Roger Scruton reviews Charles Griswold’s Forgiveness in the TLS:

Forgiveness is not achieved unilaterally: it is the result of a dialogue, which may be tacit, but which involves reciprocal communication of an extended and delicate kind. The one who forgives goes out to the one who has injured him, and his gesture involves a changed state of mind, a reorientation towards the other, and a setting aside of resentment. Such an existential transformation is not always or easily attained, and can only be achieved, Griswold suggests, through an effort of cooperation and sympathy, in which each person strives to set his own interests aside and look on the other from the posture of the “impartial spectator”, as Smith described it. Crucial in this process are the “narratives” which the parties recount to themselves, and Griswold draws interestingly on recent work in “narratology” in his search for the crucial factor in the process of psychic repair. This is the factor that permits a voiding of resentment in the one soul, and a self-giving through contrition in the other. Each party’s narrative is both an account of the injury, and an allocation of blame; ideal and reality, exoneration and fault, are all woven together, and forgiveness can be seen as in part an attempt to harmonize the narratives, so that the story comes to an end in a new beginning.

Griswold’s arguments are deep, far-reaching and all the more effective for the many interesting examples, drawn from recent events and biographical accounts. He sets a paradigm before us, in which one person injures another, seeks forgiveness and then receives it. The injury and the seeking are as important for Griswold as the final forgiveness, and he rightly rejects the view that forgiveness is simply a “gift” that can be bestowed by the injured party whatever the state of mind of the one who had hurt him. You don’t succeed in forgiving when you have shown no recognition of the fault, and you don’t recognize a fault if you regard it with indifference, and without the natural resentment with which one moral being receives the injuries inflicted by another.