Forgiveness Does Not Mean You're a Doormat!

Updated: May 4

Many people have formulated definitions of the concept of forgiveness, but for me I like this one the best:

Forgiveness is giving up all hope of ever getting paid back.

When we are wronged, we feel loss and usually some anger in the form of bitterness, hurt or resentment. Well-meaning people tell us, “Just forgive that person. It is for yourself not them,” or “Let it go,” or “It’s hurting you more than it’s hurting them,” or, “It’s the Christian thing to do.”

But all of these shoulds don’t make us feel any better. We can say, “I’ve forgiven him,” but what we really mean is, “I will give up talking about my anger to anybody else,” or, “I will shove these thoughts of anger or revenge aside every time they come up,” or “They’ll get their due one day; I just know it,” or, “I am trusting God with justice.” These are all great ways to discipline ourselves into “forgiveness.”

But the emotion of anger is still there, underneath, festering. Perhaps it fades over a long period of time. Perhaps you get happy with other things and the importance of the slight done to you diminishes.

How do you truly forgive a person, even while the hurt is still fresh? How do you truly let go of the anger or resentment or bitterness?

You grieve.

Grief is admitting that you will never get repaid for the investment of your energy, your time, or your suffering.

Forgiveness is grief related to another person. When a person does you a wrong, he owes you a debt. This is why the Lord’s Prayer is often translated, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Forgiveness is grieving the loss of the repayment of that debt.

When I am ready to let go of my anger, when I am tired of feeling it, when I want the power of truth rather than the power of anger, I sit down, I play sad music, and I say to myself, “This person will never pay me back for the wrong he has done to me.”

And I cry.

The weeping releases the energy that I was spending holding onto my grievance. It allows the anger to flow through me and out. I have, in my grief, recognized the Truth. That this person will never pay me back, no matter how much I dream about it, no matter how much I hang onto the hope that he will. It will just never happen.

As a result of this grieving, the anger goes away and with it comes forgiveness. You no longer resent the person. You no longer yearn for him to make it up to you or even to apologize. You have released him from his debt.

Whether you know it or not, your own beliefs in lies has caused incalculable suffering in others. You have incurred debts to others time and again, most often when you are least aware of it. If we all ran around collecting on these debts, guess what? It would all add up to zero.

It works the same with God, only He has already forgiven you, without your asking Him to. When you ask His forgiveness, what you are doing is accepting what has already been done. You now feel free of the debt to Him, which allows you to stop living in the past and begin living in the present. When you confess to God - apologize or ask for forgiveness - you restore your relationship with him.

Restoration is not the same as forgiveness. You can forgive a person, yet not enter back into a relationship with him. You can forgive your abuser, but this does not obligate you to return to him.

To restore a relationship, the offending person must ask for your forgiveness. His apology must include the three critical parts:

  1. An accounting of exactly what he did to you

  2. An acknowledgement of how this made you feel

  3. A promise to change direction and not do this to you ever again

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It took me three years to realize that I am a fallen creature. I have been struggling and groping my way back to the Light. Here are a few things that I have learned along the way....

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