Many truths and misconceptions surround the word forgive or forgiveness. We need the truth, but misstatements and misconceptions can get us off track.There are many definitions for the word forgiveness or forgive. Most times our definition comes from our life experiences and upbringing. It comes from our history. No matter the definition the dictionary gives, our personal experience will override that written dictionary explanation.
I’m asking you to go with me for the next few minutes. Right up front let’s establish a common definition for forgive as our reference point for this article, so that we are starting from a common ground. Here is the definition we will work from.
Forgive- (verb) to pardon an offense or offender, cancel the debt or liability
Forgiveness- (noun) something offered to oneself or someone else, the action of forgiving
Now, let’s go through 4 misconceptions about forgiveness.
1. Forgiving is forgetting – Not true.
We have each been given a mind that can remember things that happened when we were small children. Unlike a computer we don’t have a delete button that erases things from the hard drive of our mind. It’s been forty years since I was in the first grade BUT I still remember the offensive things my first grade teacher said to me. Sure I have forgiven her, releasing her from penalty or debt, yet I verbatim remember her words decades later. Forgiving and forgetting are not the same thing.
2. Good feelings go with forgiveness – Not necessarily true.
Forgiving yourself or someone else for an infraction may or may not make you feel better. There is no guarantee that good feelings will follow. In order for good feelings to enter you must release the hurt, pain, angry and disappointment to make room for good feelings. It is not automatic.
3. Forgiveness is a long process – Not true.
To forgive only takes a moment in time. You must make the decision to forgive and then act on that decision. It’s not a long process. Now, what can be a long process is the time it takes to get to a point where you are ready to forgive. Now this process may take you 30 minutes, 30 days or 30 years. You determine that. When your process has run it’s course and you are ready to forgive, you do it in a moments time. It is a free-will choice that you decide to act on.
4. Forgiveness always makes things better – Not true.
Forgiveness does not always make things better between two people. It may grant an individual more peace and resolve over a situation. However, if relationship has been broken, it will need restoration. Restoration of relationship and forgiveness are two different things. If hurt has been inflicted, healing will need to take place. Forgiveness and healing are not the same thing.
I’m sure there are many more misconceptions surrounding forgiveness. Yet, my hope in offering you these four is that you will find some glimmer of hope that allows you to extend forgiveness to others for your sake.
Take the truth of forgiveness and apply it in your life. Without a doubt, you will have opportunity to extend forgiveness. As well, there will come a time when you need to be forgiven. I encourage you to forgive quickly. Do it for you.