Summary of "Understanding Forgiveness"

Summary of

Understanding Forgiveness

By Estrada-Hollenbeck

This Article Summary written by: Mariya Yevsyukova, Conflict Research Consortium

Conflict: Estrada-Hollenbeck. "Understanding Forgiveness." Interaction. Vol. 6, No. 1. Spring 1994. Pp. 1, 3.

It is not easy to define forgiveness since different people understand it differently. Estrada-Hollenbeck analyzes [people's] narratives to understand forgiveness as an element of reconciliation. These narratives are stories of how a person did or did not forgive his or her offender. The author notices that those people who did not forgive their offenders talked more about their own feelings of being betrayed and victimized, while those who were able to forgive talked more about the way the offender felt and the way their perception about the offender became more positive as a result of forgiving. She concludes that "forgiveness is not an emotion....It appears to be a conscious notion that one no longer feels negatively toward another" (p. 3).

In terms of group conflict, the narratives describing the historical and contemporary relations between groups in conflict can help in determining the groups' perceptions about each other, assisting conflict resolution scholars and practitioners in conflict analysis and in choosing a strategy for intervention. The narratives of groups in conflict can help practitioners to frame the issues in a way that will incorporate each groups' basic human needs. If the relationship moves toward reconciliation, the narratives will show if there is a fundamental change in perceptions toward the former enemy. Thus narratives can serve as a diagnostic and a methodological tool, useful for both a scholar and a practitioner.