Common Misconception about Forgiveness


Reposted from The Life Project

A few years ago I was working with a man whose wife had left him in hopes of restoring the marriage. To keep a long story short, he had acknowledged that he was responsible for many of their problems through his own pride and selfishness, and was committed to doing his part in reconciling. Over several months, it became apparent to all that his entire demeanor and way of living was changing… for the better. Even his estranged wife commented to me how impressed she was with his progress and indicated that she would be willing to meet with both of us to discuss reconciliation.

To be entirely fair, he was not responsible for all of their problems; not by a long shot! She also had problems with selfishness and pride, along with a great need to be “right” in every situation.

When we got together, the session went long; our hour together grew into 3 plus. Finally, we came to the part where both parties agreed that they would forgive one another and wipe the slates clean while looking for constructive ways to resolve their remaining issues the following week. As we were all getting up to leave, she stopped suddenly and turned to her husband and said, “I hope you understand that even though I have forgiven you and wiped the slate clean, that does not mean that there still won’t be repercussions.”

As it worked out, she was willing to give lip service to forgiveness, but she had no real intention of ever forgiving him for anything. As a result, their marriage ended in divorce.

I Must be able to Forget

This is a common misconception about forgiveness. How can I forgive someone when I can’t forget what they did? We’ve seen quite a few verses on this notion of forgiveness in the previous posts of this study. Can you recall a single one that said anything about forgetting what happened? The human mind just doesn’t work that way, and let’s be honest about something here: If you actually have forgotten about an event, you haven’t forgiven the person, you forgot the whole thing. Most likely if someone reminded you, you’d be back to not forgiving. There are some things that are unwise to forget, especially those that involve abusive behavior. There is a big difference between forgiving and putting yourself or your loved ones in harm’s way. Forgiving means that you are no longer going to hold something against a person, and that you are not going to let yourself hold on to rage, anger and resentment, nor will you seek to impose punishment on the person. It does not mean that you will let them repeat the instance again.

After you forgive a person, the memory will still come back to you, but when it does, you will remind yourself that the incident is over, that you have forgiven the person and that you will let God deal with them as He sees fit, and in time, the wound will heal and the recollections will be less and less of an issue for you, particularly if you are willing to turn the entire matter over to God, and rely upon His strength and His love to see you through it.

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