Prideful Forgivers

How do we counter the pride of virtuous magnanimity, the second form of pride associated with forgiving?  As forgivers, we should remind ourselves that, on our own, we have neither the power nor the right to forgive and that we are neither knowledgeable nor virtuous enough to forgive well.  When we forgive, we make God’s forgiveness our own.  And even as we do, it’s Christ who forgives through us, not we who forgive on our own.  Our forgiveness is proper to the extent that it reverberates with God’s.  When offenders thank us for forgiving, we should respond the same way we respond when recipients thank us for giving — we should deflect gratitude and direct it to God, the true source and the true agent of all forgiving.  When we forgive well, there’s in fact very little to be proud of.  God being the source of our forgiveness, the better we forgive, the less reason there is for pride.

Prideful forgivers are bad forgivers partly because pride subverts what forgiveness seeks to achieve in the first place.  As we saw in the two previous chapters, forgiveness is not a private, virtuous act.  It’s part of a larger strategy of overcoming evil with good and bringing about reconciliation.  It doesn’t just relieve us from bitterness and resentment.  It enacts love for the enemy.  Good forgivers can’t therefore just dispense forgiveness without any regard for how it is received by the offenders.  Forgiveness will help overcome evil with good if it nudges offenders to repent, reconcile, and be restored to the good.  Humble forgiveness might achieve that goal.  Prideful forgiveness will have the opposite effect.

— Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge, p. 217

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