Forgiveness is, Forgiveness is not

I recently heard a leader within my organization give a great message on forgiveness. Pete Thompson shared four things forgiveness is and four which it is not.

It was a simple yet profound message, always applicable to our lives.

With the focus of NoSuperHeroes being grace, the topic of forgiveness is very closely linked.

I’ll use his points and add my own commentary. Let’s start with the “nots”.

Forgiving is not:

  1. Condoning the actions of the other person. What the other person did was wrong, perhaps even sin. With some acts it might have been immoral or illegal. Forgiving this person does not place your stamp of approval on their behavior. The reason why forgiveness was necessary is because something went amiss.

  2. Forgetting. God is the one who forgets our sins when He forgives us. “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) We are human and we remember. The pain and trauma can fade with time, but the memory will linger.

  3. Reconciling. Forgiving someone does not repair the relationship. It might still be difficult to see the person. Time heals this. I’ve seen many people forgive during camp experiences, then go home expecting a different relationship. The person at home has not had God move in their heart and still may be a jerk!

  4. The same as justice and consequences. It is still possible to forgive and have the offender face the consequences of their actions. Churches and Christian groups have gotten into legal trouble by advocating forgiveness and skipping justice in issues of law. True grace is not the absence of consequences, it allows people to face their decisions so as not to make the same mistake twice. God forgives us, but often there is still fruit of the bad decision which we needs walking out.


Forgiveness is:

  1. A Process. True forgiveness is not a one time prayer, but rather a journey of healing. We might not be ready to fully walk through all the points in this article, but we can begin the process. We need to show grace to the offender, but also be willing to give ourselves grace to grieve, heal, and slowly move on. No formula can tell us how long this takes.

  2. Relinquishing rights for Revenge. We place our trust in God as our defender, our reputation protector, and our avenger. It truly releases control and our rights when we do this. Justice can be served, but revenge is not our to carry.

  3. Turning the Situation over to God. This is a key part in the healing process of point #1. Releasing things to God is when we trust him to take care of things regardless of the outcome. The other person may never come around, but we can find peace and freedom.

  4. Wishing the best for the Person. It is easy to say “bless those who persecute you” or “turn the other cheek” until it is your cheek! Forgiveness comes full circle when we can pray blessings on the person in spite of our pain. Remember, this is a process; perhaps a long one.

Pause today and see if you need to take a step on the process of forgiveness. Even a small step takes you closer in the journey of healing.

Photo By: Ross Griff