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3 Things Forgiveness is NOT

Updated: Feb 19, 2019

Photo Credit: Magne Træland on Unsplash

1. Forgiveness is not FAIR

Forgiveness is not fair. Between resentment and revenge is fairness, but not forgiveness; forgiveness is not on that continuum. Why? Because there is nothing fair about forgiveness.

When you are cleared of a debt, you are “forgiven” the debt. It is called forgiveness instead of being paid in full, there was no payment. Forgiveness is not a payment or a transaction. If you say or think, “When _____ happens, then I will [or can] forgive,” well then you're not forgiving at all.

You’re only setting the price to buy “forgiveness” from you. In relationships, actual forgiveness may restore the forgiver and the forgiven; it may restore friendly relations between the two. Forgiveness may do more, but at least it sets the forgiver free.

Another word for fairness is justice; forgiveness is not that either. Forgiveness does not require a balanced scale of justice. We may want restitution for what has happened BEFORE we will forgive, but this reveals we value fairness or justice more than the relationship. And if this true of you that’s ok, but don't not call it forgiveness.

Forgiveness does not require an apology from the offender. Sometimes, they’re dead, gone or even refused to admit fault. With forgiveness, there’s no need for an explanation from you to them explaining how they've hurt you. Forgiveness only needs two people: one who needs forgiveness and one who needs to forgive.

Forgiveness is not fair; it’s a choice.

2. Forgiveness is not DISTANCE

Forgiveness is not distance. Some of us have dealt with the person who hurt, betrayed, or damaged us by moving [emotionally and physically or both] away from them. We moved as far as we could to avoid being hurt, betrayed, or damaged again, or to be reminded of the hurt, betrayed, or damaged they caused us.

Some of us moved to “keep the peace.” We moved to avoid confrontation. We also moved away thinking, [and hoping] that distance [and time] would help us. It won't. The myth of “moving away from toxic people” is one of the worse deceptions which will never resolve the wounds we have.

In September 2014 I moved into a new old home. An amazing side gabled craftsman style home built in 1910. Within two weeks I made three hospital visits: fell off a 6’ ladder with light bulbs in my hands that resulted in imbedded bits of broken glass in my palms; I slashed the top of my left hand with a razor, I shattered my right index finger, and broke the outer metatarsal bone of my left foot. Now what I didn’t do was move out of my home. I went to a doctor for stitches, x-rays, antibiotics, and a bottle of Ibuprofen 800mg.

Forgiveness works like that.

You can move away, but you’re still cut, shattered or broken. For this emotional, mental, spiritual injury, you need healing not distance, because distance doesn’t cure anything.

Forgiveness is not distance; it’s healing.

3. Forgiveness is not TRUST

Forgiveness is not trust. Everyone has been disappointed by some one else. Some of us have been taken advantaged of, stolen from, molested, lied to, cheated on or just generally let down by people who should have done better. A lot better. Forgiveness will heal you, gradually [or immediately] release you from pain, and give you new eyes to reinterpret the past, but it won’t automatically make the offender a better person.

Forgiveness does not require a restoration of trust.

Forgiveness is given.

Forgiveness is healing.

Forgiveness is freedom.

Forgiveness is a choice.

Forgiveness is about the past; trust is about the future.

Finally, remember, if you don't forgive, then you're drinking poison, hoping the other person will die.

Sometimes, we need to forgive.

Sometimes, we need to be forgiven.

Sometimes, the only fix is forgiveness.

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