Ep. 181 To Forgive or Not to Forgive – That Is the Question

Shows Main Idea – Forgiveness is for the benefit of the offender and the offended, though its intent does not mean both parties will experience this grace gift. Minimally, the victim should access this means of grace, but getting to this sweet place shalom is not easy.

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Show Notes

You may want to read:

Eight Forgiveness Temptations

(Attitudinal forgiveness releases you from their sin even though they never request forgiveness. Transactional forgiveness is when they do humbly come to you for forgiveness.

Attitudinal forgiveness releases you from the hurt of the other person though they are not forgiven because they do not own the offense or request forgiveness.)

1 – What if I attitudinally forgive the person, but they do not change?

This type of thinking is legalistic. “I will forgive you if you change” is a manipulative attitude (wittingly or unwittingly) that would like to coerce change out of someone. The offender’s repentance is not your ultimate concern because God is the one who grants repentance to people, not you (2 Timothy 2:14-25).

This line of thinking could also point toward fear that motivates you to seek assurances that you won’t be hurt again by this person. It would be better to ask a God-centered question rather than a self-centered one that has self-preservation in view. Your goal must be God-reliance, not self-reliance.

For further study: A Detailed Study in Self-Reliance

2 – What if I attitudinally forgive them, but they do not own their sin?

This question is similar to the first one in that you are attempting to be their god, at least in a functional way. While it’s critical for them to repent of any sin in their lives, your attitude must never be, “I will do right if they do right.”

The longer you “hold out” from doing what you know to do, it will be detrimental to your soul (James 4:17). If God is calling you to attitudinally forgive today, the most useful thing you can do is respond to His loving agitations (Hebrews 3:7).

For further study: When I Kept Silent about My Sin, This Happened

3 – How can I attitudinally forgive them while I’m hurting so badly from what they did to me?

The greater the severity of the offense, the longer the “recovery time.” All sin is not the same consequentially. Some hurts are harder to recover from, as it pertains to the effects. You could think of these offenses as being analogous to death in that there is a grieving season; you cannot make it go any faster.

The more vital question for you is your willingness to forgive. Are you willing is more critical than will you do it now? Harboring bitterness versus an attitude of forgiveness are two wildly different things. If you’re leaning toward sinful anger, you will have a difficult time with them and with God.

For further study: Pre-forgiveness Is a Prerequisite before You Can Genuinely Forgive Someone

4 – If I attitudinally forgive the person, what if they repeat the same offense, which will compound the past hurt?

This question is fear-motivated as you think about your future relationship with this individual (Matthew 6:34). There are two things you must address. The first is your fear and the second are future potential problems.

Crippling fear is a common struggle with all people, and it’s worse when threatening people or painful events enter our lives. I hope to direct you vertically—focus on God—more than horizontal—focus on fear. Our strongest temptations come from our hearts as we fixate on what is in front of us, which is a “horizontal perspective.”

For further study:  A Few Thoughts on an Unchanging Situation

5 – How aware am I that withholding attitudinal forgiveness can be a way of punishing the offender?

Having a healthy, biblical self-suspicion is critical when thinking about those who have hurt you. Our hearts are deceptive, and we’re incredibly loyal to ourselves. Self-preservation is one of our strongest, controlling desires.

Forgiveness is a gift from God that was never meant to be a hammer to hurt others so we can level the playing field—you hurt me so I will hurt you. You must not serve two masters, and if being punitive to another person is one of those masters, you are its slave, which makes you a big loser.

For further study:  A Few Thoughts on an Unchanging Situation

6 – How much of my anger is righteous v. sinful?

You will want to go back to the self-deception issue that I mentioned previously. Because of our high self-loyalty, our typical first response is to call most of our anger righteous.

Submitting your attitude to someone who is not afraid to tell you the truth is a great idea. There are at least three redemptive aspects to righteous anger. They are humility, redemption, and community. You see all three of them when Jesus turned over the tables in the temple Matthew 21:12-16.

  • Could your friend identify humility by the way you talk about the offender?
  • How is your anger “redeeming” a person or situation?
  • When you choose anger, are people afraid of you or drawn to you?

For further study: What Is Righteous Anger?

7 – What does a lack of attitudinal forgiveness reveal about my relationship with God?

This question is the biggest of all, and how you respond to everything that I have written thus far will reveal your relationship with the Lord. For many folks, the hurt that comes into their lives reveals an inadequate relationship with God. They have a crisis in their faith, which is their call to draw near to him.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. – James 4:7-8

For further study: Three Things that Will Crush Your Faith

8 – How should I interact with this person in the future?

Let the offender define the kind of relationship you have with them:

  • If they are humble, your friendship can go deeper.
  • If they are unchanging, you want to move them farther out from your inner circle of friends.

This process does not mean you have to be buddies with the person. Every act of forgiveness does not imply an ongoing relationship.

And you must not let relatives and non-relatives be the primary way that you think about your relationships. The transcendent dividing line is between the saved and lost, those who do the will of God and those who do not.

It is your job to do as much as depends upon you (Romans 12:18), which requires wisdom to how much of your life you let them access or how much you enter into theirs (John 2:24-25).

If you discipline your mind according to these few guidelines (Hebrews 5:12-14), you will see bitterness and other angry sins vanish from your life. And it’s even better than that: you are not dependent on anyone owning their sin and repenting; that is God’s business. You can be free from the nonsense of others whether God ever releases them from their shenanigans.

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