symbols of forgiveness

15 Symbols Of Forgiveness Around The World

Who hasn’t been hurt by the actions or words of another? May be you’re criticized by your parents, colleagues,  classmates, relatives or by your partner. These wounds can leave lasting feelings of resentment, bitterness and anger — sometimes even hatred, and it is not easy to rise above those terrible experiences. Forgiveness is not easy, but it can be a powerful way to develop empathy and compassion. In this article, we will explore top 15 popular symbols of forgiveness around the world.

What is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a complex concept. When we forgive, we let go of negative feelings, resentment, and anger towards someone who has caused us harm. It’s a totally voluntary and intentional decision to release feelings of bitterness and the desire for revenge, and to do that, we need a shift in attitude and perspective. It is important to acknowledge that we are not trying to excuse the wrong behavior, but rather about freeing ourselves of the negative emotions, so that we can heal and move forward.

When you forgive, you break the cycle of negativity and open the door to healing and reconciliation. It can lead to improved relationships, increased empathy, and personal growth.

Symbols of forgiveness can vary across different cultures and contexts. Here are the popular and universal symbols of forgiveness around the world:

White Dove

The white dove is a universal symbol of peace and forgiveness. In Christian art, the image of the Holy Spirit is often represented as a dove. This association with divinity and spirituality lends an air of peace and serenity to the dove’s symbolism. The dove’s role as a messenger of peace and forgiveness is further emphasized in depictions of Jesus’ baptism, where a dove is shown descending from heaven.

Throughout history, white doves have also been used as symbols of reconciliation. In ancient times, releasing doves was a common practice during peace negotiations and the end of conflicts. This action symbolized a desire for harmony and an end to hostilities.

The dove comes to be associated with these images thanks to its pure white feather color, which makes people think of being good and clean in a moral and spiritual way. The dove’s white feathers symbolizes its unspoiled nature, not yet tainted by evil and ugly things in this world. They are also known for their gentle and non-aggressive behavior. Unlike some other birds, they don’t possess sharp talons or powerful beaks that could be used for aggression. Their soft cooing sounds and calm demeanor contribute to the perception of peace.

innocent dove as symbolism of purity and freedom

Read more: Dove Symbolism & Meaning: Ultimate Guide

In Greek stories, the dove is even linked to Aphrodite, a goddess who represents love and beauty. Everywhere, the white dove is seen as a way to talk about things that are pure and good. It

Olive Branch

Throughout history, the act of extending an olive branch has been a symbol of extending an offer of peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Offering an olive branch to someone indicates a willingness to mend relationships and move forward, even after disagreements or conflicts.

The olive branch has also appeared in religious texts, specifically in the story of Noah’s Ark, when a dove returned to the ark with an olive leaf, symbolizing the end of the flood and the start of a new, peaceful era. This story represents that God has forgiven the people, and it is time to rebuild the world after His wrath.

Interesting, olive trees have the ability to live for centuries and regenerate even after being severely pruned or damaged. This resilience and capacity for renewal parallel the concept of forgiveness, which involves letting go of past grievances and allowing for the possibility of growth and healing.

dove with olive branch


“Mpatapo” is a symbol in Akan culture, which originates from the Akan people of West Africa, particularly in Ghana and Ivory Coast. The Akan people use symbols known as “Adinkra symbols” to convey various concepts and values, often through visual representation.

Mpatapo, represented by two crossed crocodile-like creatures, is an Adinkra symbol that represents reconciliation, peacemaking, and the restoration of relationships. The crocodile is a creature that lives in water, and the two crocodiles in the Mpatapo symbol are depicted with their mouths closed, symbolizing the act of resolving conflicts and coming together in peace.

The term “Mpatapo” translates to “knot of reconciliation” in English. This symbol is used to express the idea that conflicts and disagreements can be resolved through peaceful dialogue and understanding, leading to the reestablishment of harmony and unity among individuals or groups.

15 Symbols Of Forgiveness Around The World

In Akan culture, Adinkra symbols like Mpatapo are often found on various traditional textiles, clothing, pottery, and architectural elements. These symbols are not only visually striking but also carry deep cultural and philosophical meanings that serve as a visual language for communicating values, beliefs, and concepts within the community.

