Volume 11, 2006
Beyond Extrinsic Forgiveness: Recognizing the Dignity of the Offender
Anger, a natural response to injustice, becomes resentment when the anger is maintained, for any of a variety of reasons. While both repression and venting are inadequate responses to resentment, forgiveness is a more appropriate response. Extrinsically motivated forgiveness, to which believers appear to be particularly susceptible, is insufficient to meet the generally accepted definition of forgiveness. Forgiveness, a moral gift to the offender that is consistent with justice and rational judgment, requires an internal understanding of the reasons motivating the cognitive decision to forgive. The dignity of the human person appears to be a helpful principle in reaching the internal motivation to forgive the offender. This understanding of dignity shared by the offender with all persons is approachable by philosophical or theological avenues of reasoning.