what comes after forgiveness? by way of context for the question, i’ve lately had a number of conversations with people – friends who have forgiven cheating exes, who have forgiven violent fathers, who have forgiven offensive and unthought-out comments from boyfriends. i myself have forgiven (and am forgiving) a father who cheated. the question has been the same in each situation – how do we act after forgiving people? do we get back together with them? do we pretend nothing happened? thanks 🙂
This is a fantastic question. A lot of Christians just throw around the idea of forgiveness without actually thinking about what it means to live that out. Kudos to you and your friends for having the faith and courage to dig below the surface on forgiveness.
Before we get to what comes after forgiveness, lets take a look at how we get there. Forgiveness is the end of a process. That process normally includes some anger, maybe some crying, a certain amount of “I don’t want to look at your stupid face” time. All that is okay, and even necessary.
You can’t just skip straight to forgiveness without dealing with the emotional reality of what happened. That doesn’t work. If you just pretend that you aren’t angry or hurt instead of actually working through them, then the forgiveness is just an act and it will eventually give out. Forgiveness is a very different thing than denial.
Ephesians 4:32 says “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” That’s true and good advice. One thing about that verse to notice is that it is the very last verse of the chapter. Paul talks about not letting the sun go down on your anger, which acknowledges that you will feel anger. He says in your anger, don’t sin, which lets us know that feeling anger is not a sin. Forgiveness comes at the end of that processing.
So once you have worked through and landed on forgiveness, now what? An excellent and important question. The answer varies from case to case. Obviously moving past an insensitive comment from a boyfriend is very different than with an abusive parent.
At it’s core forgiveness is about setting you free from holding onto bitterness and hate that will eat away at you. Not every relationship is meant to be restored. Sometimes you forgive and move on. Just because you forgive the ex who cheated doesn’t mean you have to get back together with them. That is something to get wisdom from God about.
One thing to remember in that process is this: forgiveness is given, but trust is earned. If the other party has but no effort into making changes in order to restore the relationship, you don’t owe it to them to put in all the work. If they are willing to apologize, acknowledge what was wrong, and take steps towards making it better, then you can take it a step at the time.
God is with you in that process and we are here for you as well. It is a journey and you will need to get wisdom from God throughout it.
-Matt from The Bridge
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