Reduce Rage, Promote Peace: You CAN Forgive

 “How could he do this to us?” Erika wiped the tear tracks from her cheeks and then blew her nose. “I’ve suspected something my whole life. I even asked him about it. He denied ever abusing us.”

“A lot of perpetrators deny it. Sometimes it’s from fear or shame, and some really don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong.”

Erika crossed her arms. “Next thing, you’ll say I have to forgive him. I don’t think so!”

“Why do you say that?”

“Oh, Paul, I don’t—” Erika wiped a stray tear and tried again. “I know the Bible says to forgive those who wrong you. But this? It’s beyond forgiving. I can’t pretend it didn’t happen—not after the ledger.”

“That’s all right. God will never coerce you. He’s not like your father.”

Erika frowned. Coercion. That’s what it was. Her father wouldn’t pay attention to her unless she did what he wanted. It wasn’t love at all.

Paul said, “Let’s talk about forgiveness.” He raised his hand, palm up, to illustrate. “First of all, no matter what you’ve heard, forgiving is not forgetting. Secondly, it isn’t denying the wrong that happened or its effect on you.” He curled a finger down with his other hand for each point he made. “It sure isn’t letting the wrongdoer off the hook. And it isn’t setting yourself up as a doormat to be hurt again.” Now all his fingers were curled into his palm.

Then he opened his hand. “Forgiveness is simply deciding to release the perpetrator’s hold on you by forfeiting your right to judge him. It’s allowing God to be his judge.”  **


the judge's gavel


Does anything in this passage resonate with you? Have you been so deeply hurt that you just know you’ll never be able to forgive?

You’re not alone. The vast majority of people struggle with forgiving.

The chances are good that you don’t really understand forgiveness. Not the way God sees it.


People tell us to “forgive and forget.” Yeah, sure. We’re supposed to forget the horrible stuff that person did to us?

  • It happened, and we know it did.


We are told to justify the incident(s). After all, the perpetrator was deeply wounded himself. He didn’t really mean to hurt us. But what if he did?

  • We know when we are lying to ourselves.


We are told to deny our true feelings. We shouldn’t be so angry about something so minor.

  • But it wasn’t minor to us!


We are told to let the perpetrator off the hook. Compared to eternity, this was just a moment in time.

  • But our lives are short and our pain is real, good Christians or not.


These are all false perceptions of forgiveness. They’re destructive and re-traumatizing. Above all, they negate our honest emotions and do not honor us as people.


Next time: truth about forgiveness.

Part 1 of a 5 part series on forgiveness

Part 1|Reduce Rage, Promote Peace

Part 2| I Shudder to Think About Forgiving

** passage from “Dark Heritage” by CF Sherrow

Illustration courtesy of