Re: Forgiveness. What's it?
I think Believer has already tried to convey the right answer to the question. My take on this is this :
a) Forgiveness is at personal level for personal damages. If someone attacks me, I am within my legal rights to start a counter-attack on him in my defense and it is within Dharma to do that i.e. in that action I don't accrue any sin if my counter-attack is just to ensure my safeguards. However, I have another option to forgive him and suffer the pains afflicted on me without attacking him. This too is within my legal and Dharmic rights but here I accrue merits of choosing forgiveness over my right of counter-attack.
b) However, if my chosen action of forgiveness or counter-attack affects larger section of people, say my family and I am supposed to save them from unjustice then the scenario changes. If someone attacks my wife / daughter and I chant the mantra of forgiveness and see them suffering at the hands of the miscreant then I am a coward and am acting against my Dharma. I have to save them either by persuading them to behave, taking the help of law / society or with a counter-attack if there is no other option to save them. I cannot take the shelter of Ahimsaa to hide my cowardice. That is not permissible.
Take the case of Arjuna. His family and his people depended upon him to save them against the misdeeds of the Kauravas. He reasoned with Lord Krishna that this bloodshed was no good and therefore therefore he won't fight against his own relatives and Gurus. That was his mistake because being a Kshatriya (having the responsibility of saving others from misdeeds of miscreants), it was his dharma to save people dependent upon him at any cost. Arjuna doesn't accrue sins but merits even though in the battle he kills his elders, his own relatives and even his teacher. Why ?
"Because he never wanted a war. It was forced upon him. He didn't kill because he wanted to kill anyone, he killed anyone who came in the way of saving his people from Kauravas. It didn't matter who the person was."
The laws of Karma work for every person individually and for society as an entity. If I do anything wrong to you, I have already accrued bad karma that I must suffer. If you attack me in your self defense, no sins accrue to you but if you forgive me, I still get the results of my bad Karmas and you get the merits of your good karms i.e. act of forgiveness. Whether you decide to forgive or you decide to attack me in self-defense decides your karma and not mine. If I do anything wrong, I am already in soup of bad-karmas. You may not punish me but I will be punished anyway and that is for sure.
"Om Namo Bhagvate Vaasudevaye"