What I Wish Everyone Understood about Forgiveness

You’ve been wronged.  They hurt you. This wasn’t the first time either.  Now, because you are a follower of Jesus, you must show forgiveness. You experience tension inside your soul.

Jesus forgave me. So I should for forgive them.
But if I forgive, I’m just letting them off the hook. Yet Jesus seemed to let me off the hook.

Over time forgiveness becomes more like a chore. Creating inner turmoil that screams, “But they wronged me! I can’t keep ignoring this!” This struggle comes from a misunderstanding of terminology.

We use the word “forgiveness” to describe multiple different biblical concepts at the same time.  Not understanding that our misapplication causes damage to our souls and pain to our relationships.

I originally heard this misuse identified and corrected by John Townsend the author of Boundaries. Upon hearing his clarification, my immediate thought was, “I wish everyone understood this about forgiveness.”

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  1. Forgiveness is a past issue.

    Extending mercy and grace is a powerful message rooted in our loving savior.  We must present it freely to others. Grace says,

    “Despite the wrong you committed in the past, I will love you today.”

    Imagine a relationship as a fragile object. When you’ve been wronged it’s like that delicate mass was crushed by a hammer. Forgiveness declares that I will no longer be angry at the hammer or the person who swung it.

    What somebody did in the past is not stopping you from loving them today.

    Notice though that the once perfect object is now still destroyed despite the forgiveness.  That’s because point number 2.

  2. Forgiveness is not reconciliation.

    Reconciliation is a term describing the present state of a relationships.  Forgiveness can be extended and the relationships still not yet be restored.  The past is over, but the present is not the same.

    Imagine if somebody wronged your child.  They hit them in the face, bullied them, or maybe even worse.  Your Christian parental response is not, “Well, forgive them and go be friends with them.” Rather you want your kid to set up boundaries around the bully.

    It’s because forgiveness does not mean reconciliation.

    Reconciliation means that broken fragile object has now been restored.  That’s a two person job.  Both parties have to agree to it. If both sides don’t agree, then it’s not possible.

    Now even if you forgive and reconcile, that does not mean the relationship will be restored back to its original form because….

  3. Forgiveness does not mean trust.

    While forgiveness is a past issue and reconciliation is a present dilemma, trust is a future problem. ” How are you going to behave in the future?” is the question asked by trust.

    Grace is extended freely.
    Restoration is developed together.
    Trust is earned over time.

    If your friend develops a narcotics habit, they become addicted overnight.  They steal from you. Lie to you.  Do anything to get high again.  Each misstep is subsequently followed with, “I’m sorry! I will never to do it again.”

    Then not even a few days later they repeat the same cycle.  Wisdom says,

    “Forgive them? Yes!
    Reconcile with them? Try your hardest.
    Trust them? No. Not until they’ve earned it.”

    Love demands we don’t trust them in that moment.  They don’t know what’s best for themselves.  This is why understanding terminologies is critical.  It releases us from enabling and gives us permission to heal when we are hurt.

    As followers of Jesus we must forgive and work toward reconciliation, but be patient with extending trust to someone who has repeatedly broken it.

What is something you have always misunderstood about forgiveness?
Comment below.

3 thoughts on “What I Wish Everyone Understood about Forgiveness

  1. I really appreciate the notion of trust being divested from forgiveness. My father, through Christ, overcame a decades-long drug addiction. One of the things the Christian-based treatment facility had us do was sign a contract of terms for him to return home. We were not to use his error as fodder for arguments—the past was over and holding his former addiction over him was not to be allowed. For his part, If we suspected that he had fallen back into the habit, he would submit willingly to drug testing. It was both Forgiveness and re-establishing trust. It worked well because relationships were restored, but it took time and effort on both sides. When things are done God’s way, astonishing things happen before our very eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you!!! I’ve been ridiculed for forgiving and supporting my
    incarcerated husband by what was once our good Christian friends. Our relationship is rebuilding because we are both willing to work on it. And trust, well, I believe that will come in time. What a great explanation of what I feel in my heart!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. For me forgiveness is not feeling the pain anymore. The sadness over things lost, maybe. The pain from their action no.

    Liked by 1 person

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