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Forgiveness:  What is It?

forgiveness Mar 05, 2020

I know from my own experience, how very difficult it was to even contemplate extending forgiveness to the perpetrator whose behavior left me reeling in the strong emotions and the dust of bewilderment and deep wounds that cut to the heart.

What I do not know is what stage of healing my various readers are in, after they had been so offended.  If a considerable amount of time has passed, there might be some of you who might be ready to hear something about forgiveness.

Nevertheless, whether that is you, or the abuse is still ultra-fresh, perhaps the following is wisdom to be aware of:  Somewhere in the far off distant future (if not sooner,) you might have to think about forgiveness, so that your inner peace can return to you.

So, what is forgiveness?  Let me say first of all, that forgiveness is not at all the same thing as reconciliation.  Forgiveness is one way.  Let me say that again.  Forgiveness is one way.  It happens in your heart and mind.  The person you are forgiving might not even know that you have forgiven them.  If they did know, they might be offended against you if they knew you thought they had done anything that offended you.  (Go figure!)  Whether their reason for continued huffiness is ego-driven or something else, the fact that you have forgiven them doesn’t depend on any reaction they may or may not do.  Forgiveness is totally in your heart and mind.  Forgiveness is a decision you have struggled to reach.

There are times when it seems important to let someone know that you have forgiven them.  But that can be tricky.  Especially if they intentionally misused their authority to hurt you.  Or they still do not see what they could be doing that hurts people.  Whether it’s wise to tell them of your forgiveness, or not, can be tricky. 

William Meninger1 tells us what forgiveness is NOT…

  • Forgiveness is not forgetting.  Wounds strengthen us and transform us…as the wounds of Jesus transform us.  Scars remain but they make us stronger.  How you forgive may serve as useful lessons in your life.  You can learn and grow from your hurts and be a model for others.
  • Forgiveness is not a clean-cut, one-time decision.  It is not easy.
  • Forgiveness is not condoning.  The hurt was not acceptable and is still wrong.  If you make it okay, there is nothing to forgive.  You forgive what is not okay.
  • Forgiveness is not a form of self-sacrifice.

Mininger also tells us what forgiveness IS…

  • Forgiveness is a by-product of an ongoing healing process.
  • Forgiveness involves feelings of wellness, freedom and acceptance.  It is a sign of positive self-esteem.
  • Forgiveness is letting go of pain and negative emotions of the past.
  • Forgiveness is no longer wanting to punish those who hurt us.
  • Forgiveness is releasing the negative energy invested in an unforgiving disposition.  We are then free to use the energy for positive change in our lives
  • Forgiveness is seeing the perpetrator of our wounds as more than the person who hurt us.  It frees us to see the person as someone who deserves and needs to be loved.

While forgiveness is one-way, reconciliation, on the other hand, is two way.  Reconciliation takes place when both parties forgive each other, or reconcile their differences such that the relationship is restored.

Leave me a comment.  

And remember, you're awesome!   God holds you in the palm of His hand.

1  The Process of Forgiveness.  William Meninger, quoted in Forgiveness, a 40 Day Practice of The Contemplative Life Program.  2005 Contemplative Outreach, LTD.



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