I got an email from a person who was a member of one of the churches where I served previously. They asked a question regarding forgiveness as the result of a previous post I wrote on forgiveness (Click here to read that post for the context of this Q & A). Below is a partial text of their question…
I was looking at your blog and noticed your comments on forgiveness. I’ve really been thinking about this a lot lately. A friend and I were talking recently about forgiveness and we started wondering if we had really experienced forgiveness or just make a choice to not dwell on the negative. I get your point about not wanting to seek revenge and, I believe, this is not an issue for me. However, what is the difference in choosing not to dwell on the past and a negative event(s) and experiencing forgiveness?
Here are some of the thoughts I gave my dear friend…
Is not a part of forgiveness not dwelling on the past and the negative? I think that is what the quote on my blog was getting at.
Forgiveness is not an event, it is a process (You’ve heard that from me before haven’t you?). A process you have to keep working on years after the hurt actually took place. Forgiveness is a conscious choice to treat people as love would have you treat them. Three years after (one event in my life you know about), I still have to work and keep on forgiving people who hurt me and my family deeply. I’m more fortunate than you because I don’t see them face to face regularly. You do, and that would seem to me to make the process take longer.
I have realized something else about forgiveness, I have to take responsibility for MY part in contributing to what people did to wound me and my family. That’s not easy. That takes courage. That takes God revealing to us our blind spots and confessing them to Him and those we have hurt.
I have attempted to do that. The point of me telling you this is that I HAD TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY PART IN WHAT TOOK PLACE. I was not completely innocent and they were not completely responsible. That doesn’t justify what they did nor exhonerate me from my mistakes, it is just part of the process of experiencing forgiveness.
The process of forgiveness includes our own personal confession for what we did that WAS part of the mix. Experincing forgiveness is holistic in nature, it has many facets… many dynamics… and it it not so much focused outward (What peole did TO us) as it is addressing as many of the dynamics as possible of the event that caused our hurt. This includes admitting our own contribution to the event.
It is virtually impossible to exhaust all the elements that go into the process of forgiveness. It is at that point that I rely on the Holy Spirit to apply what is written in 1 John 1:9… “If we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”