Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person’s throat……Forgiveness does not create a relationship……Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive……Forgiveness does not excuse anything……But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation” ― William Paul Young, The Shack
When it comes to childhood abuse, one of the most confusing places to sift through and process is that of forgiveness. Many well-meaning people throw the forgiveness charge out there as if it were the “Be-all, end-all” to the hurt and damage that was done. This is especially so for the spiritually sensitive. The forgiveness piece can tie up your progress in emotional healing for years. The main reason is, people have all sorts of opinions about what forgives stipulates. Hence I wanted to clear up a few things concerning forgiveness. I will piggyback a bit on the Christian Bible as that is my source of expertise and spiritual study and where I see many getting stumped.
We all know that Jesus was a man of forgiveness. That is his trademark. We know that he forgave the woman caught in adultery; He forgave Peter for denying him; He forgave Judas for betraying him. He addressed the thief on the cross with love, compassion, and hope. He forgave those that nailed him to a cross. He continues to forgive anyone, anywhere that seek his forgiveness. But nothing is forgotten. We have a written record of all that took place. If forgetting was part of forgiving, then someone made a big mistake with the Bible.
So what did the forgiveness of Jesus mean? It meant that those that would have otherwise been punished for the wrong they committed, the debt was absolved. Let’s look back over these incidents mentioned to see what forgiveness did not entail.
Jesus sent the woman caught in adultery away with a warning that what she sows is what she will reap. He did not baby her and try to make her feel okay about her actions. Peter was restored and forgiven by Jesus, but Jesus now doubted his loyalty. That would have to be proven over time. (John 21:15-17) Jesus forgave Judas for betraying him, but did not assuage Judas’ conscience. Judas guilty conscience led him to take his own life. (Matt. 27:3-5) While on the cross, Jesus completely ignored the man on the other cross that was reviling him. He didn’t try to reason with him. (Luke 23:39-43) Jesus forgave those that crucified him but he didn’t negate the consequences their actions would lead to. (Luke 23:28-31) And still, today- forgiveness is offered to all, but there needs to first be an acknowledgement when we have done wrong- or harm. (1 John 1:9-10) You see, if you just forgive someone that won’t even acknowledge the hurt and the damage they have done to you, they are making a liar out of you. They are essentially saying you are not being truthful.
Forgive- give up desire or power to punish; to grant pardon;
What forgiveness IS:
F- forfeit your right to prosecute
O- offer absolution
R- Release from penalty
G- grant goodwill- wish them the best!
I- intercede for Leniency- mercy!
V- vacate the premise for prosecution- drop the charges!
E- excuse from payment- absolve the debt!
What forgiveness is NOT!
F- forgetting the offense – impossible!
O- obliterating your emotions connected to it- leads to depression!
R- rationalizing their behavior- teaches that there are valid reasons to harm others.
G- glossing over the truth- this is deceptive!
I- ignoring your gut- this could be dangerous!
V- vindicating the culprit- they simply are guilty!
E- exonerating the charges- pretending it never happened!
So if forgiveness is something you struggle with, just ask yourself these questions?
- Do I want revenge?
- Do I desire to inflict pain on my abuser?
- Do I feel good when I know this person is suffering?
If you can answer “yes” to any of these, then you haven’t forgiven.
If you answer “no” and also say I only wish the best for this person… that is all the forgiveness you need.
Forgiveness takes two people- the one who has been harmed and the one who did the harm and acknowledges it, feels sorry about it, and would never do it again. When this happens, healing of a relationship is possible, but again, not necessary. That is your decision. It is not our job to have a relationship with everyone. Your life is your journey and to be able to love this journey and get the most of it, you need to have choices. One of those choices is who you choose to have relationships with.
Use your gut. Listen to your emotions. If someone makes you feel uneasy, or you just do not feel good when you are around them, you can choose not to be. This does not make you an unforgiving person- it makes you a wise person.
Please feel free to leave your comments or questions below.
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