"To err is human, to forgive, divine."Forgiveness is perhaps the hardest thing anyone can do, because the things that truly need forgiving are usually those that hurt the deepest. Then again, has the offender really earned forgiveness? Do they have to? Or is forgiveness for such a sin even possible? Is there such a thing as an unforgivable sin? And just to complicate things further, who's to say forgiveness is a good thing in this situation, or at all? So it is that this cornerstone Aesop causes a lot of problems to all involved. Storyteller included. The necessity of Forgiveness and its effects are all over the Sliding Scale of Cynicism Versus Idealism, while it commonly appears as the best choice, it's not anywhere near universal. It should probably be noted that every major real world religion insists forgiveness is necessary from its practitioners. Again, this is a very difficult trope to pull off, depending on who the players are, what the offense was, and what the ramifications were.
— Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism
The typical aesop is as follows:
- Any character with a legitimate grievance who wants Revenge shouldn't exact it. It just perpetuates the Cycle of Revenge and makes them into monsters as bad as their targets. To get true emotional closure, they should forgive the offender.
- They shouldn't take revenge... but if they do, it doesn't make them monsters, and is in fact perfectly fine and justified method of gaining Justice. Usually, this story has Anti Heroes or a Complete Monster of a bad guy because of Pay Evil unto Evil.
- They not only can, but should take revenge. It will not only give them emotional closure, but will be a long overdue public service since the offender is seriously messed up. Yet they don't and are often taken advantage of because of their inaction. This is used to illustrate the limits of forgiveness or a cultural status-quo ripe with Values Dissonance.
The effects of (not) taking revenge:
- Not taking revenge will spiritually cleanse the character, allowing such things as Redemption Equals Life and a Heel–Face Turn on the one spared and (if they weren't a hero) the protagonist.
- Not taking revenge will emotionally destroy the character... at least in the short run. In the long run they might be better off, unless the overarching aesop is The Farmer and the Viper.
- Taking revenge does no lasting mental or emotional damage, perhaps even healing emotional scars, but it does morally bankrupt the character.
- Taking revenge does lasting emotional damage and morally bankrupts the character.
- Not taking revenge empowers the offending party (the proposed target of said revenge), and the offender will come back again and again, knowing they won't suffer any repercussions for their actions.
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Anime and Manga
- In one arc of the Rurouni Kenshin manga and anime, a little boy's big brother dies protecting him from some bad guys. The little boy gets the chance to take revenge by killing one of the bad guys (who is unconscious), but is convinced not to: it wouldn't give him his brother back, and it would destroy him emotionally (basically bullet point 4 above). Instead, he should live a life that would make his brother proud of him, protecting those weaker than himself and not giving in to evil.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, after Athrun joins the good guys, Miriallia overhears a conversation between him and Kira and learns that it was him who killed her boyfriend Tolle. When questioned about how she feels about this, Miriallia just walks away, saying that revenge won't change anything, thus becoming the first character in the show to actually forgive a misguided enemy.
- Earlier and in the biggest display of Kira's new attitude he's confronted by Yzak at Alaska and Kira in his new Freedom is able to easily overpower his older Duel Gundam and line up a kill shot, and despite Kira having the fresh memory of Yzak blowing away that shuttle of civilians earlier he changes his attack to only damage Duel slightly and tosses Yzak clear of the battlefield, telling him to save himself. Yzak is stunned and it begins his character development of second guessing his views that all Naturals are evil scum that deserve to die, leading his side switching in the finale.
- At the end of Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny, Kira offers friendship and an alliance to Shinn Asuka, who has spent a good part of the series trying very hard to kill him. Shinn actually breaks down crying when he realizes that Kira honestly doesn't hold a grudge against him for this, or for anything else he's done.
- In another instance Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Saji Crossroad follows Aesop 1 and tried his damnedest to get Louise Halevy to follow his footsteps. Unfortunately, Louise ignores him and goes on to exact righteous vengeance on her parents' murderer Nena Trinity. She ends up in effects 4, for a short while until her mentality and moral gets restored by Setsuna's GN Particles, and Saji's persistence
- In Naruto taking revenge makes Team Ten and especially Shikamaru grow up and get over their grief (although it's largely motivated by finishing the mission that Asuma died trying to complete). It's Aesop three.
- Sasuke on the other hand leans very heavily on Aesop three to the point of wanting to kill his entire home town for the actions of few elders. Tough to say how he'll end up.
- Compare with Naruto, who completely forgives Pain, unlike the two above.
- Monster - the most important lesson.
- Fullmetal Alchemist had these as recurring lesson. Again and again. Then again, some lessons needs to be always reminded.
- A certain Roman soldier in Sound of the Sky, talking to the Unwitting Pawn who created a Synthetic Plague that was unleashed on her home:
Du hast genug gelitten, deshalb vergebe ich dir, auch wenn dir sonst niemand vergeben sollte. You have suffered enough, so I forgive you, even when nobody else will.
- In the final episode of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Lady Une (having since resolved her Split Personality) offers Relena a gun, saying that she's like a body without a soul and letting the girl take revenge for Une murdering her father. Relena pushes the gun aside, saying they need to break the Vicious Cycle.
