Although punishment and forgiveness frequently are considered to be opposites, in the present paper we propose that victims who punish their offender are subsequently more likely to forgive. Notably, punishment means that victims get justice (i.e. just deserts), which facilitates forgiveness. Study 1 reveals that participants were more likely to forgive a friend's negligence after being primed with punishment than after being primed with inability to punish. In Study 2, participants were more forgiving towards a criminal offender if the offender was punished by a judge than if the offender escaped punishment, a finding that was mediated by the just deserts motive. Study 3 was in the context of actual recalled ongoing interpersonal relations and revealed that punishment predicted forgiveness indirectly via just deserts, not via victims' vengeful motivations. It is concluded that punishment facilitates forgiveness because of its capacity to restore a sense of justice. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.