I came across an article that breaks forgiveness down into several elements in an attempt to balance accountability with compassion.

(1) Pre-emptive Mercy. forgiveness isn’t an act; it’s an attitude. We all make mistakes and should expect it in others. The forgiving person is strong enough to display anger and resentment toward the person who wronged them, but, equally, strong enough to give away that anger and resentment by seeking to make the first move and not resort to vengeance. Create a welcoming context in which the offender can confess.

(2) Judgment. A wrong is an opportunity to re-evaluate. What is the character of the person in question and should a momentarily lapse in stupidity undermine their record of decency? Counteracting the wrong depends upon the type of wrong. Is a habit of restraint required, or an apology, or a repayment, or a re-establishing of the relationship? Hard questions must be asked so that in forgiving we don’t lower our standards.

(3) Confession & Penitence. The offender will need to go above and beyond expectation in terms of an apology, a rooting out of the cause of their misbehaviour, and a change in their behaviour. They must become more self-critical than those around them in order to recalibrate and become stronger in their weakest places.

(4) Reconciliation and Re-trust. Both parties must mend fences after judgement is passed and penitence performed. A wrongful act should not be a barrier to the relationship.

At the end of the day, is forgiveness about exiling the offender or healing the relationship?