The Bible has many wonderful verses about forgiveness. They are scattered throughout both the Old & New Testaments
There is a slight problem with these verses though. It isn’t even the verses, but how verses are quoted by some people. I’ll give you an example from my own life. Years ago, my father was in the hospital briefly. I did most of the communicating with the medical staff. Some of the care he received was terrible & I was angry about it. I was also frustrated because as his daughter, there wasn’t much I could do on his behalf. That was my mother’s job & she didn’t seem to want to do anything. One of my father’s sisters called me one day after an especially frustrating time at the hospital. Upon realizing I was angry, she scolded me for being angry. Said I need to let this go & forgive the people who caused my anger & do it NOW. While I did that eventually, that was the lowest priority in my life at that time. My anger helped motivate me to push the staff to treat him better & to push my mother to do what she needed to do as well. It was also reasonable to be angry in that situation, contrary to what my aunt seemed to think. Scolding me for responding appropriately didn’t help & in fact, made the situation worse in a way because then I was also angry with her.
This sort of scenario happens often with people who have been abused when they tell Christians about it. I heard early in my Christian walk that I needed to focus on forgiving my parents & ex husband. In fact, one woman told me, “I don’t know what your problem is. God says forgive so I just do it.” Talk about shame inducing!
It also doesn’t help that many people think to forgive someone always means you “forgive & forget.” That is often the worst thing a person can do!
Forgiveness Scriptures are a wonderful thing, but unfortunately many people misunderstand & misapply them.
For one thing, to forgive someone doesn’t necessarily mean “forgive & forget”. It can, of course, but for small things only. Your best friend forgets your birthday should be one of those, especially if that person has a lot going on in their life & this is the first time it’s happened. Applied to those of us who have been abused however? Forgiving & forgetting is a terrible mistake! Doing so only sets yourself up for further abuse. It also doesn’t give the other person consequences for their actions, so they continue with their bad behavior not only with you but with others as well. This is obviously NOT a good thing!
Forgiveness also doesn’t necessarily equal reconciliation. It can, but it doesn’t have to mean that. Regarding the narcissists in my life, I thought of forgiving them more like forgiving a debt. When someone forgives a debt, that means they no longer expect the borrower to repay them what they owe. In abusive relationships, the abuser does owe the victim at the very least an apology. When you release the abuser from owing you that apology & whatever else they owe you, you have forgiven them. You may still feel some anger towards them, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven them. It means you released them from owing you anything for the suffering they caused. In time, the anger will lessen, but it may not go away entirely. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, because abuse should be something that stirs up anger in everyone!
Also, to truly forgive someone, you have to feel & process your emotions first. Forgiveness can’t truly happen until you do that, I believe. That process can take a long time sometimes, especially when a person has been abused.
Dear Reader, don’t let anyone shame you for not forgiving your abuser quickly enough. I firmly believe that as long as you want to do that & are working on it, God isn’t angry with you. He understands that you simply aren’t able to do it right this moment. He will help you get there too. All you need to do is ask for that help!