When an offender doesn't repent of wrongdoing, the offended party can move on to a second kind of forgiveness. Considering that God withholds forgiveness from us until after we repent, though we are required to forgive, we do not have to throw justice away. We can release those who offended us to God to deal with, and we can move on past the ongoing hurt by looking to God to give us in restitution that which the offender either cannot or will not.
Forgiving those who do not repent of wrong action will continue to repeat it, and that creates a victim out of the offender instead of a survivor and overcomer. Cheap forgiveness of this type is not forgiveness at all but is a form of manipulation and control. Part of repentance involves wisely discerning true contrition (exhibited through true change and restitution) from lip service or the buying of affection. Understanding these things is especially important in abuse situations because chronic abuse usually causes us to develop maladaptive coping to survive pain, but in so doing we usually lose perspective that helps us make protective, healthy choices for ourselves and our ultimate well-being.
Reconciliation can also be exploited in the name of forgiveness when these two different concepts and actions are merged into one – a predictable tactic within both dysfunctional families and spiritually abusive systems. We are able to release unrepentant offenders to God through forgiveness, but without their true repentance, reconciliation cannot be fulfilled. Justice must be first established if not realized first, showing full and due honor to both the offended and the offender. Reconciliation puts both on equal footing, wipes the slate of what one owes to the other clean, indicating that both parties have now entered into a new, supportive, and healthy relationship of trust. This cannot even begin to happen until the offending party follows through on what justice requires of him or her.
(The complete index of all posts exploring forgiveness will be available online in Mid-February 2013).
Essential Basics of Forgiveness
- Defining Forgiveness and Reconciliation
- What Forgiveness Is NOT
- Understanding the Path of Bitterness and Cycles of Blame
- Differentiating Genuine Repentance from the Feigned Counterfeit of the Smug and Entitled (We must offer forgiveness, but that doesn't mean that the offender doesn't need to repent. If they don't, we must move on to release the offender to God, offering them a less ideal type of forgiveness so that we can move on from the offense.)
- Seven Misunderstandings of Repentance (Guest post by Adele Hebert)
Completing Forgiveness When the Offender Doesn't Repent
- Peaceful Compromise When Ideal Forgiveness Doesn't Happen (Pondering how to part and respectfully when conflict cannot be resolved.)
- Streets to Avoid on the Journey of Forgiveness (Wisdom from Portia Nelson) (Appreciating the futility of situations wherein a party involved in an offense doesn't choose to cooperate and respond in an ideal way.)
- (Also see the Matthew 18 section in the index of posts concerning Facing Your Spiritual Abuser and exploitation of church discipline in Spiritual Abuse)
- Confronting Others to Foster Trust in Forgiveness (Review of communication styles and how they can hurt or help forgiveness.)
- How Betrayal Bonds Exploit Trust and Power: Merging Forgiveness and Reconciliation (How traumatic bonding occurs and how it can put a victim at risk if one follows the Path of Denial in forgiveness.)
- Christian Mediation via Spiritual Abuse (Tendency in high demand evangelicalism to force fast reconciliation through legal mediation services like Peacemaker Ministries.)
- Also see this Index of posts about understanding difficult people and why they can't or won't repent.
- “Boundary Busters” Versus Basic Prerequisites of Trust in Forgiveness (Relationship factors and actions that destroy trust.)
- Traits That Foster Trust in Forgiveness (Becoming a more trustworthy person.)
- Confronting Others to Foster Trust in Forgiveness (How to become a better communicator to help build trust with those we have offended.)
- Repairing Trust After Offense To Facilitate Forgiveness (Rebuilding damage trust differs a bit from building trust in a relationship. How to proceed after you've offended someone to help encourage their sense of safety and trust after an offense.)