Last modified on September 12, 2020, at 13:52


Forgiveness is the renunciation or cessation of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.

Jesus Christ and Christendom have emphasized the important of forgiveness and in the last few decades mental health specialists have increasingly seen the importance of forgiveness to alleviate bitterness and other emotional problems within individuals.[1]

As adults, children who attended religious services regularly are 87 percent more likely to possess high levels of forgiveness and are also 47 percent more likely to have a high sense of mission and purpose.[2] On the other hand, an atheistic worldview provides no basis for forgiveness (see: Atheism and forgiveness).

Bible and Christian Quotes

Forgiveness is offered to a sinner or villain. God, being without sin, can forgive sins; also, the Son of God had the authority to forgive sins - even before his crucifixion; see Jesus Christ. Lesser mortals have the option of forgiving an offense: indeed, it is taking the moral high road to do so, and Jesus commanded it (even 70 x 7 times):

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15 (KJV)

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. John 20:21-23 (KJV)

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took [him] by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. Matthew 18:21-35 (KJV)

Is forgiveness free, or does it come at the price of some sort of apology? Can even Christ forgive those who do not repent? The classic formula when requesting forgiveness is (1) to acknowledge the offense, (2) to express regret for the pain caused, (3) and to promise not to repeat the offense.

Forgiveness usually results in freedom from punishment. It is safe to confess to a forgiving person, because the confession will not make one "guilty" but actually lead to a remission of guilt.

[This point is often poorly understood by non-Christians. Associating guilt and confession with "justice" and "discipline", non-Christians generally expect any evidence of wrongdoing to correspond to punishment and will accordingly avoid confession like the plague.]

  • "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us."
  • Forgiveness is an absolute necessity for continued human existence.
    • Desmond Tutu, as quoted in Pastoral Care for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Healing the Shattered Soul (2002) by Dalene Fuller Rogers and Harold G Koenig, p. 31


  • Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.
  • Forgiveness does not change the past but it does enlarge the future.
    • Paul Lewis Boese, in Quote : The Weekly Digest, Vol. 53, No. 8, p. 146 (19 February 1967)
  • It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.
  • The fairest action of our human life
    Is scorning to revenge an injury
    For who forgives without a further strife,
    His adversary's heart to him doth tie:
    And 'tis a firmer conquest, truly said,
    To win the heart than overthrow the head.
    • Lady Elizabeth Carew, chorus from "Maxiam"
  • His heart was as great as the world, but there was no room in it to hold the memory of a wrong.
  • Bear and forbear.
  • Æquum est
    Peccatis veniam poscentem reddere rursus.
    • It is right for him who asks forgiveness for his offenses to grant it to others.
    • Horace, Satires, I. 3. 74
  • For 'tis sweet to stammer one letter
    Of the Eternal's language; — on earth it is called Forgiveness!
  • These evils I deserve, and more
    * * * * * *
    Justly, yet despair not of his final pardon,
    Whose ear is ever open, and his eye
    Gracious to re-admit the suppliant.
  • Forgiveness is better than revenge.
  • Humanum amare est, humanum autem ignoscere est.
    • To love is human, it is also human to forgive.
    • Plautus, Mercator, II. 2. 46
  • Good-nature and good-sense must ever join;
    To err is human, to forgive, divine.
  • What if this cursed hand
    Were thicker than itself with brother's blood
    Is there not rain enough in the sweet heaves
    To wash it white as snow?
  • Tout comprendre rend tres-indulgent.
    • To understand makes one very indulgent.
    • Anne Louise Germaine de Staël, Corinne (1807), Book XVIII, Chapter V
  • Behold affronts and indignities which the world thinks it right never to pardon, which the Son of God endures with a Divine meekness! Let us cast at the feet of Jesus that false honor, that quick sense of affronts, which exaggerates every thing, and pardons nothing, and, above all, that devilish determination in resenting injuries.
  • "Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is again made clean." - Dag Hammarskjold
  • "Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it" - Mark Twain
  • "He who forgives ends the quarrel." - Anonymous
  • "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." - Mahatma Gandhi

See also

  1. Indian J Psychiatry. 2009 Apr-Jun; 51(2): 153–156. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.49459, PMCID: PMC2755173, Forgiveness: A note for psychiatrists by Prakash Gangdev
  2. How to Help Prevent Your Child from Becoming an Atheist by Joe Carter