- Earlier in the series, after Heero is duped into killing well-intentioned Alliance leaders, he goes around to their families and likewise offers them a gun. Field Marshall Noventa's widow writes Heero a letter, asking him to stop beating himself up over an honest mistake and encouraging him to think about the future rather than fixating on the past.
- Code Geass:
- Shirley, having regained her memories that Lelouch is Zero, the man responsible for the death of her father, is once again conflicted about her feelings, until she realizes Lelouch has been fighting by himself "in a world of lies", and forgives him. She tries to get Suzaku to do the same for Lelouch. Tragically, she is fatally wounded by Rolo a short while later, and after declaring her love and forgiveness in a Dying Declaration of Love, she dies. Tragically ironic in that it has the effect of making Suzaku even more suspicious of Lelouch, who he suspects of doing the deed.
- Lelouch to everyone in the end. He and Suzaku sacrifice themselves so that everyone can have a happy, peaceful life, regardless of what they've done during the wars. While it has a lot of fans crying Karma Houdini, it isn't that at all - the characters in question aren't going to go on to hurt others again, and the alternative would be much worse, and would undermine the concept of the peaceful world Lelouch wants to create. Besides, no one in the series is pure, and it would be hypocritical of him to forgive his allies but not his enemies when their actions are more or less equal.
- Weed in Ginga Densetsu Weed says in the Grand Finale that friendship and forgiveness should be what would build Ohu up from the devastation Hougen had caused. In fact, his willingness to forgive prompts Gin from pressuring his son to kill Hougen and announces him as the new leader of the pack. So this would mean Weed took option number 1.
- Subverted in the case with Kamakiri. Weed says that he would never forgive any dog who would risk others' lives to save their own hides. Kamakiri, however, doesn't give a crap.
- In the finale of Kill la Kill, Ryuuko, having defeated her tyrannical and maniacal mother Ragyo and stopped her plot of converting the entire Earth into an incubator for Life Fibers, urges Ragyo to come down with her back to Earth just like the mother and daughter that they are. That's right, after she learned that Ragyo threw her on a garbage dump when she's just an infant, killed her father and when revealed that she possesses the same abilities as her mother's, her mother wasted no time to brainwash her. Unfortunately, Ragyo chooses death instead, destroying herself and spreading her Life Fibers into space. Ryuko offers the same as Nui, the one who killed her father, to give up rather than face death. Like Ragyo, Nui chooses death as well.
- Lyrical Nanoha:
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Fate was willing to give her Evil Matriarch of a mother a second chance despite the sheer amount of emotional and physical abuse she recieved (although Precia didn't take her up on the offer). Exactly how much of this was due to her being a Love Martyr at the time isn't made clear. It's more definite ten years later in StrikerS, since she not only keeps a picture of Precia by her bed, but tells Vivio that both Lindy and Precia are her mothers.
- While never directly addressed, a small amount of Fridge Logic make it clear that Genya forgave Cinque, Nove, and Dieci for brutally assaulting and kidnapping his eldest daughter (and Cinque being a part of the team responsible for his wife's death) because he adopted them.
- One of Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V central theme. The series shows that violence and aggression will only create more of the same and create a mess either in war or social reform. The only true way to end aggression is through forgiveness.
- Luke Skywalker, in Star Wars: Union, had his wedding to Mara Jade interrupted by a rogue Imperial who didn't like the Empire-New Republic peace set up in the Hand of Thrawn duology. Luke coaxed the Imperial into explaining his fears, gently debunked them - and then, once the Imperial was just sad and unhappy rather than violently driven, invited him to the celebration. Luke's like that.
- Unsurprisingly, Superman is all about this, from cheerily recommending Metropolis's reform program to various petty criminals he catches to trying to convince supervillains that if they stop being evil, he'll be more than happy to help them out.
- His long time science assistant Emil Hamilton started out as a villain and attacked Superman. It helps though that he was basically a nutty scientist pushed over the edge by corporate double-dealing ala Luthor. He was clearly from the beginning the sort of criminal that could be rehabilitated.
- Sadly, Hamilton fell into villainy again due to a combination of feeling sidelined as Superman sought aid from other science-minded heroes like Steel and forming a crazy theory that Superman was draining the Sun of energy and bring about the end of life on Earth...4.5 billion years later.
- His long time science assistant Emil Hamilton started out as a villain and attacked Superman. It helps though that he was basically a nutty scientist pushed over the edge by corporate double-dealing ala Luthor. He was clearly from the beginning the sort of criminal that could be rehabilitated.
- Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four still doesn't really hate Doom (who has tried to kill him a hundred or so times and is constantly making his life hell), mostly feeling miserable and guilty about being the reason for Doom's turn to villainy, even though it wasn't his fault at all. On more than one occasion, a fight between the two has degenerated into Reed begging Doom to reform, and Sue once baldly told Doom that Reed is incapable of holding a grudge, in contrast to Doom, whose entire existence is based around his seething jealous grudge against Reed.
