What Forgiveness is Not

Rev. Deb Koster

October 4, 2010

There are lots of ideas about what forgiveness is and isn’t. This is what forgiveness is not.

Forgiveness is not pretending that it never happened. Forgiveness does not mean ignoring the offense, and pain, and damage involved. That is denial, not forgiveness. Forgive and forget may be a cute phrase, but it has little basis in reality--we mere people can't just wipe our memories clean as if nothing happened. God chooses to remember our sins no more, but we remember our hurts.

Just because we remember does not mean we should focus on those memories. Forgiveness is also not fixation on past wrongs. We remember, but we don't dwell or let victimhood define us. If the pain and past is where we dwell, we have not yet fully forgiven; we still need to give that offense back to God. Love keeps no record of wrong, so let us choose to live in that love.

Forgiveness is also not allowing yourself to become a doormat. We remember the past in part to keep the offender from offending again. We protect our dependents and ourselves because we have value--it does no one good to allow further abuse. Forgiveness does not mean we must allow someone the opportunity to continue to hurt and sin.

Forgiveness is not even necessarily reconciliation. We can forgive someone without ever receiving their apology or even participation. Some offenders will never acknowledge the hurt that they have caused. Their behavior may never change. We do not need to give these people access into our vulnerabilities, but rather we can develop healthy boundaries that protect us from further harm.

So, forgiveness is not just forgetting, it's not dwelling on the hurt, it's not being a doormat, it's not even reconciliation. We acknowledge the pain, we set boundaries, we let them be the small and broken person that they are, and we let it go. We trust God to enact his justice in his time as we choose to live in love.

God will give us the strength to forgive, all we have to do is ask. 

About the author — Rev. Deb Koster

Deb Koster is a producer, writer, and speaker for Family Fire. She is also an Innkeeper at The Parsonage Inn in Grand Rapids, MI where she leads marriage retreat on weekends. After over 20 years as a Registered Nurse, she completed a Master of Divinity degree and was ordained as a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. Deb and her husband Steven enjoy doing ministry together and they are the parents of three awesome young adults.

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