2 Myths About Forgiveness

#1 Myth: Forgiveness = reconciliation

They are similar but unrelated actions. You can have one without the other. Forgiveness is something you can do on your own; reconciliation takes two people. Forgiveness is commanded in Scripture (Colossians 3:13-14). Reconciliation is not commanded but is highly suggested if possible (Romans 12:18).

Sometimes reconciliation is not in our best interest and is not spiritually healthy.

Regardless of what others have said, your ability to forgive is not dependent on hugs, warm fuzzies, and a tear running down your cheek.

#2 Myth: If I don’t forgive, God won’t forgive me.

Authentic forgiveness never occurs when we feel coerced to forgive.

This myth comes from Matthew 6:14-15 and elsewhere. But Jesus is still preaching the old covenant. Salvation isn’t dependent on what we do. This highlights the importance of forgiveness but shouldn’t be made into a “work.” A huge issue surrounding forgiveness is “when” you were “harmed.” We can’t expect IMMEDIATE forgiveness from people we’ve harmed or people who have been traumatized. Time plays a role in the healing process.  But bitterness and a refusal to forgive is just as harmful as the original “crime” against us if it continues a lifetime.

Superiority Complex

I am not more moral than the person who hurt me, no matter how deeply they hurt me.

When we’re angry at someone for hurting us it’s so easy to feel superior to them.  But until we recognize that we, too, are sinners, forgiveness will not be truly offered.

Thomas a Kempis,

Should you see another person openly doing evil, or carrying out a wicked purpose, do not on that account consider yourself better than him, for you cannot tell how long you will remain in a state of grace.  We are all frail; consider none more frail than yourself.

Forgive = Release

The primary Greek word Jesus uses for forgiveness is “aphiemi,” which is formed by “apo,” meaning “from,” and “hiemi,” meaning “to send.”

It’s used 142 times in the New Testament and most of those uses describe actions OTHER than forgiveness.

Mark 1:34 – Jesus drove out demons.

But even in the 45 times it’s used to describe the act of forgiveness, it still retains the sense of releasing something closely held or trapped.

In other words, in order for us to forgive someone there’s a real sense in which we must “release” something.