Part II – For those who are curious about Forgiveness and the Church:
By Kiersten Williams
Does forgiveness remove the consequence of the aggressor’s actions? I hope your response is a resounding NO! I understand the platitude is tossed around like free candy within many churches’ walls. But the most sacred text of Christianity, the Bible, states that forgiveness does not magically erase the consequence of the aggressor’s actions – though the ultimate consequence was placed elsewhere. The Bible is full of examples of sin and consequences – David was forgiven by God for his sin against Uriah the Hittite (Bathsheba is all I need mention), but the consequence of that horrible action, the unspeakable pain of a lost child, was not removed.
Dr. Worthington is a Christian himself, and has broken down forgiveness in a way that offers relief into some difficult topics. Worthington states that, through his work, he has discovered God does not require emotional forgiveness (decisional forgiveness is required) though He understood the healing that emotional forgiveness provides as well.
Decisional Forgiveness is a conscious choice to work against a non-forgiving stance, and choose to respond differently towards a transgressor, such as treating them like a person of value. Note: this does not mean to behave as you did before. (Sometimes it can simply be the difficult choice to not club the individual over the head with a baseball bat!)
Emotional forgiveness is choosing to replace unforgiveness with other-oriented emotions that are positive. (No, you don’t have to love your transgressor(s), be best friends with them, etc. You can wish them well from halfway across the world!) Also, this is not expected to happen overnight!
Biblically, forgiveness is found throughout the Old and New Testament, though many scriptures in the Old Testament follow sacrifice and offerings for the forgiveness of sins. In the New Testament, Jesus himself responds to Peter about how many times we are to forgive. Is it 7×7? No, but 70×7. Not that we stop after 490 times (though that is a lot of forgiving!) This is more of the point that we are to forgive. I wager to guess that this may also have a significant statement of how forgiveness is often not a one-time act, but it may take a daily devotion towards forgiveness.
Forgiving is not easy, but forgiving leaders, abusers, and those without remorse can be exceptionally difficult. One of the hardest things a transgressee may see is for unrepentant *** to continue and be well received despite the enormous amount of hurt and pain the transgressee has endured. How dare “___” get to move on! The gap of injustice may be too wide to consider forgiveness. In addition to forgiveness, working towards justice, handing it over to God, and seeking reconciliation (if you wish) may allow for forgiveness to come easier. Please know that you are not alone, and that there are many who are willing and waiting to help you through this journey!
I realize that doing this may be easier said than done – but nothing good is ever easy. Dr. Worthington offers many worksheets that you can walk through yourself for forgiveness. However, forgiveness is a journey that can be extremely difficult and potentially triggering as well. A professor of mine stated, it “takes people to make people ill, but it takes people to make people better!” Especially if the injustice gap is great and traumatic, please don’t feel like this is a journey you must take on alone! Call us at Owens and Associates, we would love to help you process the injustice and help you on the road to forgiveness. Don’t do it for the aggressor – do it for you!