Goddess Clementia

She was sometimes associated with forgiveness, especially in matters of mercy and leniency granted by rulers or authorities. Her name was literally translated to “clemency” or “mercy”. While not as well-known as some other Roman deities, she played a role in the Roman concept of just governance and the idea of showing compassion and forgiveness to those who have erred.

Goddess Clementia as symbols of forigiveness
Goddess Clementia

One notable historical event linked to Goddess Clementia is the siege and conquest of Jerusalem by the Roman Emperor Titus in 70 AD during the First Jewish-Roman War. After the fall of the city, Titus reportedly showed clemency and mercy by sparing some of the inhabitants. This act of compassion could be seen as an embodiment of the virtues represented by Goddess Clementia.


the heart as symbols of forgiveness

The heart is commonly considered the emotional center of the body. Emotions such as love, empathy, and compassion are often felt in the heart area. Forgiveness is an emotionally charged act that involves letting go of negative feelings and replacing them with positive emotions. Thus, the heart’s association with emotions makes it a natural symbol for forgiveness.

When people speak of “having a change of heart” or “softening one’s heart,” we think of a shift in perspective. It is how we go from grievance to forgiveness.


The act of hugging itself requires physical closeness and vulnerability, creating a space where both individuals can open their hearts to each other. It is our desire to move beyond hurt and anger, to bridge the gap between conflicting emotions, and to offer a fresh start. It’s a tangible way to say, “I’m willing to put the past behind us and move forward.”

The warmth and empathy communicated through a hug breaks down emotional barriers. In a moment of embrace, the tension that might have existed between individuals can dissolve, replaced by a shared sense of humanity and a recognition of each other’s imperfections. This shared vulnerability is the first step towards better understanding, empathy, and ultimately, forgiveness.

hug as symbol of forgiveness


In many cultures, the act of shaking hands is accompanied by eye contact and a genuine smile. This direct engagement communicates sincerity and authenticity, which are essential components of forgiveness. When meeting each other’s gaze and exchanging smiles, we convey our readiness to engage in an honest and constructive dialogue.

The physical aspect of a handshake is also important. It is about vulnerability – when we shake hands, we voluntarily put ourselves in some sort of disadvantage when being attacked. Handshake symbolizes openness and trust in the other person, and that is when we expose our feelings and be receptive to the possibility of rebuilding trust and understanding.

handshake as symbol of forgiveness

Lotus Flower

the lotus as symbols of forgiveness

In Buddhism, the lotus flower symbolizes purity, enlightenment, and detachment from negative emotions. It is often associated with forgiveness and letting go of resentments. This aquatic plant’s journey from the depths of muddy waters to the surface represents the spiritual journey. From the darkness it emerges, untouched by the impurities of its environment, just like how to forgive, we must transcend our own limitations and ego, making room for understanding and empathy.

Water is like our feelings and the way life moves. Just like the lotus’s roots stay in the water while it grows up and opens its beautiful petals above the water, forgiveness is about understanding our deep feelings but also rising above them to feel calm and balanced. It’s like saying, “I know I feel this way, but I won’t let it bring me down. I’ll find a peaceful place inside myself.”


Water can clean and make things pure, just like how forgiveness can heal the hurt inside us. Water’s way of working is a bit like how forgiveness changes us.

Think about water flowing in a river. It can go around rocks and move over different surfaces. In the same way, forgiveness helps us get past problems in relationships and adapt to the tricky parts of how people connect. Forgiveness lets feelings move without getting stuck, like how water moves and washes away bad feelings, making space for understanding and kindness.

Water is also like a friend that helps plants grow. Forgiveness is similar because it helps feelings of kindness and connection grow between people. Just as water helps flowers bloom, forgiveness helps relationships bloom again, becoming strong and happy.

what is the spiritual meaning of water

Read More: Spiritual Meaning of Water

Offering or Gifts

When someone offers a gift to another person, it often signifies a gesture of peace and reconciliation. The act of giving a gift can symbolize a desire to mend any past disagreements and extend an olive branch of forgiveness. The gift becomes a physical representation of the intention to restore harmony and move forward positively.

