Diana Murdock recently did a post on her journey to forgiveness that sparked a lot of discussion and has had me mulling over the issue the past couple weeks. Everyone who has ever been wronged and sought how to forgive has come to it in different ways. Everyone’s journey is personal and unique.
I have realized, however, that in our discussions and perceptions of forgiveness and reconciliation, one key ingredient has been missing.
But first, forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. Forgiveness is something you do, in your own mind and heart, a one-way street. Reconciliation is a two-way street. But here’s the really important piece you need–the one who committed the wrong must be repentant. There can be no rebuilding of the relationship without it.
True repentance comes from acknowledging that you did something wrong and actively making changes so you don’t do it again. It is not an apology. “I’m sorry” does not begin to cover the multitude of hurts and wrongs people can inflict upon each other. Even more superficial is saying you’re sorry because you got caught, not because you know what you did was wrong. And what good is an apology if the behavior continues?
Forgiveness is the sole responsibility of the wronged, but repentance is all on the person who did the wrong. Reconciliation is a two-way street with both parties looking deep within themselves and having a change of heart. We have our perceptions backwards. We forgive for the sake of the wrongdoer; we repent or apologize for the sake of the wronged, when really these actions are internal and only benefit us.
Forgiveness releases the hate and the desire for personal vengeance. This doesn’t make life easier for the person we forgive; it heals us. It lets go of the stress and the angst twisting in our gut. Forgiveness doesn’t fix the relationship; it heals our hearts.
Repentance accepts responsibility. It mans-up and refuses to hide behind excuses. This doesn’t ease the pain of the one who was wronged; it frees us from this bondage to lies and pain. When we repent, we can start again, working to be better. It also doesn’t repair the relationship, but it heals our lives.
Only when the above occurs on both sides can reconciliation happen. We do not resume the relationship as though nothing has happened. We do not “forgive and forget.” But, starting anew on both ends, we can rebuild. It’s a slow process, but when both parties are actively engaged, when the transformations are taking place in their hearts, the relationship can be mended.
What about you? What have you thought forgiveness, repentance, and reconciliation meant? If you’re willing, share your story. I love hearing from you!