Insulting others and being insulted, hurting others and getting hurt are extremely common experiences of human life. Newspapers and television keep us constantly updated on acts of violence and cruelty of all kinds visited upon individuals or even whole social groups. Even if most of us never experience such extreme forms of abuse, everyone has offended others or been slighted. Forgiveness is an alternative to revenge or flight, an option that without renouncing the need for neither justice nor remembrance allows for a more positive outcome. But what does forgiveness mean exactly? What helps and what hinders the forgiveness of an offence among people or social groups? Does absolution make us feel better? After refuting a wide array of commonplaces, the authors address these questions and highlight the potential as well as the limits of the delicate process of forgiveness.
Camillo Regalia teaches Social Interaction Psychology at the Catholic University of Milan.
Giorgia Paleari teaches General Psychology at the University of Bergamo.