Sunday, September 10, 2023

What Forgiveness Is Not


(Breakfast with Levi)

If Linda and I are asked what makes for a strong marriage, we usually answer: Practice confession and forgiveness.

Over our 50 years of marriage we have confessed and forgiven each other many times.

When we confess, we do so specifically. Such as, "Please forgive for saying those words (________) to you. They hurt you. I am sorry."

When we forgive, we cancel the debt. "I forgive you for saying those words." To cancel the debt means, I won't punish you for what you said, or did, or did not say or do to me.

Confession and forgiveness are, to us, beautiful gifts from God, and keys to healthy relationships!

We also understand there are some things forgiveness is not.

To forgive is not to trust. I may forgive you. I won't make you pay for what you did to me. But that doesn't mean, in certain circumstances, that I therefore trust you. Someone has said that trust takes a lifetime to acquire, and just a moment to lose. We have seen this happen in many relationships.

I can forgive you, perhaps immediately. But trust is built on doing the right thing, consistently, over time. In this sense trust has a fragility to it that forgiveness does not. You can truly forgive someone and still not trust them. In some cases, you should not trust them

To forgive does not mean you stop hurting. I can choose to forgive, but I cannot choose to stop feeling any pain your words or actions have inflicted on me.

You can forgive someone and still be suffering. This is why to forgive is not necessarily to forget. To remember elicits pain. (If your relationship is healthy, you will just forget most of what your friend has done to you. Linda knows that, over the years, I have confessed to her several times. As she has done, with me. But we now remember nothing about the majority of those interactions.)

To remember what trust is not can help me, if I wound you, to acknowledge, and attend to, two things. 1) I realize you may not trust me to not hurt you again. I have compassion for you. I do not force you to trust me. I don't say things like, "Aren't you over this yet." 2) I am sensitive to the reality that you may hurt for awhile because of what I have done. When I realize that, I may again express my sadness for hurting you such that you still ache.