Does forgiveness mean reconciliation? The quick answer: No. The reason is because forgiveness and reconciliation are two separate things. It is wonderful when relationships can be reconciled. However, that is not always possible or even safe for that matter. It is possible to forgive a perpetrator who harmed you or a family member, but a relationship might be dangerous. For instance, a mother may forgive the person who killed her daughter in a drunk driving accident, though it is doubtful she will pursue a friendship with him. The reason she will forgive him is because the pain and anger will eat her alive the rest of her life if she does not. This is hard forgiveness.
Before my brother died of his addiction, his drinking made him unsafe. I forgave him numerous times for his behavior but a relationship was not possible until he was sober. While these examples probably seem fairly obvious, how about the friend who betrayed you or the ex who had multiple affairs? Here is the deal. Reconciliation is not possible if the other person cannot acknowledge what they did. They have to really be sorry. They have to empathize with your pain and fully understand what they did, and be willing to do what it takes to make things right. If not, they can’t be trusted and they will most likely hurt you again. This is why people struggle to forgive. They think doing so will open the door to being walked on all over again. And it will if you try and reconcile with someone who is not sorry.
Sadly, sometimes other Christians (and the church) can blur the boundaries even more. Let’s say you start a wonderful ministry and a rather Narcissistic leader starts to take over. He begins to publicly attack you, turn others against you, and eventually pushes you out of the ministry altogether. Then, the pastor asks you: “have you forgiven him? Oh, and we are going to keep the ministry going because it helps so many people.” Meanwhile, you are curled up in a fetal position on the floor because you have just been crushed and now you are made to feel responsible because you haven’t immediately forgiven this imposter. Sound preposterous? I know, but I bet you’re thinking: “Wow! That is almost exactly what happened to me!” It’s because this sort of insanity happens all the time and most of us have been a victim of it.
I had a similar thing happen to me in a work situation. When I finally did meet with the person to see if reconciliation was possible, they said they were sorry for anything they had done to hurt me. When I explained what they had done, they denied all of it. That is called a fake apology. Or, an apology at your expense. When this happens the person can publicly proclaim they apologized and you are a big ‘Meany’ who has not forgiven them! By the way, narcissistic types do this sort of thing all the time. It’s hard to wrap your brain around, I know. Of course, you have forgiven them, you just know that reconciliation or friendship is not possible because they really do not think they have done anything wrong. You recognize that they will do the same thing to you again given the chance.
Of course, everyone plays a part in a relationship that has ‘gone sour’ so to speak. It is important we admit our part in the fallout regardless of whether or not the other person is able. We should pray for them and hope they will see their part and that reconciliation can be possible in the future.
If you have struggled with this issue, I hope this blog has helped. If you want a ton more information on this topic click this link and listen to my latest podcast Podcasts – Jodie Stevens with me and my dear friend Lori Lara as we delve deeper into the seas of forgiveness.
Thanks for reading my friend.