- Batwoman: A peripheral theme. Various Hispanic parents lose their children to The Weeping Woman (a woman whose children were killed and her soul bound to her corpse and the water). After various accusations of racism and implicitly homophobic insults against the police and Maggie, they form a posse to get their kids back when the city goes into anarchy. One father is almost killed by gangsters in the Mob, but the Weeping Woman saves him by killing them. The father sees her as the broken soul she is and forgives her, while Maggie, implicitly, does not care about the parent's harassment as they were under duress, but thinks that if she was in the father's position, she wouldn't be able to forgive. In the end, The Weeping Woman saves the children by killing Maro, the man who killed her children to turn her, who was going to kill the other children in turn.
- A major moment in the graphic novel Heck—essentially the emotional climax—hinges on a character who forgives a major moment of betrayal. Elliot, who was seemingly abandoned by his best friend Heck at the very bottom of Hell, tells Satan that he forgives Heck. But Heck finds new resolve, returns and rescues Elliot, only to be beaten within an inch of his life and ready to die. Satan decides to spare Heck, but before returning him to Earth, tells him that Elliot forgave him. And that moment, more than any other, is what breaks Heck.
- A Crown of Stars: Where begin?
- Yui wants forgive her husband for being so single-mindedly obsessed about saving her that he treated their children -and other people- like crap but she cannot forgive him unless he earns Shinji and Rei's forgiveness. However Shinji will not forgive his father unless Asuka forgives him. And Asuka is not feeling very forgiving to say the least.
- So that Gendo wants to earn the pilots’ forgiveness. It sounds like a goal nearly impossible to achieve until you remember Gendo will stop at NOTHING to get his wife back.
- Shinji blames himself for everything what Asuka endured through the Angel War and after Third Impact and letting her die. He wishes she is able to forgive him, but he does not know if he deserves it.
- On the other hand Asuka wondered if she would ever forgive him for leaving her alone when she needed him the most… until they remembered her own actions during Instrumentality and she realized he HAD tried to reach her out despite everything:
Asuka:“I forgive you.”
Asuka:“A betrayal for a betrayal. You betrayed me when you left me to fight alone and die… and I betrayed you when you needed me to help you the most, and you were still trying to help me. After all that you’d lost, watching Misato and me die, me yelling at you on that train-place… after all that you still asked to help me and stay with me. And I just told you ‘No’. I hurt you and you hurt me, both at the worst possible times… we’re even, Shinji. So I forgive you, for not being there at that battle… and I’m sorry for telling you ‘No’ when you were so low, but still reached out to me. You really are… for me.”
- Once More with Feeling: Even if no one else knows what he did in the original timeline, Shinji wants to earn everybody's forgiveness for his actions, so he is fighting hard to save the world this time.
- A major theme in Retribution: Spock forgives Kirk for his earlier accusations of treachery because he knows the captain was Not Himself and forces Kirk to forgive himself by reminding him that Kirk forgave him for much worse.
- Scar Tissue: Forgiveness is a very important theme in this story. Many characters feel that have done unforgivable, terrible things, and hope atone for them:
- Asuka wishes that Shinji can forgive her someday for abusing him, although she thinks she does not deserve it and she does not dare to hope that he does.
- Shinji wishes that Asuka forgives him for everything that he did to her (never helping her when she needed him, masturbating over her catatonic body, abandoning her when she was fighting for her life and leaving her dying), although he thinks that he does not deserve it.
- Former Nerv higher-ups like Ritsuko, and later Gendo and possibly Yui are working to make sure that the pilots can led happy lives in the future as a way of expiation.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Why Am I Crying? has this as the focus of Scootaloo's arc. After Diamond Tiara dies in an accident, Scootaloo initially doesn't want to forgive her on account of all the nasty things she did to her and her friends, saying that bullies like her are unable to change, and ends up having an internal crisis when she finds out some hidden, surprising stuff about her and other ponies. At the funeral, she decides that she's not ready to forgive Tiara, but admits that she doesn't hate her anymore. She finally does when she visits her grave as a teenager years later.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, Shinji and Rei argue the subject of forgiveness after Shinji hurts Asuka.
Shinji: I shouldn't have… But she... she can be so mean. She had no right to say those things to you … but I had no right to say them to her. I had no right … please, forgive me.
Rei: Forgiveness is not mine to give
Rei: You can ask me for forgiveness, but I have no reason to forgive you. You have done nothing to me that would require it. If you feel it is the Second who should forgive you, then you should go to her and ask her to do so instead.
Shinji: I can't. I can't go to her. She hates me. She—
Rei: She is who she is. And she does not have to forgive you. It is not an obligation.
Shinji: But … what's the point in apologizing to someone if they will just hate you for it?
Rei: Will it make you feel better? People make themselves what they want to be, not what others wish them to be. I can only be me, and no one else. You accept me for being me, so you should accept her for being her.
Films — Animated
- In the 2008 animated adaption of Horton Hears a Who!, Horton easily forgives the Sour Kangaroo for her endless attempts to destroy the speck with the Whos' world on it, even offering her a cookie.
- A major theme in ParaNorman
- Meet the Robinsons deserves a mention from the Arc Words of "Keep moving forward." Considered an inversion because after Goob woke up late thanks to Lewis and causes him to lose the game, his teammates (after beating him up for losing) eventually forgot and forgave him for it. But not Goob, his grudge prevented him from being adopted, and grew up to become The Bowler Hat Guy.
