What forgiveness does not mean, and does not involve:

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From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 13 – Some common errors and areas of confusion about what forgiveness is and how, and why, we are to do it

Contrary to what millions of people assume, forgiveness does not mean, or involve, any of the following:

a) telling yourself that no real wrong was ever done to you by person X or that you are over-reacting, being over-sensitive or even imagining things

b) saying that person X was right to do what he did to you

c) excusing or covering up for person X

d) sympathizing with person X

e) telling yourself that it was all your own fault, not the wrongdoer’s fault

f) being soppy and wet about what happened and making yourself into a ‘doormat’ to be walked on.

g) resuming or continuing a close relationship with the wrongdoer, as if nothing had ever happened

h) being able to make all the pain go away, such that you no longer feel upset or angry about it and have made  yourself ‘get over it’

i) forgetting the wrong done to you, how it made you feel, and the harm it did

j) believing that the wrongdoer should not have to be punished and should not be required to repay what he has taken, or pay compensation for the damage or injury caused

k) letting the wrongdoer ‘get away with it’, such that it would be considered wrong for you to go to the police or appoint a lawyer to sue them

l) being reconciled with the wrongdoer, such that you are on friendly terms with them, and would be happy to have them round to your house, go out for a drink, or even just engage in ‘small talk’ with them.  In fact, forgiveness and reconciliation are totally separate and different concepts.  The former does not require, or imply, the latter.  Forgiveness is something you decide to do on your own.  It does not require the wrongdoer’s cooperation, apology or repentance or for him to reciprocate in any way.  He need not necessarily even be aware that you have forgiven him.  However, reconciliation has to be mutual.  It can’t happen unless the wrongdoer firstly acknowledges his fault, apologizes, repents and, above all, stops wronging you.

m) feeling able to trust the wrongdoer.  Again, it is foolishness to think that forgiveness implies or requires that trust has to be resumed.  Nevertheless, a lot of people do assume that, which is one reason why they wrongly conclude that it is impossible to forgive.  Actually, the Bible never even tells us to trust people who haven’t wronged us, let alone those who have.  Accordingly, there is no requirement to trust the wrongdoer in order to prove to God, or to others, that we have genuinely forgiven him.  A wrongdoer has to earn your trust, over a period of time, just as anybody else does, even if they aren’t a wrongdoer.  Furthermore, it is perfectly reasonable that you wait two or three times longer to trust a wrongdoer than a stranger who has never yet wronged you.  In short, they have no right to receive your trust, and you are not under any duty to trust them, or anybody else, for that matter.

Nevertheless, many people, even within the Church, assume that forgiveness does involves some or all of (a)-(m) above.  But it doesn’t, or at least it doesn’t necessarily involve any of them.  The word ‘forgiveness’ has had its meaning distorted, like the word ‘gay’.  We must therefore recapture and reinforce the correct meaning of the word, because if we don’t, a great many people will continue to believe that forgiveness is impossible to achieve.

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