We don’t have the power to forgive. But we can hope that those who have harmed us will feel shame and reform.
That outcome—their feeling shame and reforming—is far better than our forgiving them and infinitely better than wishing harm on them, wishing for revenge.
Forgiveness should mean “forbear until those who have harmed us reform.”
When we have been harmed we have a choice between forbearance and revenge. If we choose revenge our minds will be clouded and we will bring more harm into the world. If we forbear, the harm that has been done will stop with us.
And if, as we forbear, we hope—indeed, pray—that those who have harmed us reform, we will feel little or no need to want revenge. The desire for revenge will be weak if it arises at all. For what could be better than the person who has harmed us reforming completely? That is, feeling shame, vowing never to repeat their harmful act, making amends for their harm.
What could be better than that?
We do not desire that the person who has harmed us feel shame to cause them pain, but only because shame is essential to reform, to making the vow to never repeat the harmful act against anyone. Shame cleanses the harm and ensures it will not recur.
When we have been harmed, there is nothing better to wish for.
And there is no need for public shame. All that is needed is real shame leading to the complete renunciation of harm.
This is how all of us—for all of us have been harmed—can reduce suffering in the world.