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Top 14 Symbols of Forgiveness With Meanings

Top 14 Symbols of Forgiveness With Meanings

In many situations, it can be harder to forgive than to do nothing. Justice may not be possible, so how do you find peace? The hurt might not have dimmed, so how do you forgive? The symbols of forgiveness encourage people to find peace and justice by letting go of people that have hurt you. 

When forgiveness is achieved, it can be the main factor in offering rebirth, redemption, and renewal. It can be the push you need to move on and let go. 

Listed below are the top 14 symbols of forgiveness:

1. Forgiveness Symbol

Native American rock art - Forgiveness Symbol.
Native American rock art – Forgiveness Symbol

The Forgiveness symbol is part of Native American culture. It was often carved into rocks, called petroglyphs, in the Southwest regions of the US, especially New Mexico, Tesco, and Utah.

They were also paintings and drawings, known as pictographs, on the rocks. Research shows that some of these date back to 3000 BC, making this a powerful, ancient symbol that was commonly used by many tribes. 

It looks like a circle with two lines running through it, representing letting go, forgiveness, and new beginnings. Native American tribes often used it to placate other tribes, individuals, and even Gods. 

2. Sparrow 

A Sparrow.
A Sparrow
David Friel, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sparrows are white, gray, and brown, known as healing colors. It offers a message of forgiving yourself so that you can forgive others. They are known to be clever, nimble, and cheeky birds that are known for their success at adaptability. 

A story from legend suggests that Afrikaans women that were imprisoned at the concentration camps under British rule would choose one verse from the Bible.

It was said to inspire encouragement, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” 

3. Olive Branch 

Olive branch.
Olive branch
Marzena P. Via Pixabay

The olive branch represents peace and forgiveness that one offers to mitigate strife. Ancient Greeks would use olive branches from the 5th Century BC, and Romans continued with this display of peace after they had conquered Greece.  

One story from the Bible talked about how the great flood during Noah’s time ended with a dove who was carrying an olive branch in its beak. This showed Noah that there were enough dry regions where a dove could grab the olive branch from. 

4. The Knot of Reconciliation: Mpatapo  

Mpatapo Symbol.
Mpatapo Symbol
Image Courtesy: Openclipart.org

The Mpatapo is part of the Ghanaian system of symbols from West Africa, Adinkra. It represents peacemaking, pacification, and reconciliation. It represents the knot or bond that binds opposing parties in dispute into a reconciliation of peace and harmony. It is the symbol that Ghanaians used to signify an era of peace after strife. 

The symbol goes back two centuries as part of the African Wisdom Symbolism Communication that was used to override verbal or written communication. This helped remove barriers and resulted in easier communication during strife to achieve forgiveness. 

The symbol was essential in progressing a conflict toward resolution. One of the involved parties would declare the issue and attach a bound Mpatapo as well. This would inform the community that there is an issue that needs to be dealt with.

The binds would signify the problems, regrets, and baggage that people are carrying since the knots appear to be tangled. When it was drawn without binding, it would signify that reconciliation has been achieved. 

5. Water

Close up photo of the ocean at water level.
Close up photo of the ocean at water level
Anastasia Taioglou thenata, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Water can be a cleansing element known to wash away anything that makes you feel dirty, spiritually or physically. Religious practices, therefore, use water to spiritually cleanse someone. Christians use it in baptism sacrament rituals, while Jews use it during mikveh. 

6. Clasped Hands 

Clasped hands.
Clasped hands
National Gallery of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Two hands clasped together have been a symbol of forgiveness for centuries since shaking hands with someone was known as a sign of amity and friendship.

Therefore, clasped hands represent allowing things that happened in the past to be let go. It symbolizes a commitment to your friendship. The clasped hands are also used in religions, mainly Christianity, to ask for forgiveness from God

7. Eleos 

Eleso Sculpture.
Eleos Sculpture
Alf van Beem, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Greek counterpart for Clementia, Eleos, was a Greek goddess of compassion, clemency, compassion, pity, and mercy. She was the child of Erebus and Nyx, the opposite of Anaideia (who represents unforgiveness, shamelessness, and ruthlessness). 

