Real Meaning of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the ultimate virtue, everyone knows that. However, there is a strange misunderstanding about the concept of forgiveness among many people. We usually think that if someone has unknowingly done something wrong and did not have an intention to harm us, only then we should forgive them.

However, the true meaning of forgiveness implies that it should be practised even if the wrong was done with complete intention and knowledge of the outcome. This is true forgiveness and it is difficult for people who indulge into petty issues, keep score and are prone to escalate small stuff. The prime example and set standard in the modern day world for this concept is Nelson Mandela.

Mandela was arrested in 1962 for conspiring to overthrow the government and sentenced to life imprisonment. He served 27 years in prison throughout most of his middle and old age and had his close relatives pass away during his imprisonment.

When he was released in 1990 and later became the president of South Africa in 1994, he had to deal with the people who were responsible for his long imprisonment and had committed horrible crimes against non-white people. South Africa would not have been where it is today if he had chosen the path of settling the score. He said, “Forgiveness liberates the soul, it removes fear. That’s why it’s such a powerful weapon.” He went as far as inviting his white jailer in his inauguration ceremony.

Compared to 27 years in prison, we seek revenge on trivial issues and glorify ourselves when forgiving a small mistake by someone. Remember, actual forgiveness deals with evil and bad intentions, instead of misunderstanding and error of judgement. And that no matter what the situation is, the way forward is always compassion and love.

Another very interesting aspect of forgiveness I recently came to know about was by Vishen Lakhiani’s book The Code of the Extraordinary Mind. He says that true forgiveness comes by closing the loop of forgiveness into love. We can feel the pain but eventually we have to sit down and liberate ourselves from the negative energy accumulated inside us due to that bad experience. It’s easy to say, I have forgiven, but in practice, we must forgive to an extent that we indeed start feeling less anger towards the other person, then less hatred, then become neutral, then we might become empathetic for why they did what they did, and finally we start loving them as imperfect human beings like us who might have made a mistake but are worthy of our love.

I complete this post with my rule of forgiveness. We engineers usually like shortcuts (called hacks) to deal with situations we quickly want to get through. This is one of those hacks that I have found very useful as well as anyone else who has applied it.

My rule of forgiveness


If we will forgive someone at their deathbed, we should better forgive them now. Makes so much sense; why delay something we’re going to do later anyway? Less burden on our souls, less on theirs.

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