Here are some common questions about forgiveness:
1. “Is it wrong to be angry?” It is not necessarily sinful to feel angry. Anger is a warning system alerting us that something is wrong and needs our attention. The key is to not covert angry emotions into angry behavior. Allow your emotions to settle down then seek to address the situation calmly and seek a resolution. Make use of prayer and wise counsel.
2. “Is forgiveness conditional or unconditional?” Jesus commands us to forgive others whether or not they ask for it. We choose to have a forgiving approach to people, releasing them from our right to hurt them back. Whether they are forgiven or not will depend upon their own choices and responses. God holds each person accountable for his or her actions.
3. “Is forgiveness the same as reconciliation?” No, it is not. For reconciliation to take place, there has to be appropriate apologies and a rebuilding of the relationship, which requires an effort from both parties. You may never be reconciled to your enemy.
4. “What about confrontation?” Choosing to be forgiving of others does not mean that we do not appropriately confront them about issues in a relationship. We are called to “speak the truth in love” and this means being appropriately assertive about our feelings.
5. “Should I stay in an abusive relationship?” Abuse of any kind is contrary to God’s commands about loving relationships. Sometimes withdrawal or at least separation from a threatening relationship is necessary to protect your own wellbeing. Also, forgiveness does not mean that an offender is free from the consequences of their actions, especially if there are legal or criminal aspects to a situation.
6. “Do I have to forgive and forget?” Forgiveness does not require forgetting about an offence. Forgiving offences doesn't remove the memory of the hurt but it is a vital part of a healing process that can remove the sting of the offence over time.
7. “If I forgive, what about the consequences for the offender?” Forgiveness does not necessarily mean there are no consequences for an offence. For example, in serious situations, legal consequences are sometimes necessary. Consequences have a protective, corrective and even restorative function. Through forgiveness we release those who have offended us from a personal desire for punitive retribution. However, while expressing forgiveness for past offences, it may still be necessary to protect the victim and society from further harm.
Sample Discussion Questions
1. Reflect on time when someone really offended or hurt you. What happened and how did you feel? What has happened since?
2. How can we constructively handle and respond to angry emotions within ourselves?
3. Consider the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.
4. What are some steps we can take to become more grace-giving and forgiving people?