Films — Live-Action
- Courage Under Fire: A major theme of the film, mainly involving soldiers coming to grips with what they have done in the face of war. In particular, the main character's guilt over a friendly fire incident tortures him until he seeks out the parents of the victim to beg forgiveness.
- Pirates of the Caribbean:
- Tia Dalma and Davy Jones continually tear each other up not so much for their past sins as because they can't forgive each other. Will is deeply moved watching them, and quite possibly inspired to avoid that, despite the wrongs he and Elizabeth had done each in the third film, by asking Elizabeth to marry him during the battle; since They Do, they know they can forgive each other.
- Evidently, Jack also forgave Elizabeth for abandoning him to be eaten by the Kraken in the second film. He could easily have treated her the same when the Flying Dutchman started to flounder; instead he unhesitatingly rescued her.
- The last love scene between Syrena and Philip in the fourth film has him asking her forgiveness for him getting her captured.
- In X2: X-Men United, Nightcrawler tells Storm that he didn't hate people who were scared by him when he was working at the circus; he pitied (and this probably implies that he also forgave) them instead.
- One of the major themes on the movie, Super 8 such as From the captured alien stopping his Roaring Rampage of Revenge to Alice's father forgiven for the (indirect) death of Joe's mother.
- Spider-Man 3,
- Spider-man goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge on Sandman when he discovered he was the one who shot Ben Parker. By the end of the film, Sandman explained that Ben talked him out of taking his car at gunpoint, but his partner caused him to shoot Ben by accident, and deeply regrets it every night. After hearing how regretful and remorseful he is, Spidey forgives him.
- After Peter has freed himself of the black suit, Aunt May comes on by and Peter tells his Aunt that he has royally messed things up with his Love Interest and is now lost on what to do. Aunt May tells her nephew that he must to do the hardest thing: forgive himself, and she believes that Peter can do it and that he is a good person still.
- From Temple of the Winds, you get the fourth Wizard's Rule: "There is magic in sincere forgiveness; in the forgiveness you give, but more so in the forgiveness you receive."
- This valuable lesson is promptly forgotten in subsequent books; or more precisely, the protagonists never attempt to apply it to anyone besides one another.
- In The Bible, a woman who had committed adultery, which Jewish law of the time demanded being stoned to death, was brought before Jesus, who was asked what should be done to the woman. Jesus replied, "Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone." Slowly the mob left. Finally, Jesus, who canonically was without sin, didn't throw a stone, and instead sent the woman on her way with the advice, "Go now, and sin no more."
- It's present in the Old Testament, as well, most famously with Joseph forgiving his brothers for their past bad treatment of him and selling him into slavery (he points out to them that despite their wicked intentions in doing that, it ended up being a good thing as he became the prime minister of Egypt and was able to save hundreds, including them, from starvation).
- According to the 10 commandments, the divine forgiveness is at least 500 times greater than the divine wrath (it said in the commandment about idolatry, that God will punish until the fourth generation, if they continue sinning, but will reward thousands (minimum 2000) of generations, if they don't). It also said somewhere in the Talmud (a collection of 63 big books), that the measure of the divine forgiveness towards a person is according to the person's readiness to forgive others.
- Jesus stated that forgiving others was necessary, otherwise God could not and would not forgive you. This warning was accompanied by a parable where a rich man found that one of his servants owed him around a year's wages. He was about to have the man and his family sold into slavery to pay the debt but when the man begged for time, the rich man forgave the entire debt. Then the servant promptly went out and found a man who owed him a bit under a month's wages and demanded immediate payment. When the third man begged for time to pay, the servant refused and had the third man put in prison. The rich man found out about this and was furious. He summoned the servant, "unforgave" his debt and had the servant put in prison to be tortured until the entire debt was repaid. Fairly clearly an example of the first type.
- Máel Dúin of the medieval Irish romance The Voyage of Máel Dúin sets out to sea to kill the pirates who killed his father. He is lost at sea, and after many adventures, a wise hermit directs him back to Ireland with the advice to refrain from revenge, as it is not pleasing to God and the reason for his odyssey. When Máel Dúin has the chance to take revenge, he forgives the pirates.
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson's narrative poem "The Voyage of Maeldune" is an adaptation of The Voyage of Máel Dúin. The hermit cites the Cycle of Revenge for why Maeldune should give up his purpose.
- In Rick Cook's Limbo System, when humans are held prisoner by aliens, the priest among them discusses philosophy with prisoner aliens. At one point, he says that people must especially love those who have wronged them, and an alien is delighted with the concept: by loving them, you have freed yourself from bondage to them.
- In Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, forgiveness is literally the Spanner in the Works that unravels the Storm King's plan to unmake the world of Osten Ard. Specifically, his power is drawn in large part from the endless reservoir of hate and fear that he's inspired among mortals. When two of those mortals who are the most critical to his plan suddenly choose to give up their hatred and resentment, it critically weakens him just long enough for his mortal host to be slain.
