Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotionssuch as vengefulness, forswears recompense from or punishment of the offender, however legally or morally justified it might be, and with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), pardoning (granted for an acknowledged offense by a representative of society, such as a judge), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship).
As a psychological concept and virtue, the benefits of forgiveness have been explored in religious thought, social sciences and medicine. Forgiveness may be considered simply in terms of the person who forgives including forgiving themself, in terms of the person forgiven or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven. In most contexts, forgiveness is granted without any expectation of restorative justice, and without any response on the part of the offender (for example, one may forgive a person who is incommunicado or dead). In practical terms, it may be necessary for the offender to offer some form of acknowledgment, an apology, or even just ask for forgiveness, in order for the wronged person to believe themselves able to forgive as well.
Social and political dimensions of forgiveness involves the strictly private and religious sphere of "forgiveness". The notion of "forgiveness" is generally considered unusual in the political field. However, Hannah Arendt considers that the "faculty of forgiveness" has its place in public affairs. The philosopher believes that forgiveness can liberate resources both individually and collectively in the face of the irreparable. During an investigation in Rwanda on the discourses and practices of forgiveness after the 1994 genocide, sociologist Benoit Guillou illustrated the extreme polysemy (multiple meanings) of the word "forgiveness" but also the eminently political character of the notion. By way of conclusion of his work, the author proposes four main figures of forgiveness to better understanding, on the one hand, ambiguous uses and, on the other hand, the conditions under which forgiveness can mediate a resumption of social link.
Most world religions include teachings on the nature of forgiveness, and many of these teachings provide an underlying basis for many varying modern day traditions and practices of forgiveness. Some religious doctrines or philosophies place greater emphasis on the need for humans to find some sort of divine forgiveness for their own shortcomings, others place greater emphasis on the need for humans to practice forgiveness of one another, yet others make little or no distinction between human and divine forgiveness.
The term forgiveness can be used interchangeably and is interpreted many different ways by people and cultures. This is specifically important in relational communication because forgiveness is a key component in communication and the overall progression as an individual and couple or group. When all parties have a mutual viewing for forgiveness then a relationship can be maintained. "Understanding antecedents of forgiveness, exploring the physiology of forgiveness, and training people to become more forgiving all imply that we have a shared meaning for the term".