You may remember geometry class in high school. You were taught “all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.” A similar relationship exists between forgiveness and trust or reconciliation; “All trust and reconciliation are rooted in forgiveness, but not all forgiveness results in trust and reconciliation.”
From the first reflection to the second, we’re going to move from pain to fear. Initially, we paused to honor the pain that prompted the need to forgive. Now we’ll seek to articulate several of the fears that can cause us to brace against forgiving.
Sometimes the most loving way to engage a subject (that is, a topic like forgiveness) is to set someone’s (that is, a person who has been hurt) mind at ease. With children, this might sound like, “You’ve got a doctor’s appointment today, but don’t worry, you don’t have to get any shots.” It is reasonable to associate doctors with needles, but it easier to go to the doctor if you know there won’t be any needles this time (even for my children’s father).
Similarly, it can be helpful to set our mind at ease about a few things related to forgiveness. This reflection is all about, “We need to talk about forgiveness, but don’t worry, forgiveness doesn’t mean [blank].” We are going to talk about five common fears associated with forgiveness that can go in that blank.
If after reading this article you’re willing to say, “Well, if forgiveness isn’t the same thing as [blank], then I am willing to consider it,” then this reflection will have accomplished everything it set out to do.
1. Forgiveness Is Not Pretending We’re Not Hurt
If we conceive of forgiveness as pretending, then forgiveness becomes a synonym for being fake. Forgiveness becomes a form of self-imposed silencing. This loss of voice only compounds the painful effect of whatever offense has already been committed against us. Forgiveness is not pretending.
Simply stated – but simpler to say than to live – forgiveness is what allows us to express hurt as hurt rather than hurt as anger. Even after we forgive, hurt still hurts. If the person who hurt us gets upset with us for still hurting, they haven’t really repented.
Too often we view forgiveness as the culmination of a journey. When I say, “I forgive you,” I am not saying, “Things are all better now.” I am saying, “I have decided I will relate to your offense towards me differently.” Forgiveness is the start of a new journey. Forgiveness doesn’t erase the past.
When you forgive, you are not making a commitment not to hurt. You are making a commitment about what you will do with hurt when it flares up.