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June 30, 2009

I know I have forgiven if...

As I read Catherine’s book As We Forgive, it reminded me of the forgiveness issues I have in my life that I daily bring to the foot of the cross. The men and women in her book suffered a great deal; by comparison, my own experiences are nothing. They all have to come to terms with people who did horrific things to them, and I only have to deal with forgiving myself for the poor choices I’ve made in the past.

It made me reflect on the question "How do I know if I have forgiven?" And it revealed once again some of my flawed understanding of forgiveness. Unfortunately, all of us are guilty of such flaws. I wrote down some things to remember about forgiveness:

I know I have forgiven if...

I no longer have feelings of anger or bitterness.
I have asked God to forgive the other person.
I have asked the other person to forgive me.
I have confronted the other person.
I have attempted reconciliation.
I am willing to allow time to heal the wound or get on with life.
I can say “let's just forget about it.”

What's comforting to realize is the fact that I don't have to be flawless to experience God's forgiveness. No one is required to change to be proven worthy of His forgiveness. The only evidence needed is my life submitted to the presence of Christ.

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Rolley Haggard

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” – Mark Twain


Actually, Twain misses the mark with this idea, in that he ignores the essential aspect of will. The violet has no choice in releasing the fragrance. We do have the choice to forgive, or not.

Rolley Haggard


Analogies usually do break down somewhere.

Nonetheless, I always thought Twain’s point was that the same irony occurring when a trampled flower graces with fragrance the heel of the one who crushed it occurs when a victim graces its attacker with forgiveness. True, in the former case there is no voluntary act of grace. But again, the point seemed to be that in either case the result is the opposite of what one would expect in the aftermath of such brutish treatment.

Just my thoughts.

Benjamin Ady

I'm not super comfortable, myself, with using the present perfect tense for forgiveness--at least not with the big life issues stuff. I prefer the present progressive. "I know I am forgiving if ..." would work better for me. I have found much freedom in the realization that forgiveness is a process, and I don't have to finish it or get it right today, or even tomorrow or next year--it's about a direction more than a position.

I think being willing to forget, or being willing to say "Let's just forget about it", can actually be incredibly toxic.


Rolley, I always enjoy your thoughts. Thank you.


Good point, Benjamin.

Jason Bruce

Benjamin- I like what you said, that forgiveness is present progressive, it's not a one time deal. Giving up control of the individual involved in the offending event is hard and with the memories and consequences of the offense to deal with, it may be a daily process to many.

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