Before we can extend forgiveness, we must understand what forgiveness is not.
You may be wrestling with this issue because a persistent habitual offender has repeatedly hurt you. The person persistently harming you may be demanding forgiveness without any sign of repentance or remorse. Or you may be experiencing peer pressure to forgive the offender for the benefit of others.
Here are 25 lies that reveal what forgiveness is not.
What Forgiveness is not: Truth For the Offended Party.
- Forgiveness is not primarily about others. It’s about you. Only you can assess the damage and determine whether to overlook the offense or confront the issue. We can give slack on minor offenses, especially when the harm is unintentional and infrequent.
2. Forgiveness does not mean we have to accept a person’s continued presence in our lives. Acceptance or exclusion of an individual is a choice left to the offended party and no one else.
3. Forgiveness does not mean we have to become a punching bag for someone else. Turning the other cheek does not mean that we put ourselves in the path of intentional danger.
4. Forgiveness does not mean a person is not allowed to experience or express righteous anger. Often anger needs to be vented before a person can grieve over the offense and move to a place of healing and forgiveness.
5. Forgiveness does not mean pretending we were not hurt or minimizing the damage done by the offending party.
6. Forgiveness does not mean that the wound no longer hurts.
7. Forgiveness does not give us an excuse to do wrong to someone else.
8. Forgiving is not the same as forgetting. Memories and flashbacks triggered by sight, sound, and proximity can occur even when we have forgiven others. Millions of people would probably give up a significant sum to erase some painful hurts they have experienced. I know I would.
9. Forgiveness is not a cure for all relationship issues. Sometimes time and distance are a necessary remedy.
What Forgiveness is not: How to handle the Offender.
10. Forgiveness is not about the offender. Even if they think it is.
11. Forgiveness is not about getting over it or moving forward, or forgetting the harm done. Often the offender will seek to diminish the harm they have done. They will claim that the offended party refuses to let go or exaggerates the offense. They will extend enormous energy denying the damage done when a simple apology might have resolved the conflict. The offender wants the person harmed to get over it so they can continue in their behavior.
12. Forgiveness is not the restoration of trust. We can forgive without extending unconditional trust. The person who was hurt will determine whether or not the offender can restore their faith.
13. Forgiveness does not mean we cannot confront the individual about the harm they have done. Sometimes it is necessary to promote better behavior or protect others from future damage.
14. Forgiveness does not excuse the offender’s bad behavior.
15. Forgiveness is not an invitation to additional harm.
16. Forgiveness is not justice. Justice demands payment, but forgiveness provides undeserved mercy.
17. Forgiveness is not about the absence of accountability. An individual might forgive the offender, but there may still be legal or financial consequences for their actions.
18. Forgiveness does not mean that what the offender did was okay. A choice to forgive does not mean that we condone the actions of the offender.
What Forgiveness is not: Winning the Observer’s Approval or Understanding.
19. Forgiveness is not about the observer who witnessed the offense.
20. Forgiveness is not an invitation to reconciliation with the offender or a return to the status quo. There are times when reconciliation is not advisable or even possible. Too often, an outside observer will push for premature forgiveness without understanding the depth of the offense.
21. Forgiveness is not about the comfort of the person who observed the conflict. Often it is our family and friends who see the incident. They may want the harmed person to let go of the offense because they are uncomfortable with the situation and how it makes the observer feel.
22. Forgiveness is rarely a singular event but a process of resolving numerous offenses built up over time. It is not neat, orderly, or on a timetable.
23. Forgiveness is not reliant on the other party doing the right thing, using the right words, or initiating the discussion.
24. Forgiveness is not a feeling; it an act of the will to let go of the offense.
25. Forgiveness is not dependent on my strength alone – but God’s. I can forgive others because God and others have forgiven me. Forgiveness is available.
Call to Action
Which of these lies have you encountered? Is there someone that you need to seek or grant forgiveness to this week?
Brad Hambrick has a great article – 5 Things Forgiveness is not – that I highly recommend.