C.S. Lewis, my favorite essayist, makes a very interesting distinction between “to excuse” and “to forgive”. In his words,
“Forgiveness says, "Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology; I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.” If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive. In that sense forgiveness and excusing are almost opposites.
To excuse is to accept a reason for a wrongdoing; to justify it; to somehow lessen the blame. In this sense, we often mistake forgiving someone for actually excusing them. The way we’re able to move forward is rationalizing their action away. With forgiveness, however, we can’t rationalize away another’s action. It is inexcusable. The blame is justified, and the blame is real.
What’s fascinating to me about this (the essay talks about it in the context of God’s forgiveness of our sins) is that inherent in an act of forgiveness, is the blame itself. I take that to mean that I must actually be hurt by the action. It must be inexcusable. It must break my heart. And to be heartbroken, and somehow find a way to mend and continue like nothing happened, goodness. That’s love.