- In John C. Wright's Titans of Chaos, Amelia is told to speak the word and the universe will be destroyed in Revenge for her killing. It is, it turns out, a Secret Test of Character; when she does not speak, they proclaim she forgives her killers and shows that a human can make correct moral judgments. Later, Quentin manages to nullify a Curse against him for killing Lamia by forgiving her for the injuries she did him.
- Harry Potter: this is Dumbledore's specialty. Other characters even accuse him of being too willing to forgive. Justified by his backstory revealed in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
- The Harry Potter series in general has a strong Power of Love and forgiveness Aesop. There's Snape spying for Dumbledore because he was in love with Lily Evans, Narcissa Malfoy lying to Voldemort to protect Draco, Regulus Black trying to destroy a horcrux, Kreacher changing his allegiance when he found out what Regulus did, Percy Weasley realizing the Ministry was corrupt and reuniting with his family ... every antagonist that was more than just a Mook did some form of Heel–Face Turn, aside from the really bad ones.
- In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sirus and Remus ask for, and receive, forgiveness for their suspecting each other of being a traitor in the past.
- Someone Else's War: A Muslim boy living in a landlocked country where Christian extremists reign supreme. He loses his entire family and most of his friends to the war. And still he learns how to forgive the people who took them away.
- Jonathan Livingston Seagull: Jonathan's first transcendence comes when he masters the purity of flight, but in his new existence, he still harbors deep anger towards the Flock who ostracized him. He returns to that world in search of disciples, but also in search of the ability to forgive. Mastering this grants him his second ascension.
- Forgiveness is something of a theme in The Inheritance Cycle. In Eldest, after Saphira apologizes to Eragon for giving him the cold-shoulder throughout most of the book because she was infatuated with Glaedr, Eragon tells her that "Family members forgive one another, even if they don't always understand why someone acts in a certain way. You are as much my family as Roran— more."
- In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Nico's sister Bianca dies on one of Artemis's hunts. He spends a lot of time being angry at Percy, who promised to keep her safe. Eventually her ghost tells Nico not to hold him accountable, and that a This Is Unforgivable! mindset is the fatal flaw of the Hades bloodline.
- The Dresden Files Knights of the Cross each carry a holy blade with a Nail from the Crucifixion of Jesus in the hilt. They help defend humanity from the many dark things in the world. Their primary adversary are the thirty Fallen Angels within simple silver coins and the human hosts they possess. It is expected of them to grant forgiveness to any of these hosts who might relinquish their Coin and free themselves of their evil angelic partner. Even if they suspect it to be a ruse, they cannot strike the person. This is because their goal isn't to kill the hosts but help them find redemption. Now, if the host and Fallen do not stop fighting, they have the right to defend themselves or others.
- The recurring theme in Battlestar Galactica is that the cycle of revenge between man and machine is perpetuated because neither is capable of forgiveness, season 4 seems to be building up to an alliance between humans and rebel Cylons that may be capable of breaking the cycle. As of the end of the series Roslin forgives Baltar and lets him live (and keeps his terrible secret, no less). Not only does it help her heal emotionally, it also helped cement the rebel Cylon/Colonial alliance and ensure their mutual survival. So all in all, aesop 1 and bullet point 1. Which is surprising considering the tone of the series.
- Doctor Who:
- This is shown fully in the end of series 3. After being imprisoned, humiliated and tormented for a year, not to mention seeing the Earth decimated (literally), the Doctor disarms the Master, corners him and says that the Master knows what happens now. He says "I forgive you".
- In The Zygon Inversion the Doctor criticizes Bonnie belief that she's too far in to her attempted revolution to be forgiven, before looking her right in the eye and forgiving her.
- In Babylon 5, "A Late Delivery From Avalon" Very heartwarmingly shown between David McIntyre "King Arthur" and Delenn. That is the soldier who had fired the shot that killed Dukhat and the Satai who had ordered the Minbari declaration of war. For much of the episode, he believed himself to be Arthur and he needed to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake.
- "Ship of Tears": G'Kar is told that the Minbari knew about the Shadow influence on the Centauri, and could have spoken out about them then, but this would have resulted in catastrophe as the Shadows would have started moving openly before they were ready. G'Kar mentions that if he had known this as the Centauri were bombing his world, he would have killed her. Now, he agrees that her actions, though painful, were correct. And that someday—but not today—he might be able to forgive her for it.
- A later example involving G'Kar had him declare that, while he could never forgive the Centauri in general for what they had done to the Narn, he could forgive Londo for his (very large) part in it.
- "Passing Through Gethsemane": One of Brother Theo's monks (Brother Edward) turns out to have a dark past that he does not remember, and that he only just learned about. A group of people kill Brother Edward, unable to forgive the person he was before (a serial murderer), and the person who actually did the deed is sentenced to "death of personality"—the same punishment inflicted on the person who became Brother Edward. Brother Theo grants forgiveness to Brother Edward as he's dying, and then asks the same of Sheridan of the person who killed Brother Edward, stating that "forgiveness is a hard thing, but something ever to strive for" (emphasis his).
- Emma of Every Witch Way practices this towards her enemies as a general rule (excluding the Big Bad of Season 1). She forgives Maddie for tormenting her in Season 1, Jax for trying to use her to destroy the magical realm in Season 2, and Mia for trying to kill her over an old family grudge in Season 3.
