What is forgiveness?

March 12, 2016 06:00
Children will learn how to forgive if their parents admit their own wrongdoings first. Photo: HKEJ

"It is far pleasanter to injure and afterwards beg for forgiveness than to be injured and grant forgiveness," wrote German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.

I couldn't agree more.

Yet, offering someone your forgiveness could help provide relief to yourself, though it won't undo the other person's wrongdoings. 

I once gave a talk on forgiveness. During the speech, I asked the attendees how many parties they think are involved in an act of forgiveness.

Many people agreed that two parties were involved. Only a few said the act involves just one party.

I often explain to children that friendship is a bridge connecting and shortening the distance between two people.

But sometimes there would be challenges or quarrels in a friendship, and it is forgiveness that can repair or even consolidate the bridge of friendship.

Recently I met a father who was feeling guilty for not being able to withhold his temper at times. He worries if he can be a role model to his daughter.

In Asian cultures, parents, elders, teachers or other senior members would seldom admit to being wrong. However, if they do and apologize, it will win respect from the young.

Hence, I advised the dad to say sorry to his daughter for losing his temper, and to make good use of such opportunity to explain to her that it is ok to make mistakes as no one is perfect.

Most importantly, people should accept responsibility for their mistakes and offer apologies if necessary.

As a Christian, I realize that I made so many mistakes and yet God forgives me every time. That makes me feel touched and blessed.

Let's forgive those who trespass against us just as the Lord forgives us for our own sins.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 10.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Founder and Principal at JEMS Learning House