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Publication details for Professor Geoffrey ScarreScarre, Geoffrey (2016). On taking back forgiveness. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19(4): 931-944.
- Publication type: Journal Article
- ISSN/ISBN: 1386-2820 (print), 1572-8447 (electronic)
- DOI: 10.1007/s10677-015-9651-z
- Keywords: Forgiveness, Withdrawal of forgiveness, Performative forgiveness, Repentance, Reconciliation, Moral judgement, Anthony Bash.
- Further publication details on publisher web site
- Durham Research Online (DRO) - may include full text
Author(s) from Durham
I argue that the effectiveness of forgiveness in the healing of relationships is dependent on both the givers and recipients of forgiveness understanding that once it has been granted, forgiveness is not normally able to be retracted. When we forgive, we make a firm commitment not to return to our former state of moral resentment against the offender, replacing it by good-will. This commitment can be broken only where the forgiving party makes some significant cognitive adjustment to her appraisal of either the offender or the offence, believing that her original forgiveness was granted in error. I reject the view (defended, for example, by Anthony Bash) that forgiveness can lapse or be withdrawn on the basis of a return of hurt or disappointed feelings, arguing that these do not amount to a restoration of the resentment that is extinguished when forgiveness is granted. I contend that a person who ‘forgives’ and later takes back that ‘forgiveness’ because certain negative feelings have returned either did not genuinely forgive in the first place or shows that she has not fully grasped the nature of forgiveness.