Sunday, January 27, 2013

Understanding Repentance

These posts were written as part of a greater exploration of the subject of forgiveness, but because the topic is such a critical one, it can be a challenge wading through them all. Repentance is an essential, critical part of forgiveness itself, and the posts specifically related to aspects of forgiveness are noted below.

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

Justice in Forgiveness (Necessary for True Repentance!)

Repentance in Forgiveness

Completing Forgiveness When the Offender Doesn't Repent

Communication and Self-Care in Forgiveness

Fostering Forgiveness by Creating a Milieu of Trust (This is the duty of the offender to the offended as a function of justice, the primary way that an offender demonstrates true contrition for wrongdoing.)