31
Jul
08

Speaking forgiveness

For a long time now I have been drawn repeatedly to the subject of forgiveness. Perhaps because I struggle with it so much myself… both on the extending and the receiving ends. As I feel the urge to lash back at someone who has slighted or wronged me begin to well up inside, I realize how far I yet have to go on the “transformation toward Christ-likeness” journey, as Dallas Willard would call it.

One of the sub-topics of forgiveness that has really puzzled me is this: when I am at last able to forgive someone who has injured me, does it “count” as actual forgiveness if I do not speak that forgiveness directly to them? Can I, in the privacy of my prayer closet alone with God, just forgive Bob without calling Bob or going to visit him and saying, “Bob, I forgive you”?

In one sense, I feel like I am giving myself a “weasel hatch” if I do not go and speak to Bob and offer my forgiveness in person. In a sense I am preserving the ability to change my mind and say, “Nope, sorry. I thought I was going to forgive you, but I’ve changed my mind. You blew it.” It goes without saying that there is absolutely no resemblance between this form of conditional forgiveness and the forgiveness we receive from God DAILY! But many times that awareness does not stop us from being jerks.  On the other hand, making a production out of the act of walking up to Bob, looking him right in the eye, grabbing his one hand with both of my hands and saying, “Bob, I just want you to know that I forgive you,” runs the risk of dredging up the past hurt and renewing the animosity again, or else just emphasizing MY amazing virtue as a wonderful, generous, forgiving person. Either one of those options seems to be completely counter-productive also.

So here is the response that finally bubbled up out of the depths the other day that seems to make some kind of sense… But I would really like to hear from folks about whether this sounds reasonable, biblical, totally a rationalization based on personal whims or just what. Let me know!

OK – it seems to me that what matters most on the topic of forgiveness is, from this point forward, the quality of the interaction you have with Bob, (or fill in the blank with a more pertinent name.) If in your heart, your forgiveness of Bob (and just to be clear, “Bob” is a randomly chosen, fictional name here. I don’t really have a beef right now with any Bobs that I am aware of) is genuine, you cannot help but behave differently toward him. The validation of your forgiveness will be your warmth, your acceptance, your genuine compassion, exhibited toward a person for whom you previously experienced none of those things. And really, isn’t that what finally matters? God will see the depth and genunineness of your forgiveness, so does it really matter that you speak it directly to Bob? I suppose if the subject came up and Bob were to say, “Something is different about you lately… what’s the deal?” you might take advantage of that chance to explain. But I am going to go ahead and lodge my official response today as: “No, the act of forgiveness does not necessarily require that your forgiveness be directly spoken.”

Thoughts?


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