Forgiveness | Character Strength | VIA Institute

Become Aware Of Your Strength

Understand what forgiveness is all about so you can begin recognizing it in yourself and others.
What is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness means to extend understanding towards those who have wronged or hurt us. It means to let go. In many cases this is the letting go of some or all of the frustration, disappointment, resentment, or other painful feelings associated with an offense. Forgiveness, and the related quality of mercy, involve accepting the shortcomings, flaws, and imperfections of others and giving them a second (or third) chance. As the expression goes, it is letting bygones be bygones, rather than being vengeful. It is a process of humanizing those who have led us to feel dehumanized.

It is important to distinguish forgiveness from:

  • condoning (removes the offense)
  • forgetting (removes the awareness)
  • reconciliation (restores the relationship)
Which virtue is this strength?
Forgiveness is a strength within the virtue category of temperance, one of six virtues that subcategorize the 24 strengths. Temperance describes strengths that help you manage habits and protect against excess. The other strengths in Temperance are forgiveness , humility , prudence , and self-regulation .
What the Science Says

Research findings on the benefits of the strength of forgiveness found apologies promote forgiveness. Research also found that partners who characterize their relationship as highly satisfying, committed, and close are more likely to forgive when transgressions occur. Forgiveness can too contribute to productive interpersonal relationships, thriving teamwork, job satisfaction, personal morale, innovative problem-solving, a sense of flexibility when facing changes, and productivity.

Explore Your Strength

Reflect on how you’ve used forgiveness in the past, in everyday life and during special or critical times.

Questions to Help You Understand Your Strength Better
  • What are the circumstances in which it is easy for you to be forgiving? Who is easiest in your life to forgive? Why?
  • How do you reconcile forgiving someone while holding the belief that people should be held accountable for transgressions?
  • Is it easier or more challenging to forgive someone at work or someone at home? Why?
Examples of this Strength in Action

Wondering about times that you may be using this strength? Here are a few examples of forgiveness at work in the world.

  • If someone offends you at work, taking the time to think about how the person is a complex human being who needs to experience positive growth and transformation, rather than seeing them as “all bad”.
  • letting go of minor irritants in your life, such as someone cutting you off in traffic, or when you feel slighted because someone ignored you or didn’t consider your feelings.
  • Forgiving those who you’ve held a grudge against for too long.

Apply Your Strength

How can you make the most of forgiveness in your everyday life? In the moments that matter most? Here are some ideas.
  • Take 20 minutes and write about the personal benefits that resulted from a negative incident.
  • Think of someone who wronged you recently. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand their perspective.
  • Make a list of individuals against whom you hold a grudge. Choose one person either to meet with personally to discuss your grudge, or visualize a conversation in which you practice forgiveness and letting go.