Forgiveness is essential in all relationships, especially our close relationships, because we inevitably hurt each other. We’re human, we make mistakes and we do wrong things. Many hurts are unintentional but they still hurt. Forgiveness isn’t easy and in many ways it is misunderstood.
Misconceptions about Forgiveness
1. The wrong doer often thinks the other person should just “get over it.” This is the goal, but forgiveness takes time; it is a process. Spending time talking together, listening to each other and even crying together can help with the process of forgiveness.
2. We think we must “feel” a certain way in order to forgive. Forgiveness is not a feeling or an emotion; it’s an act of the will. We may have to swallow our pride, but we can eventually choose to forgive.
3. We think we must “forgive and forget.” This is not true. It’s normal to forgive but still remember what happened.
4. We think we’re blameless. Some times this is true, but often we have played a part in the problem. With some hurts we need to hold ourselves as well as the other person accountable. We may need to apologize and ask for forgiveness.
5. We think it’s good to forgive quickly. This is not always true. We can forgive too easily. Forgiving quickly may be a way to deny how deeply we were hurt. The injured person must face the depth of their own pain. We need to hold the person accountable when there has been a major injury in a primary relationship such as a betrayal of marriage vows.
6. We think forgiveness means that what the person did was not wrong or didn’t hurt us. This is far from the truth. Forgiveness is simply letting go of the wish to get even. We choose to not hurt back. When we forgive someone we release them from the past. We stop looking in the rear view mirror. Instead we focus on the road ahead.
7. We think forgiveness takes two people. This is not true. Forgiveness only takes one person. The injured person can let go of hurt and resentment and forgive the other person. Reconciliation, regaining trust, takes two people working on the relationship together.
Forgiveness is essential because resentment, bitterness or unforgiveness damage us emotionally, physically and spiritually. These affect all our relationships. Resentment is like a poison in our system, like radioactive waste that’s buried but seeping into our lives. When we have unforgiveness in our heart toward anyone we block loving feelings and close our hearts to others. Resentment also lowers our immune system and can contribute to a variety of physical illnesses. And it hurts us spiritually. The Bible commands us to forgive. We need to remember God has forgiven us. When we close our hearts to others we also close them to God.
Forgiveness is a process.
Forgiveness is an act of the will.
It’s OK to forgive and still remember the hurt.
You may not be blameless.
Forgiveness is letting go of wanting to get even.
Forgiveness only takes one person. Reconciliation takes two.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in God through Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32