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Tuesday, May 20, 2008
"Trigger-Happy" Forgiveness
"Forgiveness" is an oft-used and frequently mangled, muddied, and misapplied concept within much of Christendom. Many use the term and/or the concept interchangeably or synonymously with reconciliation. This is a mistake. As Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott (Seattle Pacific University) point out in the following excerpt from their fine book, A Good Friend, forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things (food for thought):

"Trigger-happy forgiveness is not forgiveness at all. Given out quickly, too liberally, forgiveness becomes watered down. The quirks and cranks of our friends’ annoying behaviors do not deserve forgiveness. Generosity? Yes. A sense of humor? Yes. Some tolerance? Yes. But not forgiveness. No. Forgiveness is reserved for a more serious mercy. Not for annoyances but for the deeper wrongs friends do us.

There’s another important point about forgiveness: When a good friend forgives another, it doesn’t guarantee reconciliation. Forgiveness requires something of the offender as well as the offended if it is to restore the relationship. My former professor Lewis Smedes is one of the nation’s leading experts on forgiveness. In his best-selling book Forgive and Forget, he said something about what it takes to be reconciled after we forgive:

You hold out your hand to someone who did you wrong, and you say: 'Come on back, I want to be your friend again.” But when they take your hand and cross over the invisible wall that their wrong and your pain built between you, they need to carry something with them as the price of their ticket to your second journey together… What must they bring? They must bring truthfulness. Without truthfulness, your reunion is humbug, your coming together is false.'

Forgiveness will always heal the wound in our memory, regardless of how a friend responds. But reconciliation requires that our friend own up to the truth of his or her fault and see the pain it caused. (Emphasis added.) No mask or manipulation is allowed. If you forgive a friend for breaking a confidence and your friends denies it ever happened, the relationship will remain in limbo. There’s no way around it. Reconciliation is a two-way street, requiring both grace and repentance. And good friends know it–whether they are on the giving or receiving side of forgiveness."

Les and Leslie Parrott, A Good Friend, pp. 75, 76
posted by Euodia at 11:09 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 5/21/2008 07:19:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    If the little stuff of being human and imperfect requires generosity and humor, rather than forgiveness among ourselves, would not the same apply to our relationship with God?

    I think we could relieve alot of false guilt if we didn't feel we stand condemned to hell for simply being human, but rather could abide in the generosity and humor of God, while seeking forgiveness for the significant errors of our ways.

  • At 5/21/2008 01:07:00 PM, Blogger Euodia

    What constitutes "real" guilt (vs. "false" guilt), and why? Or does such thing exist?

  • At 5/21/2008 01:12:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    Good question eudia. I'm not sure it's black and white, but I tend to think "false guilt" is when we feel guilty when we aren't living up to someone else's expectations, whereas real guilt is when we aren't living in a way that is consonant with our own highest values.

  • At 5/22/2008 01:22:00 PM, Blogger Sensuous Wife

    Yes. Great article. I love Leslie Parrott's compassionate heart and brilliant mind. Her book "You Matter More Than You Think" is a cherishable lifesaver. But back to the topic of forgiveness and reconciliation.

    A wise loving counselor once told me this as I was seeking to differentiate the two. She said, "Reconciliation is agreeing on what really happened and and agreeing on how you want to go forward into healing. When you reconcile your bank statement, you and the bank agree on what really happened. And if you want to make changes, you negotiate those changes together."

    Someone who abused me in my past I have forgiven but I have not reconciled with because to this day they do not admit the abuse really happened. I can love them, and bless them, and forgive them, but some things in that relationship will never BE until they admit what they did to me and ask my forgiveness. Do I forgive them? Yes. Do I love them? Yes. Do I trust them? Not on your life.

  • At 5/22/2008 03:47:00 PM, Anonymous chill24

    i began a journey of forgiveness this past year that has truly changed my life. i realized if God places so much importance on forgiveness maybe i should work harder at it. i didn't know what that initially would look like in my life but i wanted to know how it felt.
    i'm discovering it's a freeing feeling from hurt and anger - i did (still am) have to go through pain to get past the pain.
    i'm finding it to be a process of changing how i think about anger, hurt and pain. it's on going and slow yet so worth the effort. i wish i had realized the importance of forgiveness years ago.
    i do agree that reconciliation is different. it's a good thing if possible but not necessary in the process of forgiveness.
    i could go on and on...i'm still learning and love to hear what methods others have in reaching forgiveness.

  • At 5/23/2008 06:20:00 AM, Blogger mel

    Thanks for making this distinction. As sensuous wife probably knows, living in the tension between "already forgiven" and "not reconciled" is a difficult place to be.

  • At 5/23/2008 08:09:00 AM, Blogger Sensuous Wife

    yes mel, it certainly is. You know, what has worked for me is to make it the best armslength relationship it can be and to let myself cry in my husbands arms when I need to let it out. The other thing that has helped IMMENSELY is to ask God to give me other spiritual bonded friendships with lots of appropriate intimate connection. My desire for nonsexual* intimate human connection with the unreconciled person is good. It's by their choices that it cannot happen with them but it can happen with other safe people. No one human can "replace" another but taking my need for intimate connecting friendship seriously and harrassing God in prayer until he gives me that kind of friend has been my saving grace.

    *I added the nonsexual because my screen name and blog make it clear I am a big fan of sexual intimacy with my husband. So I wanted to be clear that the intimate beautiful human sharing of love and thoughts and feelings and support and companionship between friends can be quite powerful and good and nourishing without being eros but instead be phileo and agape. I wanted to avoid any misunderstanding.

    There are lots of ways to get your love tank filled and they are all very important. I've found when my love tank is full because of the good safe people in my life then the loss of the unreconciled relationship is MUCH easier to bear.


  • At 5/30/2008 11:18:00 AM, Blogger Euodia

    Great comments. Great insights.

  • At 5/30/2008 06:11:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    SW, I appreciate the way you expressed the ways a girl can cope with connections than can't be either fully spiritually severed or fully spiritually reconciled in this life


  • At 5/30/2008 06:27:00 PM, Blogger Sensuous Wife

    Gosh, thanks Jemila.

    It has just blown my hat in the creek to realize that my healing doesn't have to hinge on their repentance.

    I really appreciate your affirmation.

  • At 5/31/2008 07:55:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Kwon


  • At 1/20/2010 07:07:00 PM, Anonymous restore the intimate connection

    Very well articulated! Keep it up!


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