others is a reflection of our all loving Lord. Forgiveness is a sacred virtue. It is a sign of love, a willingness to reconcile with others instead of holding grudges. Forgiveness brings peace, because it buries the hatchet, and patches up old wounds. God has shown us through the Holy Scripture that if we desire forgiveness from Him, we must forgive others.

Matthew 6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

Matthew 18:35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

Mark 11:25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

This is one of the best examples of forgiveness I know of…

Gordon Wilson became known as a peace campaigner during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. On 8 November 1987 a bomb planted by the Provisional IRA exploded during Enniskillen’s Remembrance Day parade injuring Wilson and fatally injuring his daughter, Marie, a nurse.

An emotional television interview he gave to the BBC only hours after the bombing brought him to national and international prominence as he described his last conversation with his dying daughter as they both lay buried in rubble.

Wilson’s response to the bombing, “I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge”, was reported worldwide becoming among the most-remembered quotes from The Troubles. Whereas many IRA attacks in Northern Ireland usually resulted in reprisals by loyalists, Wilson’s calls for forgiveness and reconciliation came to be called the Spirit of Enniskillen.

As a peace campaigner, Wilson held many meetings with members of Sinn Féin. He also met once with representatives of the Provisional IRA. Wilson sought to understand the reasons for the Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen. He also held talks with loyalist paramilitaries in an attempt to persuade them to abandon violence.

On Remembrance Day 1997, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams formally apologised for the bombing

The Spirit Of Enniskillen Trust - works to support young people from both Catholic and Protestant communities to lead dialogue, learning and working towards a shared society. It also supports a sequence of inter-linked projects working with young people in their schools, communities and other divided regions internationally. The Trust facilitates background leadership training, mentoring and resource support for school pupils, young volunteer facilitators, parents and teachers. All Trust learning activities are led by experienced and committed young volunteers.

I thought much the same thing but refrained from writing it.

By shaking off thousands of years of theology, Protestants wind up with a very “young” religion. Those sects which insist on personal interpretation especially struggle with this as the oldest a theology could ever get with such a sect is still less than a hundred years.

Actually - It was not my intent to draw any parallel between immature Christians and Protestants. I know many deeply spiritual protestants and many immature Catholics.


As a Christian I believe Forgivness is very important and serious issue, some of the main reasons are:

  1. it’s a command. “Matt 18:21-22, Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” We are commanded to be kind and forgiving toward others, not to do so would be a sin.

  2. God has forgiven us.“Ephesians 4:32, Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Since God has forgiven us and is being gracious to us, how can we not forgive those who sin against us. We are no difference than others we are all sinners all sin.

  3. God is the judge. “Rom 12:19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” God is the judge, he is the one who judges wrong doing, not us.

  4. It causes uneasiness. " Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you," If we harbor unforgivness in our hearts we become uncomfortable since we are living in rebillion againt our Father, we are gieving his Spirit who is in us.

5.God will not listen to our prayers. “Psalm 66:18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,the Lord would not have listened.” Our prayers won’t be heard if we are unforgiving , since it’s a sin not to forgive.

I hear what you’re saying, that this is a selfish motive for forgiving. Although practically, I do think that holding resentments leads to bitterness and poisons our soul, so in that sense he is right.

I think the reason we need to forgive is 1. God commands us to forgive. 2. Forgiveness can reveal to us how much we are sinners ourselves. In order to forgive, we have to have some empathy, we have to see where the other person is coming from, and that makes us get in touch with our own sinfulness, and God’s great forgiveness.


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