As hard as it sometimes is to say, “I’m sorry,” it can be harder still to say, “I forgive you.” If a coalition of Finnish peacemakers has its way, however, the process may get a whole lot easier because the quality of forgiveness might just be getting its very own emoji.
The #forgivemoji campaign was the brainchild of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. “In our modern digital communication culture, emojis are an essential way of expressing human feelings beyond words,” church spokesman Tuomo Pesonen told The Guardian.
The internet cartoon symbols known as emojis made their debut back in 1999. Before that, we had simple emoticons, a series of keyboard characters typed in sequence to signify a variety of emotional responses.
The very first emoticons, the smiley face :- ) and its evil twin “frowny” face :- ( were the idea of Carnegie Mellon professor Dr. Scott Fahlman. Smiley and Frowny celebrated their 38th birthdays on September 19.
While some might consider emojis frivolous, Harvard linguist Steven Pinker thinks otherwise. Emojis convey a person’s emotion and tone in a way simple text cannot, making them vital to ensuring communication is understood as intended.
“[As with] a question mark or an exclamation point, they are there to convey some communicative force that would not be obvious just from the arrangement of words on the page,” he explained in an interview with Business Insider.
While there are literally thousands of emojis these days, only a handful are recognized by the Unicode Consortium, the group responsible for overseeing the collection of preset symbols programmed into smart devices worldwide. Out of the current crop, not having a forgiveness emoji seemed a glaring omission. The #forgivemoji campaign was envisioned as a way to fix that oversight.
“We urgently need to learn better how to reconcile,” Antti Pentikäinen of the non-profit Deaconess Foundation, a founding #forgivemoji campaign member, explained. “These skills are needed everywhere. Different ways to encourage apologizing and forgiveness are an essential part of it, and this includes the social media environment.”
Former Finnish president Tarja Halonen selected the winning emoji in February—two hands giving a thumbs-up sign beneath a big red heart—from a field of competitors that had been winnowed down to six finalists via an online vote.
“The current climate of discussion can often be very polarized. I would like for online conversations to have more empathy, moderation, and a willingness to acknowledge one’s mistakes. As emojis are nowadays an inseparable element of communication between people, so that is why the world needs an emoji that says ‘I forgive you,’” Halonen said in a statement to The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.
We’ll be sure to put up a smiley face or two if the new forgiveness symbol joins Unicom’s approved emoji pantheon in the coming years, but until then, here are a few inspiring quotes on the subject to keep the positive mojo flowing.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.—Mahatma Gandhi
“Let us forgive each other. Only then will we live in peace.”—Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy
“Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.”—Hannah Arendt
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”—Martin Luther King Jr.
“To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.”—Confucius
“Before we can forgive one another, we have to understand one another.”—Emma Goldman
“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”—Mark Twain
“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”— Alexander Pope