Can One Word Have More Than One Meaning?

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The most common word found in nearly every quote about forgiveness is love.  This comes as no surprise, but it is interesting that the word is used to mean three different types of love, depending on the context.


The first kind of love that spurs forgiveness is the love of God.  It’s the love that God has for humanity, leading Him to forgive sins, and the love that humans have for God, inspiring them to forgive others out of a sense of gratitude that God has forgiven them. Another common word in forgiveness quotes referencing this kind of love is grace, recognizing that we don’t often deserve the forgiveness that we have been given, so neither should we withhold it from others, offering the same grace to them that we have received.


The second type of love that is mentioned in so many quotes about forgiveness is self-love – not in a selfish, vain context, but in a healthy, self-aware kind of way. We as humans all have innate value, flaws and all. A healthy person understands this and doesn’t value him or herself more highly than he should but recognizes that he is worthy of loving and being loved. In this context, the idea of forgiveness done out of love for self is so that you can continue to function as a healthy person. Unforgiveness leads to bitterness, anger, despair and depression and can really destroy someone’s life from the inside.

No matter the relationship with the person who has wronged you, they must be forgiven out of love for yourself and your own future healthiness and happiness. Other words used often in forgiveness quotes that relate to this second kind of love are the ideas of “letting go,” “moving on,” being freed from a burden or finding healing – all restorative words that relate to our own psychological, mental and emotional health.

The final meaning of the word love quoted in so many sayings about forgiveness is love for another person, be it romantic love, familial love, or friendship love. All of the above choose to forgive in order to restore the relationship with the person they love. Sometimes this love is seen as sacrificial, putting the other person’s needs above your own hurt and pride, other terms we see in forgiveness quotes related to relational love.


So, the three most common words used in quotes about forgiveness are really one word – love – with all of its many meanings and representations. Whichever is your motivation for forgiving others, you can never go wrong with love.


InspirationalHeidi McDow