There are a couple of other aspects of forgiveness that deserve consideration. First is self-forgiveness. People are taught not to be hard on themselves, accept themselves for what they are, and generally forgive themselves any indulgence. The idea is to enable them to move forward instead of getting lost in the past.
As devotees we can think of it in two ways. As the goal, to move forward, it’s perfectly okay. Whatever we do does not affect our duty, we cannot abandon our responsibilities just because we want to wallow in self-pity. If we get disqualified from doing something then it’s a different matter but otherwise we should just persevere, like with our chanting.
The other part, forgiving ourselves, however, is not so kosher. We are not the ones keeping the balance of our karma, we can’t just excuse ourselves, we are not authorized to do that. What actually happens in this case is that we willfully subject ourselves to the illusion that consequences do not affect us. Eating meat is the prime example of this willful ignorance. We don’t see the immediate results so we just ignore all the warnings. This how people forgive their smoking, drinking, or gambling, too.
As devotees we should not give in to this illusion of freedom, we are even in a more precarious position here because we KNOW how karma works, and we KNOW that discarding it because Krishna will take care is actually offensive.
We should move forward on the strength of our knowledge, not on the strength of our illusion, like karmis do. That’s the main difference even if the action looks the same. Results will also be vastly different, just as we learn from Bhagavad Gita about activities in Krishna consciousness.
Another aspect of forgiveness is its use in relations with other devotees. We naturally tiptoe around each other, we have too much respect for each other to treat devotees as ordinary people, and we are also super aware of committing offenses. In this atmosphere offering forgiveness for whatever imaginary discomfort is an expression of service.
Without forgiveness we can’t talk about “loving relations”, and this forgiveness shows that we value moments of each other’s association more than the risk of inconveniencing each other and so we beg for mercy despite our bad manners. This is where the expression of forgiveness is most welcome.
“Oh no, prabhu, your stepping on my toes was not an offense in any way, please bless me with the touch of your feet again, I will be the most fortunate.” – “I’m terribly sorry for stepping on your foot, please forgive me, I’m a big oaf without any manners. If you don’t forgive me I might go to hell for millions of lives. Please say you forgive so Krishna does not punish me, don’t leave me hanging.” And so on.
I still don’t see how forgiveness can be made into the most prominent quality but it’s certainly not without value.