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Forgive Him?! No Way!

By Barrington Brennen, 1996, 2005


Barrington Brennen

Question: Dear Sir: Every time my partner and I have a fight, afterwards we kiss and make up, apologize and forgive each other. However, the first thing he wants is sex. He feels it is the only way to prove that we have forgiven each other. His idea is that I should ignore the pain I am experiencing. Since I have forgiven him. I must just accept him back into my arms. His faithfulness, and abuse have been going on too long. Does forgiveness mean reconciliation in a destructive, abuse relationship? What is forgiveness?

Answer: Dear Friend, this question can be applied to a male or female in a relationship. Therefore, I will discuss principles to help you understand the true meaning forgiveness and how it applies to a relationship. Forgiveness is often misunderstood by both Christians and non-Christians. One author says: "If thereís one loving action that has to respond despite feelings, itís not forgiving. Because so often we donít feel like forgiving." Letís first state what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not trying to ignore an incident. Thatís indifference. Saying, "Letís just forget it," without offering a basis for forgetting is not to a way to deal with the problem. It is ignoring the problem. Forgiveness is not indifference. Forgiveness is also not agreeing with the wrong. Some people think saying, " I forgive you" really means "I agree with you. What you have done isnít wrong". Thatís not the case. When Christ forgives us, He doesnít pat us on the back and say our sin is ok. This is most important for individuals who are in abuse relationships. Forgiving is releasing from our judgment entirely the one who has hurt us. This also means that in the process we free ourselves from the slavery of bitterness and resentment. This is the reason the act of forgiving is more important for the one who is forgiving that for the one who is being forgiven. Often in an abusive relationship or marital discord, the one who is hurting builds hatred, bitterness and resentment. Sometimes this leads to tremendous stress that brings on physical illnesses like high blood pressure, heart problems, ulcers, etc. Ironically, the one who caused the problem has "forgotten" it and is "doing fine," leaving the victim in continual pain. True forgiveness will release the tension and promote healing.

Richard Walters states in his book, Forgive and Be Free, there are five false ways to forgive. He says false ways exact a terrible toil, robbing us of the peace that should be ours. The first false way to forgive is called forgiving with strings attached. It is when a parent only would forgive the past bad behavior of his teenage son if he shapes up his life. The second false type of forgiveness is called cheap forgiving. It is when one forgives with no expectation for change. Sometimes abusers expect their spouses to give such cheap forgiveness because they do not want to change. The third type of false forgiveness is termed deliberately phony. This is only a pretense of forgiving. The fourth form of false forgiveness is called self-delusion. It is forgiving so far, but no further. The fifth from of false forgiveness is called unaware. It is no realizing the need to forgive.

In order for healing to take place within the heart, one must avoid these false forms of forgiveness. "Forgiving is an act of generosity to the forgiver, not to the person forgiven. Persons who forgive benefit by being able to get on with their lives instead of being stuck in resentment" (Ronald T. Potter-Efron). Many individuals, when demanding forgiveness insist that everything be forgotten. Forgetting is "not a case of holy amnesia which erases the past. No, instead, it is the experience of healing which draws the poison from the wound. You may recall the hurt, but you will not relieve it! (David Augsburger). Forgetting means not keeping a record of wrongs or filing evidence for future use (1 Cor. 13:5). Forgetting means refusing to dwell on the even or to talk about it every chance we get (Phil. 4: 8-9).

Forgetting means looking ahead to fresh new future (Phil 3:13). It means allowing God to erase our painful memories. (Gen 41:51)

Forgiving does not always lead to reconciliation. There are many hurting persons in our country who are afraid to forgive those who have hurt them because they were taught that forgiveness means acceptance of wrong or automatic reconciliation. They get sicker and sicker from the bitterness and pain. True love frees us to heal. For those men who like to confirm forgiveness with sex, remember that forgiveness is a gradual process, not a one time event.




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April 26, 2000, TAGnet / Network Solutions

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