- "The Heart of the Matter" by Don Henley.
- One of the major themes of the album Lateralus by Tool, especially prominent on "The Grudge" and "The Patient."
- In Rudyard Kipling's "Cold Iron", the poem turns on the king's willingness to forgive the baron — and to persuade him to accept it.
- In one installment of Bear in the Big Blue House, Ojo and Tutter have a great big fight. In the end, they forgive each other because, in Ojo's words, "It's okay, 'cause in the end, I really can't stay angry at a friend, and you're my friend!"
- In Dorothy L. Sayers' The Emperor Constantine, Constantine discusses with his mother how he had pardoned but not forgiven his enemies before. He realizes that he may not pardon his wife's treachery, but he must forgive her.
- It is the forgiveness of the Bishop of Digne that sets Jean Valjean onto his better path near the start of Les Misérables; even though Valjean had just robbed him, the bishop spoke on his behalf to the city guards and got him released, even giving him more silver in order to 'become an honest man'. This becomes a running theme for Valjean throughout the play, and some of his last lines are asking, begging really, his adopted daughter to tell him he's forgiven for his trespasses.
- Castlevania has this pop up occasionally, starting with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Dracula: Tell me... what... what were Lisa's last words?
Alucard: ...She said, "Do not hate humans. If you cannot live with them, at least do them no harm, for theirs is already a hard lot." She also said to tell you... that she would love you for all eternity.
Dracula: Lisa... forgive me... Farewell... my son...
- BioShock 2 lets the player practice this with a few characters, notably Grace Holloway (who Sinclair tells you is merely a misguided old lady who loves Eleanor as much as you do) and Stanley Poole (who Eleanor tells you is responsible for you two becoming what you are). Your actions will ultimately influence whether or not Eleanor chooses to save her mother or kill her.
- Aribeth can be looking for it by the end of Neverwinter Nights. Of course, events revealed in Hordes of the Underdark indicate that she didn't get it on the material plane, and her quest through the Hells has been a continuation.
- Another one from BioWare: This is the end of Carth's arc in Knights of the Old Republic. He gets to have the violent kind of revenge and realizes it brought him no peace at all. Even though he's got a laundry list of reasons to want revenege against the Player Character for his / her actions as Revan, he decides the path of forgiveness is the only way either of them will have peace.
- Forgiveness tends to be the Paragon option in Mass Effect 2. A specific example is pushing Garrus towards forgiving Sidonis in his loyalty mission.
- Chrono Trigger presents this option with Magus. By this point, Magus is responsible for killing Frog's mentor, permanently shapeshifting Frog into a monster (though Frog doesn't seem to mind), leading a war against humanity to further his own (noble but misguided) ends, and trying to kill the party. The player can decide whether to fight Magus or not. If you fight Magus and win, Magus will die, and he'll be Permanently Missable. If you don't, the current party leader will say that killing Magus is pointless, since it won't bring back Crono or Cyrus, the former of whom just sacrificed himself to allow the party to escape, Magus included. Choosing to spare Magus gets him to join your party.
- In Mortal Kombat, of all places, Sub-Zero took Frost as his personal protégé after becoming Grand Master of the Lin Kuei clan, breaking clan tradition to do so. It turned out to be a very bad idea. Frost proved to be violent and undisciplined, and eventually betrayed her mentor and tried to kill him. Still, he held no grudge, and refused to kill her, instead freezing her out of mercy and then laying her to rest in a temple, all the while blaming himself for what had happened.
- Forgiveness is a theme that is relevant for Presea in Tales of Symphonia. She finds out that Regal was the one who killed her sister Alicia around the same time that she learns that Alicia turned into a monster and begged Regal to kill her. She decides to continue to fight alongside him in spite of that fact, and her personal trial in Welgaia involves her finally letting go of her resentment toward Regal and Altessa, the latter of whom had experimented on her.
Lloyd: I defeated Kratos, the angel, the one who betrayed us. And I forgive Kratos, the hero of the Ancient War, who helped us. That's all.
- Also, there's this beautiful spoilertastic moment:
- In Dishonored you can choose whether or not to forgive Daud, the man who assassinated the Empress Jessamine while you were helpless to watch and the crime for which you were framed. On a Low Chaos playthrough he will show remorse and signs of starting to crack under the emotional strain, even commenting that he wants to die so the pain stops. If you choose to engage him, he'll call away his guards, say it's his fight, and actually ask for forgiveness upon defeat (even though he knows it's selfish and he doesn't deserve it). If you do give it to him, both he and the Outsider will be thoroughly astonished. This is unique in the game. Despite bloodless options always being available (and implicitly encouraged by more deaths leading to bleaker endings), the fate of the targets when they aren't outright assassinated is always horrible - perhaps worse than simple death. This is the one point when Corvo's choice is between bloody revenge and compassionate forgiveness.
- In Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword, in Lucius and Renault's A support, Renault admits to Lucius that he is the one who killed Lucius's father before his very eyes when he was child, and he falls to his knees in tears and begs Lucius to forgive him. Lucius forgives him.
