Forgiveness

What is forgiveness? What is "accepting an apology"? What does it mean to "forgive and forget"? What is "holding a grudge"? What is "letting something go"?

This page is a stub, created on 2020-04-07 (last updated on 2021-03-09). Its contents are notes on the issues and angles I want to address about this topic.


I want to take a look at these questions from two complementary perspectives: philosophical and psychological. Philosophically, I want to examine moral agency and moral accountability, especially through an egoistic (Objectivist) lens. Psychologically, I want to examine the related issues of performative/ritualistic behaviors (eg, "I'm sorry.", "That's okay.", "I accept your apology.", apology symmetry), the cognitive costs and benefits of rumination versus evasion, and wholeheartedness/authenticity.

Another dimension I want to explore relates to a more Buddhist or mindfulness-meditation angle: How can you have compassion and understanding of wrong-doing and for the wrong-doer, but not forgive them? How does that relate to acceptance and "unconditional love"? How can you lovingly hold people accountable for gravely destructive (and perhaps even intentionally so) behavior?

Very relevant Unlocking Us (on Spotify) episodes, Harriet Lerner and Brené - I'm Sorry: How To Apologize & Why It Matters:

Related to apologizing, I want to explore some topics related to my personal growth:

Being able to apologize as readily as I can now is not something that came naturally to me. I think the operative factors earlier in my life were feelings of righteous indignation and equity. But over time, the logic of "the supreme sanctity of the truth" won out. Nowadays, it's very easy for me to accept responsibility for anything I've done wrong, because that's the truth. And it has nothing to do with whether anybody else is able to apologize for anything else. Ironically, there's a very narrow and immediate way in which this isn't about the other person or my caring about them or the effect of my apology on them; it's just a matter of personal accountability, an allegiance to reality, and what kind of person I want to be, justice and others' desert be damned. (In reality, these concerns are harmonious, but there's an interesting question of what's alive for me in a given moment of apologizing.)

And commensurately, I cannot bring myself to mouth the words "I'm sorry." or offer apologies when I am, in fact, not sorry. I can express regret that a situation is what it is, and I can commit to helping to create a better future, but if I'm not morally responsible for an unpleasant situation, I won't dilute the value and meaning of my apologies in general by participating in what amounts to coddling or infantilizing other people. I think that's disrespectful and undermines them in the long run, regardless of how much better they might feel in the moment.