Forgiveness is...Forgiveness is NOT...

Forgiveness is NOT…

  • Accepting, tolerating, or excusing unkindness or evil.  Forgiveness is a difficult concept to embrace for those who also embrace the principles of justice and responsibility.  Mercy cannot rob justice and the consequences of our choices.  Leave justice to the law, and vengeance or mercy to the Lord.  “…for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10)  Regardless of the offender’s remorse or willingness to repent, he will remain responsible and accountable for his part in the offensive behavior; however, the victim can forgive without a remorseful offender.
  • Completely forgetting the painful event or behavior.  We may live with the memory and consequences of inappropriate behavior; however, we can allow the memory to fade, and remember past offenses in a new way, as learning experiences, and to avoid repeating them.
  • Requiring that one seek out all offenders to reconcile or ask forgiveness.  This would be especially difficult in relationships where doing so might be dangerous and invite further harm, such as reestablishing a relationship with a perpetrator of sexual or physical abuse.
  • Requiring a restoration of trust.  Forgiveness does not lead to or require endangering ourselves or others, or acting without caution, as though the behavior had never happened, nor will happen again.  
  • Not something you do just for the offender.  Forgive for you, to release your pain and the power the offense can have to destroy your health and peace of mind.

Forgiveness is…

  • A sign of strength, not weakness.  It takes strength of character to deal with the pain and harm done by others, and move on as a survivor, not a victim.  That strength to resist feelings of anger and show forth love can also serve as an example and inspiration to others, that it is possible to overcome their pain with forgiveness.    
  • A skill which all people can practice until it becomes a habit.  Some people have learned to forgive immediately; however, most of us need time to work through great pain and loss.  Forgiveness takes time and is especially difficult and overwhelming when the offense is violent, covers many years, or is still occurring.  
  • The power to choose your feelings.   We can choose to feel great anguish, but no anger; deep hurt, but no hate.  
  • Restoring your inner peace.   Forgiveness means “…freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds.  It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.”  Forgiveness: How to Make Peace with your Past and Get on with Your Life, Suzanne Simon, 19