Once dismissed as an irrelevant religious concept in a secular political world, the concept of forgiveness has begun to be increasingly associated with conflict resolution and peacemaking around the world. Several states have recently acknowledged their wrongdoing, apologized to their victims, and asked for their forgiveness. There is a consensus between social scientists that the forgiveness concept encompasses the following three main points:
1- The directional nature of forgiveness- the victim forgives the aggressor.
2- The forgiveness ownership rights – belongs only to the victim.
3- The violation of the victim rights is a prerequisite for forgiveness.
In our daily activities, each one of us encountered minimal decision situations where s/he forgives his son for being late, her husband for going over the budget, his friend for not showing up, or asked for forgiveness from anyone from an inner circle. In this context we use forgiveness, apology or pardon as a tool to facilitate our interaction with others human beings or to maintain a relationship that we value.
The experience of forgiving and asking for forgiveness is one of the most perennial of human experiences; our inability to live with others without offending, disturbing, or hurting them, compel us to find a way to maintain a good relationship with others, when we intentionally or accidently did something wrong. Seeking or offering forgiveness is one of the most effective ways to resolve a conflict. Most importantly, it often supports an intangible outcome of transformation. This is transformation that comes from empowerment and recognition of self and other.
Forgiveness is part of the human obligation towards social peace and survival because it is the only way to end the cycle of violence and revenge, otherwise we will not be able to cooperate and form societies. The notion that forgiveness requires a change of heart doesn’t mean that victims need to forget, or accept what happened to them. Forgiveness means that we are not going to allow the experiences of the past dominate our future. It supports relationships, trust, hope, and a new future.
Forgiveness is a non-transferable or negotiable right, which belongs only to the victim, and claiming it by anyone else is a violation of the victim’s right. Many people simply do not understand that forgiveness is the departure point for the victim from the past to the future, from entrapment to freedom. Forgiving a wrongdoer does not mean you forget what he did to you, simply because you can’t delete your memory. The places, the colors, and everything related to the event or the individual will trigger some kind of reflection. However, as soon as you forgive and start your new life, the old experience and memories will slowly but surely fade in significance and a new alternative story will emerge that involves hope for a better future. The new interactions will frame new experiences. This is a clear example how we are architects of our own lives and relationships.
One of the main characteristic of forgiveness is the role it plays in helping victims get rid of their resentments and continue their lives, by not letting their resentment towards wrongdoing go beyond appropriate limits. It is believed that if victims harbor resentment for too long, it will be so consuming that the victim will not be able to properly recognize and assess moral reasons. Forgiveness, then, might be best described as a virtue that allows us to keep our resentment within appropriate limits (McGary, 1989, p.343).
In sum, the concept of forgiveness is related to personal wellbeing, thus, the forgiveness concept should be seen in the context of human relations as a healthy alternative dispute resolution approach. In such, mediation may present a powerful form of alternative dispute resolution that supports a spiritual process that involves forgiveness where other forms of dispute resolution processes cannot.