- This is crucial to the plot in Suikoden IV, since the True Rune of Punishment that attaches itself to the main character Lazlo's hand governs atonement and forgiveness. Lazlo's life goes downhill after his best friend Snowe betrays him early in the game. After gathering 107 of Stars of Destiny, the last Star will appear: Snowe himself, assuming Lazlo hadn't already killed him. By this point, Snowe has been thoroughly humbled by his self-inflicted hardships and is willing to accept whatever punishment Lazlo has in store for him. If Lazlo forgives him, Snowe joins the crew as the final Star. This has several gameplay and storyline benefits: Lazlo and Snowe's "True Friends Attack" one of the best combo attacks in the game is unlocked, the Rune of Punishment gains a powerful damage spell that actually heals Lazlo instead of draining his health like the previous spells, and most significantly the act of forgiveness shifts the Rune into its Forgiveness phase, meaning it won't kill Lazlo when he uses its full power at the very end of the game.
- In Final Fantasy XIII, Vanille reveals to Sazh that his son's death was indirectly her fault (as she's the foreign threat Dajh was conscripted to fight). Sazh considers killing her (and Vanille says he would be justified in doing so), but ultimately concludes that doing so wouldn't solve anything: it wouldn't make the world any safer or bring Dajh back.
Sazh: You think you die and everything'll be sugar and rainbows?!
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Link exemplifies this. In his quest to save Zelda, this time his childhood friend and schoolmate, he endures a bully named Groose who has been jealous of their closeness and kidnaps Link's bird companion/steed. He also deals with the belittling of Impa, who has to save Zelda from a trap because Link is too slow to save her, a jerkass dragon named Faron who Link helps three times, is the chosen hero of the goddess Hylia and Faron treats as her errand boy, and lastly Hylia herself, having set Link and Zelda's meeting up centuries ago knowing her champion would extremely motivated to save a friend and possible love interest. She is also now incarnated as Zelda, who regains her memories of being Hylia and this entire plan. Link forgives them all and takes their abuses in stride, and with Impa taking her cutting words to heart and becoming stronger for this failing.
- In American Barbarian, Yoosamon's last request is that Rick forgive his brothers, and Rick says he has.
- In Fans!, after Feddyg tortures Aly in front of the children in the cancer ward where she works as a nurse, and even flash-fries one of the kids, Aly manages to say the one thing he cannot stand; "I forgive you." Hilda, his previous victim? Not so forgiving.
A common premise for entire stories in children's animation is that a character will commit some accidental offense, such as breaking another character's toy, etc. The other character knows that it was an accident, but is still hurt and can't bring himself/herself to forgive. The character that had the accident may do chores or favors to try to get the character that feels wronged to forgive them. The story ends with the character eventually finding it in their heart to forgive the other character. The original problem may or may not be resolved.
- In the story "Forgive Me Not" of PB&J Otter, Pinch accidentally rips Jelly's favorite cape. She keeps doing Jelly's chores, but Jelly won't forgive her. When Jelly accidentally breaks Aunt Nanner's sunglasses, Aunt Nanner forgives her and she realizes that she needs to do the same for Pinch.
- In "The Grudge Won't Budge" story of Dragon Tales, Zak is mad at Wheezie for breaking his snoot flute. His anger and unwillingness to forgive is represented by a furry Grudge that actually clings on to him and won't go away until he can bring himself to forgive Wheezie. The Grudge talks to him in a wheedling voice, encouraging him to hold on to his anger and feelings of having been wronged.
- In "Playtime at Tolee's" on Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, Rintoo accidentally rips Tolee's painting. Even though he fixes it so that it's as good as new, Tolee won't forgive him. Then, Tolee learns that "When someone says they're sorry / Tell them that's okay so that they won't feel bad."
- Adventures from the Book of Virtues has an episode called "Responsibility", in which Zach accidentally challenges Annie to race with him while bicycling. This causes Annie's new bike to crash into a rock in the ground during their race, so she falls off, along with two cakes that Annie's mom has baked for her at a bakery to deliver, and slides down a cliff. But then Socrates the bobcat swoops in and saves Annie from getting killed, although Annie's new bike gets wrecked, and the cakes fall on both her and Sock. Realizing that her bike and cakes were destroyed, Annie gets mad at Zach for prompting her to race with him, but Zach keeps telling her that he didn't ask her to race, which leads to an argument between both of them. Later on, at the end, Annie forgives Zach, and goes back to the bakery with him to bake a new cake, while her bike is being repaired.
- In the Franklin episode "Franklin Forgives," Franklin's sister Harriet accidentally knocks the bowl of Franklin's goldfish, Goldie, into the local lake, causing Goldie to be lost. Franklin is devastated and angry with Harriet. She tries various ways to make it up to him, but he eventually realizes how he would feel if he lost her when she tries to go search for the fish on her own.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Katara was the last of the Gaang to forgive Zuko because he had personally hurt her with his betrayal in Ba Sing Se, but after he helped her find her mother's killer, she forgave him. In regards to Katara finding her mother's killer: when she does, she's a heartbeat away from skewering him with rain-bent-into-icicles; when she sees the cowardly shell of a man he (still) is she spares him, but does not forgive him. This was a case of Not Worth Killing, since Katara decided revenge wasn't worth what it was making her, and leaving him in his current, miserable state was the worst thing she was willing to do.
