I have a theory about forgiveness. I think it's more complicated than we realize.
Take for example, a mother and her baby. The baby hits Mom in the face, because the baby doesn't yet know that other people feel pain. Mom understands that the baby doesn't really have enough years on the planet to form intent or malice, so Mom gently takes the baby's fist, maybe smooths it along her cheek and coos quietly "There, baby, that's what faces are for." And even if takes the baby a week or two to get control of his fist, there's just no question of forgiving and forgetting.
Now take the other extreme. A mother loses her cool and strikes her child. Unforgiveable, right? Unless maybe all of us have a breaking point, and sometimes we hurt the people we love, even the vulnerable ones. Or maybe this mother grew up with abuse, recognizes it the first time she hits her child in anger, and goes to get help. It's easy for me, a person with no children, to pass judgment on the mothers of the world. It's another thing entirely to be in their shoes, to truly understand another person.
As for me, I find it hardest to forgive people when there's something about the situation that leaves me feeling bad about my own behavior. I still haven't forgiven a woman who kept me from the deathbed of a dear family member, even though it's likely she did it out of ignorance rather than malice. When I have forgiven myself for not being there, it's likely I'll be able to forgive her, too.
I've heard many writers of crime fiction say they write in the genre because they really love justice, and don't see it enough in real life. Me, I'm wary of justice: how often do I really have enough context to judge another person? If I'm on a jury, or a sinking ship, you betcha. Otherwise, I try, though I often fail, to understand instead of judge, and I think that's all related to when and how we forgive someone.
Many of my regrets involve having judged a person harshly, and wrongly. And some of my dearest friends are people I was once outrageously angry at. I feel lucky that some of them have forgiven me.
What do you think? What gives a person the power to forgive?