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Author Topic: Morality question
RivalOfTheRose
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Is it possible to forgive someone if they are not sorry?
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Lyrhawn
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Possible? Sure. I don't see why it wouldn't be.

I guess this really depends on the offense. Personally I could forgive someone if he/she was not sorry, but it would be a lot more difficult and take a lot longer. Really though, it does depend on the offense. Some things are unforgivable regardless of whether or not the person is apologetic.

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Raymond Arnold
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First, define forgive. Assuming you mean "accept something someone did that hurt you, and move on without letting it bother you," then yes. If you're referring to a sort of complete moral absolution, then probably not.
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Darth_Mauve
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Forgiving is not about them, its about you. Yes, its possible to forgive someone for what they've done to you even if they are not sorry they did it.

That does not mean that you are not aware that they would do it again, or something similar, if the opportunity presents itself.

Just because you've forgiven them doesn't mean you've forgotten, nor should you give them the opportunity again.

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Lisa
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It's possible, but inadvisable.
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MightyCow
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Not if you're Jesus.

/Oh Snap!

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Launchywiggin
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Def. My forgiveness isn't contingent on my opponent's feelings.
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Rakeesh
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That's too broad a question, I think. For me it would depend on what they did, what the context was, and how both parties ended up after the transgression, whatever it was. It would also depend on, as Raymond said, the definition of forgive. Could I, personally, forgive someone for a misdeed who wasn't sorry? Sure, I can imagine many such situations. But then, the not being sorry...that becomes another misdeed, doesn't it?
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Sean Monahan
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quote:
Originally posted by MightyCow:
Not if you're Jesus.

/Oh Snap!

I'm not a Xtian, but when on the cross, didn't Jesus say, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do"?
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MightyCow
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quote:
Originally posted by Darth_Mauve:
Forgiving is not about them, its about you.

I agree with Darth_Mauve here. Holding on to hate and anger, bitterness and sadness just keeps you reliving the event over and over. Forgiveness is freeing yourself of the emotional baggage.

Don't forget and let the same things happen again, but don't cling to the past and live in the hurt.

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Sterling
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quote:
Originally posted by MightyCow:
quote:
Originally posted by Darth_Mauve:
Forgiving is not about them, its about you.

I agree with Darth_Mauve here. Holding on to hate and anger, bitterness and sadness just keeps you reliving the event over and over. Forgiveness is freeing yourself of the emotional baggage.

Don't forget and let the same things happen again, but don't cling to the past and live in the hurt.

Thirded. And holding onto anger doesn't affect the target of that anger, especially if they don't feel regret at having done wrong. But it does curdle the stomach and ruin the sleep of the person holding onto the anger.

When it ceases to be impetus to useful action, let the anger go.

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Vadon
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For a more professional philosophic opinion, I'm sure someone else like JonHecht would be better able to answer the question. But I am in an ethics of emotion class right now and we covered this question. (I'll be deeply simplifying, and likely damaging, the messages of the philosophers. If I make an egregious error, someone should feel free to correct me.)

Hidden within your question is an assumption that it is all right not to forgive someone if they're not sorry. I'm guessing this because your question of morality stems from the possibility of whether it's even possible to forgive someone who has wronged you unapologetically, implying that the natural state of things is not to forgive people who wrong you without being sorry.

The first point I think you have to tackle is whether or not there is ever something needing forgiveness. Sure, stoicism kind of old, but you should ask the question on whether or not you're ever in the right to be angry at another person. Seneca argued that what truly matters is your moral character, and no one but yourself can take that away from you. I'm not necessarily saying that I ascribe to stoicism, but I do think we can't simply assume that anger is appropriate in the first place.

But let's assume emotions are justifiable and we forgo stoicism. Marilyn Frye talks about when a person is entitled to be angry with another. In particular, if someone is wronged by another, they've the right to be angry. She elaborates a bit by saying that anger functions as a sort of contract. A person feels angry at another person, and if that person doesn't acknowledge the anger, the original person is entitled to the anger. In her terminology to answer your question; are you allowed to be angry at a person who isn't sorry for wronging you? According to Frye, absolutely.

But when are you allowed to stop being angry/holding that person in contempt?

Michelle Mason outlines first what it takes to hold someone in contempt. To summarize her points, the contempt must:

1. Be directed at a person who wronged you.
2. Their wronging you comes from a flaw in character.
3. The person who wronged you can be held accountable reasonably (They have to be cognizant of the fact they harmed you)
4. It is reasonable to expect this person not to commit this wrong.

But the time when you're able to morally hold them accountable is when you:

5. Aren't guilty of the crime yourself.
6. You'd be willing to forgive them if they changed their attitude.

So thus far, it seems as though philosophers (with stoic and some other exceptions) are on the side that it's fine not to forgive the person.

