I was reading this quote which a friend of mine posted on facebook, I didn't understand this particular sentence, "t's looking at an evil act square in the face and saying, ‘I forgive that evil act", the existence of the word "square" is not understandable here at all.

When I asked him, he told me that it's an expression in English but he can't explain it.

So my question is, What does the word "square" mean in this expression? What is the expression? could you provide other examples for that expression?

Here is the quote,

Forgiveness isn't just ignoring what happened. It isn't just pretending it was okay or justifying it. It's looking at an evil act square in the face and saying, ‘I forgive that evil act.’ It's asking God to forgive, as well. It's letting go of the desire to punish, kill, and destroy. And then it's going one step further. It's blessing the person who perpetrated such horrific evil. It's praying for the one who was once an enemy and may still be an enemy. It's giving the evildoer--the murderer, the rapist, the thief--love. Forgiveness is freedom. In so many ways, it's the only true path to freedom, and it's a hard path to walk.

2 Answers 2


Thanks for providing context!

The answer is in most any dictionary, which shows that square can be a modifier meaning directly, firmly, straight, in a solid manner. The opposite would be tentatively or indirectly.

Examples: I kicked him square in the stomach.
I knocked her square off her chair.
She looked me square in the eye.

The use of square in such sentences is common. But it sounds a bit colloquial. I would stick with one of the synonyms in more formal communication.

  • This is a better answer than JMB's - firstly because you've included the firmly, in a solid manner senses which undoubtedly attach to the colloquial figurative usage. Secondly (and perhaps more importantly), because you explicitly make the relevant point that it is a colloquial usage. Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 18:37
  • @carsmack What does it mean to knock her off her chair? to make her fall?
    – FNH
    Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 18:54
  • 1
    @user2444 Yes. Here square(ly) means completely. But in this sentence, square = directly = straight = right = completely = plumb ~ plum. Note the last two are even more colloquial than square. But, yes, in this example, square means directly as in completely rather than directly as in firmly. But you can see how firmly can imply completely and that because directly is a synonym for both, it is easy to conflate the two.
    – user6951
    Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 20:29
  • 2
    " I kicked him square in the stomach. I knocked her square off her chair." Seems like you're a pretty violent person. ;-) Commented Sep 30, 2014 at 22:47
  • @CarSmack, Could you please show me a plumb plum in a sentence? :D or should I ask this in another question?
    – FNH
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 7:34

"Square" in this context means directly; not at an angle.

"Looking at a problem square in the face" means facing directly up to that problem.

Here are a couple more collocations using "square in the".

He punched him square on the jaw.

He turned, looked her square in the eyes and said, "It's over".

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