- And then, later on, in one of the most touching scenes of the series, Zuko finds forgiveness at the hands of Iroh, who reveals that he had always loved Zuko despite all the bad things that he had done.
- Technically speaking, Iroh never forgave Zuko as that would imply that he was actually angry with him to begin with.
- The sequel series, The Legend of Korra features decades long sibling rivalries, first between Tenzin and his older brother Bumi and older sister Kya, and Lin Bei Fong and her younger half-sister Suyin, that provoke much angst for all involved but ultimately end with the siblings managing some degree of forgiveness and coexistence. Lin also finds herself apologizing to her niece Opal for not being particularly nice to her at first, and fortunately for her Opal doesn't hold grudges and forgives her.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012). After the turtles accidentally mutate April's father, she declares she doesn't want to see them again. It takes several episodes later when Casey, unaware of the turtles at the time, tells her of an event where he accidentally ruined a friendship to convince her to forgive them after they save her from one of Karai's attacks.
- Disney's The Legend of Tarzan has Lady Waltham wanting revenge towards Tarzan and his loved ones over the death of her brother Clayton. Even after she poisons him and had his friends kidnapped, Tarzan still saved her being killed by a pack of leopards. Realizing that someone that good like Tarzan could never kill her brother and saving her life even after what she did to him, Lady Waltham gave Tarzan the antidote and ended her vendetta.
- While it rarely (if ever) is a focus of an episode, forgiveness pops up many times in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. To name a few, most outstanding instances:
- In "Friendship Is Magic, Part 2", Princess Celestia forgives her younger sister, Luna, for becoming Nightmare Moon and trying (twice) to bring The Night That Never Ends. The flashback in "Princess Twilight Sparkle" makes this act even more heartwarming, given that right after her Face–Heel Turn, Luna tried to kill her older sister. And there's also the fact that Luna is now completely loyal to Celestia, showing that she does not take her sister's forgiveness for granted.
- In "The Return of Harmony", Discord succeeds in making Twilight's friends act like their polar opposites. The one that we later see apologizing on-screen, Applejack, gets instantly forgiven.
- In "A Canterlot Wedding", Twilight is skeptical about the bride, but can't back it up with solid evidence, which makes everypony else (including her brother and Celestia) unwilling to believe her. Later, Applejack apologizes on the behalf of everypony concerned, to which Twilight replies that she doesn't have a grudge against them.
- This is a frequent theme in the Tinker Bell films.
- If the reader is surprised to see The Simpsons on the list, the episode "Bart Vs Thanksgiving" actually did a touching theme by showing Bart what remorse is, and knowing what it's liked to be forgiven.
- Steven Universe: Forgiveness is the focal point of several episodes, most notably the Week of Sardonyx.
- In "Keystone Motel", after Garnet finds out in the episode before that Pearl tricked her into fusing, Garnet is absolutely and understandably furious with Pearl to the point of barely even acknowledging her when she's in the same room. This results in a secondary conflict between Ruby and Sapphire; Ruby doesn't want to forgive Pearl, but Sapphire, despite being just as mad as Ruby is, knows the situation will eventually be resolved and believes that Ruby should forgive Pearl sooner rather than later. This leads to a massive argument between the two that splits up Garnet for over 12 hours. Ruby and Sapphire only talk it out rationally after seeing how their arguing was negatively impacting Steven, and re-fuse after reconciling. Garnet ends up forgiving Pearl in the last episode of the arc after Pearl finally admits that she feels useless and worthless without someone telling her what to do, and that she wanted to fuse with Garnet so badly because she loved experiencing what it was like to be in a stable, "perfect" relationship. Realizing that she hasn't been addressing the emotional needs of her teammates, Garnet tells Pearl that she needs her to be strong and self-determinant so that, in her own times of weakness, she can have someone to look to for guidance.
- In "Too Far", Peridot and Amethyst have started bonding due to Amethyst thinking Peridot is funny. Peridot revels in the attention because she sees Amethyst as the only "real Gem" in the group and the one who should be the team leader, since she's a Quartz. She entertains Amethyst by roasting the other Gems, but ends up hurting Amethyst's feelings when, due to her size, she states that Amethyst incubated in the Kindergarten too long and is, by Homeworld standards, "defective" as a result. Peridot legitimately doesn't understand why Amethyst reacted so negatively to the comment, and feels sad and guilty when Amethyst ignores her. After an incident with a runaway drill head that Peridot saves Amethyst from, Peridot tapes a full apology on her tape recorder and plays it for Amethyst, acknowledging her own wrong-doing and stating that she wants to learn how to interact with her properly. Amethyst gracefully accepts the apology and forgives her, and Peridot states that she feels "big".
- The Powerpuff Girls (2016): "Little Octi Lost" has Bubbles refusing to forgive Buttercup over losing Octi, and the lesson of the episode is to forgive others. Only during Buttercup's Disney Death does Bubbles actually learn to forgive Buttercup.