The last author I can think of so far who has spoken to this issue is Gabrielle Taylor. She outlined much of the same points Mason does, but expands on the idea saying that there are times one should feel certain things. Not just when they are permissible. I can't remember the specific premises she used to defend this, but she ultimately claims that folks should be angry with people that wrong them and it is wrong not to. She uses two examples I can think of. One is if you have a slobby room-mate. If you keep yourself clean, you should be angry at your room-mate for being a slob and not cleaning up afterthemself. The second example was from a Jane Austen book. I don't remember which one or who the characters were, but at one point a woman's fiancee compliments another woman more feverishly on their piano playing than he does for his fiancee. Taylor says that the girl should have been angry and would be morally in the wrong not to. She believes that not being angry with people who wrong you stem from bad character traits. Arrogance, ignorance, snobbishness, self-centeredness, etc.

What do I think? Um...

I dunno, I'm going to say it's possible but that it's morally wrong. I'm with Lisa on this. If you felt this person has wronged you, and they are unrepentant for their actions, then there is nothing to stop them from repeating those actions. To actually 'forgive' them means that you feel no animosity toward them for that wrong. If they repeat the offense, then you've opened yourself up again to feel hurt. I'd say instead of 'forgiving' someone who isn't sorry, just disassociate yourself from them on these issues. You shouldn't let their behavior shape your internal well-being if they're not going to change their character. ETA: To clarify my position a little. I think there's a difference between 'getting over it' and forgiving someone. To forgive someone, I believe, has an implicit form of trust. You have cleared that person of wrong doing in your book and do sort of act as though the wrong never happened. That's why my position is that one should simply get over it if the person doesn't apologize, but that doesn't mean you should forgive them and lower your defenses.

I don't know though. It's a tough question, but I'll stick with where I'm leaning.

[ May 05, 2010, 02:43 AM: Message edited by: Vadon ]

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Drifter
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I can forgive. But I don't forget either. Somewhere along the line people equate forgiveness with returning things to the same state that they were before the transgression occurred. I don't agree with this marrying up of two separate concepts. I don't agree that that things can always go back to that state. Nor should they, some people do some pretty horrendous things.

I can forgive the transgression, because that is about me and my morality. Them not acknowledging the error is about them and their morality.
Allowing other people to hurt you in the same way, over and over, is not a moral stance IMO it's just selfishly stupid and is part of the martyr syndrome.

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Scott R
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quote:
Originally posted by RivalOfTheRose:
Is it possible to forgive someone if they are not sorry?

Yep. Forgiveness is a process controlled by a single party, and can be independent of the attitudes of anyone else.
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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
quote:
Originally posted by RivalOfTheRose:
Is it possible to forgive someone if they are not sorry?

Yep. Forgiveness is a process controlled by a single party, and can be independent of the attitudes of anyone else.
This.

In more detail, though:

One of the things I think confuses peple is what it means to forgive. From Merian-Webster:

quote:

1 a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for <forgive an insult> b : to grant relief from payment of <forgive a debt>
2 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardon <forgive one's enemies>

Putting aside the monetary implications, the other definitions have to do with laying aside your own feelings of resentment. It has nothing whatsoever to do with how sorry the other person feels.

And in that vein, not only do I think it is possible, but I think it is ADVISABLE to find a way to forgive. This isn't about condoning someone's horrible actions, it's about finding internal peace.

I see the forgiving process as being somewhat related to the mourning process. Allow yourself to feel that anger for a while and then slowly let it go so you can move on with your life.

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rivka
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As Esther Lederer said, "Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head."
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The Rabbit
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RivaloftheRose, I'm not sure what you are really asking. The way you pose the question, the answer is simple -- yes it is possible, but I sense that your question runs deeper than that. If you are trying to figure out if it is the right thing to do, I think you need to assess what you mean by forgive, how forgiving would affect your behavior and your interaction with this person and others around you and whether that is something that would be a net good.

If you are actually trying to figure out how to alter the way you feel, how you let go of anger and resentment, that is a hard question to answer. It is possible but it isn't easy.

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Tresopax
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Why not forgive someone? What benefit is there to refusing to forgive?
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scifibum
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It is interesting that many people have said that forgiveness should often be done for the benefit of the forgiver.

Yet many of us have been taught that forgiveness is a gift. Something we can be given...something that we often need. I have certainly craved forgiveness from others.

I think the question is about whether we can give this gift when it is not desired. The answer is no. And that may make it harder to forgive for people who are altruistic. There's simply less good being accomplished by the act, making it less obvious that it is the right choice.

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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:

Yet many of us have been taught that forgiveness is a gift. Something we can be given...something that we often need. I have certainly craved forgiveness from others.

This is because we're confused. If we require forgiveness for something we have done, that, too, cannot be given by someone else. We need to be able to forgive ourselves.

Sheesh, if you let other people dictate whether or not you're allowed to be happy, you might end up like me. [Smile]

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scifibum
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I'm going to have to chew on that. I'm uncomfortable with the idea that others' feelings toward me should not help determine my happiness, but the ways that I think I can justify this seem to depend on others to be consistently reasonable and good, which is problematic. [Smile]
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Scott R
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quote:
Yet many of us have been taught that forgiveness is a gift. Something we can be given...something that we often need. I have certainly craved forgiveness from others.
Hm...you're looking at this on the part of the offender, while I think I'm looking at this on the part of the offended.

