5 Myths About Forgiveness

In the movie Just Friends pop singer Samantha James (Anna Faris) lyrically muses:

“Forgiveness is more than saying ‘Sorry'” 

Earlier this week I had a conversation with a friend who had been accused by a woman from his church of being “unforgiving” because he was hesitant to re-hire a man who had been fired for cause just a couple years previous.  My friend, who is a very gentle and gracious man, was mostly venting frustration from the sting of this accusation. But he was also honestly trying to resolve the conflict within himself; trying to discern if his hesitancy was truly a reflection of a heart lacking in forgiveness. 

I suspect many self-searching people wrestle with question at one time or another.

The character Samantha James may be on to someting. But what? What is forgiveness? Maybe at least as important, what is forgivenss NOT?

Sam Storms helps us out with that latter question by listing 5 Myths about forgiveness:

  1. Contrary to what many have been led to believe, forgiveness is not forgetting.
  2. Forgiving someone does not mean you no longer feel the pain of their offense.
  3. Forgiving someone who has sinned against you doesn’t mean you cease longing for justice.
  4. Forgiveness does not mean you are to make it easy for the offender to hurt you again.
  5. Forgiveness is rarely a one-time, climactic event. It is most often a life-long process.

This list is an excerpt from a post that originally appeared on the Enjoying God Ministries blog.  To whole article is available in .pdf thanks to the folks at Acts 29 Network. Click: Forgiveness 

In a later post we will consider what Storms says forgiveness is.

3 thoughts on “5 Myths About Forgiveness

  1. Dennis, Tough subject and I think I would take exception to just a couple of the points. ( well who else would ? )

    # 3 longing for justice….Means we have not forgiven ! As long as we long for it are we not in a way hoping the offender gets it in the end…?

    # 4 Why not make yourself available and able to be in a position that could be taken advantage of ? Doesn’t mean it will happen nor certanily should it. But isn’t this somewhat like turning the other ceek ?

    # 1 I have mixed feelings about this one. I believe we should at lease give it a try. I know it’s extremely difficult as I have experienced deep hurt from those who were closest to me and I probably won’t forget but I try. At least it’s not out front and affecting me and I don’t long for justice…don’t think so anyway.

    I think it’s more about perspective and comming to peace with it and not holding on to it. It’s only possible thru Jesus and praying for the person.

    Hard to not forgive / forget and be praying for the person in real ways.

  2. David,

    I am not sure why any of this would be objectionable. Let me elaborate:

    1. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. The fact that someone remembers an offense is not the same as holding it against someone. Perhaps it is nice when someone has no recollection of an incident, but psychologist might rightly call that repression. Further, if one does not even remember an incident then there is no act of swallowing the debt, which is an important aspect of forgiveness. More important, and more the point, many have been told that if they do remember an offense that this alone is not forgiveness. Therefore, many people carry a guilt that they should not have to bear.

    3. Desire for Justice is a reflection of God’s heart. (Micah 6.8) The difference is how we define justice. In the truest sense justice has been satisfied by Christ’s substitutionary atonement for our sin. But a more immediate illustration might be someone who has suffered a violent crime. This person may personally forgive the perpetrator but for the sake of others, and for the sake of society, still recognize that the offender must serve jail time. The recognition that this is right does not mean one is unforgiving.

    4. While one may choose to be long-suffering in one sense, making yourself easily available to be harmed again is neither necessarily wise nor beneficial to the offender. It may just be enabling and tempting. Would you tell a woman whose husband beats her to simply stay and maker herself a target? What if he has harmed her kids? Just stay in the situation? No way!

    It appears to me that you have taken these myths as if they are laws to always be employed. What Storms was offering are corrections to common erroneous notions. Certainly sometimes the opposite of what is offered would be appropriate, and may even be redemptive. But the things on this list does not make one unforgiving. That is the point of the list.

  3. I agree with you. Maybe it’s a choice of words….Longing for justice to me seems to present a picture of person who desires punishment for the wrong done to them. (why not take the wrong ? Didn’t even Paul talk to this) Where does true forgiveness start and stop ? If we are wanting justice for the wrong done to us, it seems to me we are unforgiving. Like justice will chnage anything ! I think the message that Jesus brings to us in the NT is all about forgivness and restoration. Hard to model that if we “long” that a person deserves punishment for an action.

    I’m not saying that they should not suffer consequences for their actions under the law of society. I alos desire social justice for all, but when calling for justice and longing for it, it seems to me the wrong perspective.

    Now longing for the Justice that Jesus will bring one day …. now thats something very different !

    Longing that the person gets what they deserve because of a wrong they have done. Not sure in my mind thats a desireable place to be. I sure would’t want what I derserve…thanks Jesus !

    I didn’t take Storms # 4 in the way you expressed. Again I agree with you in that example. I was more commenting on the issue of being willing to be vulnerable and transparent and willing to be hurt and even taken advantage of if it’s for the cause of Jesus. Now that may be hard to determine for some I know. Probably not an easy thing to discern nor carry out.

    Forgivenss is tough juts because we recall hurt and desire payback. I think that is a natural mans first reaction. But I don’t think thats a very spiritual perspective at all.

    Maybe we can not put wrongs or sins behind us like God does with ours or cast them away as far as the east is from the west and say I will remember them no more….

    But I think forgivenss means we don’t hold it against them and love on them and carry on as if the wrong did not exist.

    Is that hard, oh yah. But are we not called to even love our enemies ? What does that look like ? I think Jesus calls us to look at forgivness, justice, and the associated hurt resulting from wrong acts commited in different ways.

    Until we as Jesus Followers begin to practice true forgivness and yes even justice (because what is justice ? ) we juts act like natural men with their desires and senses of what justice and forgiveness is.

    The woman cought in adultry received both true justice and forgivness. Yet broke the law, really deserved death, and “justice” was about to be served…but for Jesus !

    Probably too carried away here. But these are key issues today and I think Jesus wants us to think differently about forgivness…forgive 7 x’s 7…turn the other cheek, love your enemies, etc… what does all that look like ?

    In all this I long for the justice that Jesus will bring .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s