8. The Cross

Wooden cross.
Wooden cross
Image Courtesy: Flickr

The cross is a Christian symbol of forgiveness with historical context. It symbolizes salvation, forgiveness, and redemption, as well as the victory of Jesus over sin and death. The Bible highlights that the death of Jesus was necessary to wash away the sins of the masses and allow the world to be forgiven. 

From the 3rd century Roman era, there is a famous wall art piece known as the Alexamenos Graffito. It has two humans with arms stretched out, making a T-shaped cross. The caption for the wall art is, “Alexamenos worships his god.”

However, this cross had a deeper meaning for Christians. They believed that the death of Jesus was completed when God raised him again from death after three days. The Resurrection signified the victory of Jesus over death and sin.

The followers of Christianity believe that they can be forgiven and baptized from past sins. They are reborn as a new person into the Christian community at the Church. The cross was the victorious wood of life that offered them this chance. 

9. The White Tulip

A White Tulip.
A White Tulip
Rob Helf, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The White Tulip flower has been a symbol of hope and forgiveness for many years. Since tulips bloom in springtime after winter’s coldness, the flowers can also signify new beginnings, hope, and optimism.

Their purity and tranquility, as well as the desire to start fresh and mend fences, are all symbolized with white tulips. They are the best to offer apologies. 

10. Clementia

Clementia Sculpture.
Clementia Sculture
Manfred Werner / Tsui, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In Roman Mythology, Clementia was the Goddess of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and forbearance. She was heavily worshipped during Imperial times and was even used on the coins to celebrate ancestors and give tribute to current Emperors.

She was often used for political gain to play up the kindness of leaders, especially those known to be merciful to enemies who had been defeated. 

For example, a temple was built for Julius Caesar and Clementia to commemorate the mercy that he showed to his defeated foes. Caesar and Clementia were depicted as equals, holding hands. 

Clementia is usually shown holding a branch, often believed to be from the olive tree (more on that later), and a scepter. This symbolizes peace. 

11. Blue Hyacinth 

Blue Hyacinth.
Blue Hyacinth
Kranchan, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hyacinths are definitely among the most beautiful flowers and feature gorgeous bell-shaped, fragrant flowers in clustering towers. Different colors have different meanings, but the blue variety is used to convey regret, sorrow, and a request to the receiver for forgiveness. 

12. The Color Blue 

Blue weave.
Blue weave
Image by JustAlex from Pixabay.com

The blue color is known to represent truth, trust, honesty, and someone seeking out forgiveness. It is especially used for people who seek forgiveness after telling untruths and a promise never to do it again. 

13. Daffodils 

Daffodils.
Daffodils
Photo by Maria Tyutina from Pexels

English poetry hails daffodils as flowers representing happiness, optimism, forgiveness, and rebirth. The trumpet-shaped flowers are a yellow, bright color that should be given in a bouquet to say one is sorry.

A single bloom can represent sadness and bad luck. Daffodils are the best way to start new chapters in life so that you can look forward to an optimistic and hopeful future. It symbolizes how persistent the human spirit is. 

14. Oak Trees 

Oak Tree on a hill.
Oak Tree on a hill
Image Courtesy: Max Pixel

Oak trees are a symbol of forgiveness, strength, power, and courage. They are known for their resilience and strength since they can last for centuries. In fact, Europeans even regarded them as kings of the forest. 

These symbols of forgiveness can be a great way to make amends after a fight.

Sources

  1. https://symbolikon.com/downloads/forgiveness-native-rock-art/ 
  2. https://theconversation.com/the-history-of-the-cross-and-its-many-meanings-over-the-centuries-123316
  3. https://www.definitions.net/definition/Mpatapo
  4. http://www.thaliatook.com/OGOD/clementia.php
  5. https://greekgoddesses.fandom.com/wiki/Eleos
  6. https://fringe.fandom.com/wiki/Symbolism
  7. https://namibian.org/news/nature-and-environment/cape-sparrow
  8. https://bible.oremus.org/?ql=516317760
  9. https://mrtreeservices.com/blog/5-trees-with-special-meaning/ 

Header image courtesy: Image by Tep Ro from Pixabay