What is forgiveness and what is it not?
Most of us assume that if we forgive our offenders, they are let off the hook, while we unfairly suffer from their actions. While God commands us to forgive others, he never told us to keep trusting those who violate our trust.
- Forgiveness is returning to God the right to take care of justice. By refusing to transfer the right to exact revenge, we are telling God we don’t trust him to take care of what concerns us.
- Withholding forgiveness is a refusal to let go of perceived power. We can feel powerful when the offender is in need of forgiveness and only we can give it. However, this is like drinking poison and expecting it to harm the other person.
- Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It’s normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When thoughts of past hurt occur, it’s what we do with them that matters.
- Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook. We can and should hold others accountable for their actions.
- Forgiveness is not letting the offense recur again and again. We don’t have to tolerate a lack of respect or any form of abuse. Some people will never change, but we may need to change the way we respond to them and quit expecting them to be different.
- Forgiveness does not mean we have to revert to being the victim. Forgiving is not playing the martyr, enjoying the performance of forgiving people because it perpetuates our victim role.
- Forgiveness is not the same as reconciling. We can forgive someone even if we can never reestablish a relationship with them.
- Forgiveness is not based on the actions of others but on our attitude. People will continue to hurt us through life, but we can choose how to respond. We can stay stuck and angry, or we can keep our minds on our loving relationship with God, knowing and trusting in what is pure.
- Forgiveness starts with a decision. Decide to let go of the resentment and then start your emotional healing.
- Forgiveness does not mean we do not do the work necessary to heal ourselves from the pain. Sometimes we find that we say we “forgive” to make “it all go away.” We have to be careful, however, not to simply cover our wounds.
- Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It might take some time to work through our emotional problems before we can truly forgive. Forgiveness probably is not going to happen right after a tragic event and that’s okay.
Yes, forgiveness is a process, so stay connected to Read Part 4: Forgiving yourself