I think my POV answers the OP's initial question better. Which is not to say that your point of view doesn't have some interesting aspects ...

But you're talking more about repentance than forgiveness. (Incidentally, I think repentance is also an individualistic endeavor, after a certain point...)

quote:
We need to be able to forgive ourselves.

I don't know about the scale here. I think forgiving oneself is fine and dandy-- but if you've stolen from someone, then repairing what was done wrong (in a concrete and tangible way) is more important than the touchy-feeliness of getting over one's guilt.

Say you cheat on your spouse. They discover the infidelity, and (quite justly) mistrust you. Their mistrust, and the shame you feel for betraying them, brings you to an emotional state where you sympathize deeply with the pain you've caused them. You apologize; break off the relationship with the individual you cheated on them with; and work to not just restore you and your spouse's relationship, but actively do things to make it better than it was.

In ANY case (from my Mormon point of view) it is the spouse's moral responsibility to forgive you. That does not mean staying married to you. It does mean that they recognize the effect that your bad behavior has caused; they recognize the anger and mistrust that are invoked naturally by the betrayal; and they take steps to overcome the emotions so that they are not embittered. It also means that your infidelity is not in the forefront of their mind when you associate with them in everyday life. In a certain sense, they "forget" the sin; it no longer directly influences their relationship with you.

I'm not sure how anyone can truly forget such a deep violation of trust. Maybe it's impossible for a human to forgive perfectly. I don't think that's an excuse for not trying.

In terms of obtaining forgiveness-- what if your spouse never forgets? What if he or she brings up your infidelity for the rest of your lives? Their attitude doesn't necessarily stop you from repenting.

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Christine
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A point of clarification, going at this from the point of view of the one needing forgiveness...IMO, a certain amount of atonement is necessary to be able to properly forgive oneself. Depending upon the offense, this atonment may come in many different forms.
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scifibum
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quote:
Hm...you're looking at this on the part of the offender...
Yes and no. I'm saying that the forgiver can be motivated by the need of the forgiven - satisfy an altruistic impulse. I'm saying that it can be both easier and more satisfying to forgive when the transgressor is penitent, for reasons that are different than the likelihood of repeat transgression.

quote:
I think my POV answers the OP's initial question better. Which is not to say that your point of view doesn't have some interesting aspects ...
I think your POV is a great answer to the question as stated. I'm only guessing that the aspect I tried to address is relevant. At any rate I think it's interesting to ask myself why I think it is easier to forgive when someone asks for forgiveness.
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Chris Bridges
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I cannot forgive someone if they are not sorry. Forgiveness to me implies an act between the two of us.

What I can do, however, is accept that it happened, and move on. "OK, that happened. Take a breath." Lose the grudge, let the anger go, and simply reformulate my relationship to this person.

If the act was minor then I reassess my opinion of that person to include this new information and carry on our relationship with a few mental modifiers. "I love hanging around Jack, but I'll never loan him money again," or "Jill is funny and smart, just don't bring up politics around her."

If the act was bad enough and it appears likely -- since the person sees no wrong in it -- that it would happen again, I would no longer pursue a relationship with that person.

But forgive? No. To me, forgiveness is a specific act that requires repentance and a desire to do better on the part of the other person.

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Scott R
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quote:
To me, forgiveness is a specific act that requires repentance and a desire to do better on the part of the other person.
Why do you feel this way?
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Chris Bridges
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Because that's how I've always defined the word. If it's all on my part, then it's acceptance, as described.

Something like the difference between giving something and loaning something. The act is the same -- in both cases I have handed something to someone else -- but "loaning" has a specific meaning that "giving" does not.

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Chris Bridges
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Thing is, if the person sees no wrong and is not sorry, I should not forgive. That act should now instead become part of my understanding of that person.

Whereas someone who has shown they understand the wrong and wants to do better has earned the right, in my mind, to have that incident lessened or forgotten in my understanding.

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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by Chris Bridges:
Because that's how I've always defined the word. If it's all on my part, then it's acceptance, as described.

I don't think what anyone is describing would best be characterized as acceptance. I realize that we're devolving into a semantics debate, but I don't necessarily want to accept the bad things that a person has done to me -- I want to let go of my anger and move past it.

The forgiveness you're describing, as an act that requires two people, is more like reconciliation. And that can absolutely not happen if the person who did wrong is not sorry.

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Chris Bridges
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I'm not accepting the bad things, I'm accepting that they happened, that the bad-things-doer apparently does not plan to change, and that it does me little good to dwell.

For many people here that probably means the same as forgiveness. It doesn't to me. No worries.

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Chris Bridges
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Talked to Teres about this last night; she's closer to the consensus definition here. To her, not forgiving suggests I'm still harboring resentment or anger and I need to release that somehow.

To me, forgiving means saying, even if only to myself, "That's OK," and if the doer isn't sorry, it isn't.

Semantics. I think we're on the same page, even if we're not using the same words.

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