If you’ve followed LivingItOut this week, you know we’ve been walking through the steps of forgiveness. Yesterday, we discussed the final two steps: forgiving the offender for our own benefit and forgiving the offender for their benefit after they repent. So we’re done, you might think. I’ve forgiven him/her. What could be left?
There is one final element to recognize in God’s path to healing. It is important to realize that after we forgive someone, it doesn’t mean that we have to trust them.
Forgiveness ≠ Trust. Failing to understand this concept kept me from forgiving someone for a long time. I didn’t see the point in forgiving people if it meant allowing them to hurt me in the same way again. But, forgiveness does not mean ignoring a person’s character. Yes, God calls us to be open, vulnerable, and tender-hearted, offering people second chances. However, he doesn’t call us to be fools. If you disagree, spend some time reading Proverbs. There are far more verses on wisdom versus foolishness than I can reference here.
Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.
Here are some simpler examples of what I mean. If somebody stole from you, forgive them—but you don’t have to immediately trust them with your money again. If they were unsafe to be around in the past, forgive them—but don’t immediately place yourself in situations where you’re alone with them. If somebody hurt you through their addictions, forgive them—but don’t enable them to feed those addictions. If somebody lied to you, forgive them—but you don’t have to immediately believe everything they say.
It’s not always so straightforward, but you get the picture. Just because you have forgiven someone, doesn’t mean you have to ignore their flaws. Also, don’t allow them to stumble by providing open opportunities for them to repeat these mistakes. Hopefully, in time, you will be able to trust them, but change isn’t instant; let’s not act like it is.
The ultimate goal of forgiveness should be reconciliation. However, it’s important to point out that not all relationships can be reconciled. There are several reasons for this, but a big one is that relationships require at least two people; if the other person is not interested in reconciling, there’s only so much you can do.
That being said, God forgave us so that we could be reconciled to him. If he chose forgiveness, so will I. Just as God both forgave our sins and invited us into relationship with him, so we should forgive others and welcome relationship with them. Conflict resolution is a step in the right direction; but if the best we can do is sit in the same room and “act civil,” there’s a good chance we haven’t fully forgiven them. We’re probably holding on to some pain and bitterness.
Just as trusting someone again will take time, so will rebuilding a relationship. Nobody expects you to immediately become best friends with the person who wronged you.
However, true forgiveness means moving toward a place where you can see the person again, instead of the way they sinned against you—and that is the path of reconciliation.
Do you trust your offender right now? Can you see yourself trusting them again in the future?
Where is the line for you between forgiving and trusting in your situation?
Is your offender interested in reconciliation?
Are you moving toward reconciliation with your offender, or have you settled for conflict resolution?
Write down some boundary lines for interacting with your offender in a way that shows forgiveness without leaving open opportunities for them to repeat their mistakes.
Read through Proverbs, taking note of the verses that describe the type of wisdom we are to have.
Heavenly Father, thank you for forgiving us, no matter how many times we fall short, no matter how many times we break your heart. Thank you for making a way for us to have a relationship with you. Please, give us the strength to follow your example, forgiving those who’ve hurt us and rebuilding the relationships damaged by sin. Don’t let our hearts become cold and hard with bitterness, but instead give us tender hearts that break for those who are far from you and feel compassion for fellow sinners. Above all else, may your will be done. Amen.
This post was written by Payton Lechner. Payton Lechner is a college grad currently working at her local library. In her spare time, she volunteers as an ESL teacher and freelances as a writer and editor. Besides the English language, Payton loves swimming, cats, and a good cup of tea.
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