Just as a gift can serve as a bridge between individuals, forgiveness also bridges the gap created by conflicts. The act of giving and receiving a gift symbolizes a willingness to reconnect and rebuild a bond that may have been strained. It’s a way of saying, “I value our relationship and want to make things right.”

gift as a symbol of forgiveness

Symbol of Forgiveness

The symbol of forgiveness holds a significant place within the rich tapestry of Native American culture. Deeply rooted in tradition, it found its artistic expression in various forms across the Southwest regions of the United States, particularly in states like New Mexico, Tesco, and Utah.

Research and archaeological findings reveal that some of these petroglyphs and pictographs date as far back as 3000 BC. Its prevalence across various tribes stands as a testament to its universal importance in the Native American way of life.

Visually, the forgiveness symbol is characterized by a circle intersected by two lines. The circle symbolizes unity, harmony, and the cyclical nature of life, while the two intersecting lines represent the act of letting go, the embodiment of forgiveness, and the promise of new beginnings.

15 Symbols Of Forgiveness Around The World


When we take a deep breath in, it’s like we’re taking in the understanding of the situation. We’re acknowledging the hurt, the pain, and the emotions that come with it. Just as we accept the air into our lungs, forgiveness begins with accepting our feelings without judgment. It’s a step towards facing the truth of what has happened.

breath as symbols of forgiveness

As we exhale, we release the breath and let go. In the same way, forgiveness involves releasing the grip of anger, resentment, and negative emotions. It’s a conscious decision to release the burden that holding onto hurtful feelings can bring. With each breath out, we’re symbolically releasing the weight of grudges and making space for healing.

When we take a deep breath in, it’s like we’re taking in the understanding of the situation. We’re acknowledging the hurt, the pain, and the emotions that come with it. Just as we accept the air into our lungs, forgiveness begins with accepting our feelings without judgment. It’s a step towards facing the truth of what has happened.

As we exhale, we release the breath and let go. In the same way, forgiveness involves releasing the grip of anger, resentment, and negative emotions. It’s a conscious decision to release the burden that holding onto hurtful feelings can bring. With each breath out, we’re symbolically releasing the weight of grudges and making space for healing.


Each patch in a quilt carries its unique design and color, much like individual experiences and emotions in human relationships. They are the moments, emotions, and perspectives that shape our interactions. Just as a quilt gathers these distinct pieces, forgiveness gathers the various aspects of a relationship, including conflicts and grievances, with the intention of creating something beautiful and whole.

patchwork as symbols of forgiveness

Prayer and Meditation

Meditation can help us learn to forgive in a special way. It’s like being mindful and being kind go hand in hand. When we become more aware of our pain and the ups and downs of being human, we start to see that the best way to feel better is by treating ourselves and others with kindness. Forgiving with mindfulness is like giving ourselves a special gift, and it can make us feel better and stronger.

prayer and meditation as symbols of forgiveness

Imagine sitting quietly and paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them. This is mindfulness. It helps us see that feeling hurt or upset is something everyone goes through. This understanding can help us become softer towards ourselves and others.

Meditation teaches us that holding onto anger doesn’t help us. By facing our pain in a mindful way, we realize that forgiving doesn’t mean what hurt us was okay. It means letting go of the heavy feelings that keep us down. Meditation helps us find the strength to do this.

Mindful forgiveness is like being kind to ourselves. When we sit quietly, we see that we’re not perfect, and that’s okay. This understanding helps us be kinder to ourselves, and then we can show that kindness to others too.

Meditation also helps us stop reacting quickly to our emotions. Instead of letting anger control us, we can choose to respond with understanding. This is important for forgiveness too. Instead of reacting in a way that hurts us more, we can choose to forgive in a way that heals us.

Scales of Justice

Imagine the two sides of the scale representing different aspects of a conflict or hurtful situation. On one side, there’s the pain, anger, and hurt that we may feel when someone wrongs us. On the other side, there’s the act of forgiveness, which requires us to let go of those negative feelings. The scale embodies the delicate balance between these emotions.

scale of justice representing forgiveness


In summary, symbols of forgiveness play a meaningful role in human culture and expression. They serve as potent reminders of the transformative qualities of letting go, healing, and embracing new beginnings. These symbols evoke emotions of empathy, growth, and the possibility of restoring harmony in relationships. Whether it’s the olive branch representing reconciliation or the open heart signifying compassion, these symbols resonate with the profound capacity within us to forgive and create a positive path forward.

symbols of forgiveness around the world

Explore Our Products