June 2017

7 Things Forgiveness Is Not


In conversation and from personal experience, many people, and especially Christians, seem to have rose-coloured glasses when we talk about – and experience – forgiveness. Whether we are the ‘forgivor’ or the ‘forgivee’, it is not unusual to have some quite unrealistic expectations as to the nature and result in an act of forgiveness.
In a blog on this topic Ron Edmonson (http://www.ronedmondson.com) suggest that there are 7 things that forgiveness is not, and so I base my thoughts on these themes, hopefully allowing a more genuine appreciation to the nature of forgiveness.

Jesus commanded that we need to forgive 7 times 7 (or 70 times 7, depending on the gospel account) and so I would advocate forgiveness is not an option for a Christian. We are to forgive others as we have been forgiven. For most of us (all of us if we will admit it), there’s a whole lot of forgiveness which has been extended to us by others and especially by God.
Understanding forgiveness doesn’t make it easier to forgive, but it does make it more meaningful – perhaps even bearable. And understanding what it isn’t, could make us more likely to offer the forgiveness we are commanded to give. They are (or more precisely not!):

When you forgive someone your memory isn’t suddenly wiped clean of the offense. I know God can do this – and I’m thankful He can. Honestly, though, it almost seems forgetting the offense would be the easy way. If we could simply not remember what was done wrong to us by choosing to forgive, who wouldn’t? My suspicion is God wants forgiveness to be more intentional than this, a choice fuelled by grace rather than a defective memory.
Regaining automatic trust
You don’t immediately begin to trust the person who injured you when you forgive them. And, if you think about it, that wouldn’t even be logical. Trust is earned, and the person who wronged us must earn trust again. Forgiveness means rebuilding trust can start.
Removal of consequences
Even though you forgive someone, they may still have consequences to face because of their actions. There may be bills or fines to pay. In more extreme cases perhaps even going to jail. Forgiveness is extended as a personal choice, and is not dependant on the dodging the aftereffects.
Ignoring the offense
You don’t have to pretend nothing happened when you forgive. The reality is an offense was made. Acting like it never occurred only builds resentment and anger.
A leverage of power
This is huge. Granting forgiveness does not give a person power over the person being forgiven. That would violate the entire principle and purpose of forgiveness. It never ceases to surprise me that all too often people feel they are owed something because forgiveness took place.
Instant emotional healing
Emotions heal with time. Some pain runs deep and takes longer to heal. Emotions are not something you can simply choose to control, there is no on/off switch. Take and give time, and be easy on yourself if the emotions don’t match up to your ideal.
Restoring the same relationship
The relationship may be closer than before, but it might not be. One thing is fairly certain – most likely the relationship will never be exactly the same.

Forgiveness releases the anxiety towards the person who did the injury. One definition of forgiveness – knowing you really have forgiven someone – is what happens when the person comes to your mind again. If the pain they caused is still the first thought you have about them – you may not have really forgiven them, … yet. But God works in us over time, and in time we can choose to forgive and experience forgiveness. And be finally free.


June 2017