Back in 2016, I had a very interesting dream not long after my husband’s mother died. In it, she & I were together, & she tearfully apologized for how badly she had treated me. In the dream, I reacted much as I would if this happened in real life. I said thank you, I appreciate that, but please leave me alone. At that point, she left me alone & I woke up.
Many people would think this is proof I haven’t forgiven her for the abuse & the many problems she caused in my marriage. After all, there wasn’t any sort of affection coming from me. I didn’t hug her & say all is fine now. I was cold & wanted her to leave me alone, just like how I would have behaved if this had happened in my life instead of only in a dream. The truth is that forgiveness isn’t always about forgiving & forgetting, which is what God showed me in this dream. He showed me that forgiving someone doesn’t necessarily mean you are OK with resuming a relationship with that person.
Forgiveness has many facets. You can forgive that person who hurt you accidentally somehow because you know they honestly had no ill intentions towards you. They were truly ignorant of the problems their actions would cause. You also can forgive someone when their actions, although well intentioned, caused you problems that no one could foresee. You also can forgive someone their debt that they can’t repay you. In these instances, if the offending people are apologetic & change their behavior, the relationship can continue as normal. I firmly believe that most people think all forgiveness should be this way, but that is highly unrealistic. Sometimes, in spite of forgiving someone, you need to make changes in the relationship or even end it.
Let’s say a person owed you money then you forgave their debt continually kept trying to borrow more money from you. It would be foolish of you to lend them money & forgive their debt repeatedly, wouldn’t it? The same goes for someone who hurt you, then repeated that behavior even knowing how much it hurt you. It would be foolish to continue to allow this person to hurt you over & over again. You may continue the relationship with people like this, but your boundaries should be much stricter than they had been. Or, you may opt to end the relationship. Either way, your behavior would be reasonable under the circumstances. Also, either way, your behavior isn’t proof that you harbor unforgiveness.
When someone has hurt, used or abused you repeatedly, it is possible to forgive them while not being ready to continue the relationship as it was. Or, if you ended the relationship, it’s possible to forgive them while not being willing to resume a relationship.
I believe that forgiving someone means that you harbor no ill will towards them. You don’t wish the worst on them. You also release them from any expectations of trying to make it up to you for what they have done. If they do, great! If not, that is fine too, but it does mean you need to adjust your behavior in ways that protect you from their bad behavior.
If you have changed or ended a relationship with someone who repeatedly hurts you, please don’t let anyone tell you that you haven’t forgiven them or you should “forgive & forget.” Never forget, there is nothing bad in or wrong with setting boundaries or ending toxic relationships.
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