I had a good dialogue last week with a friend (Amy Franklin) about forgiveness. She blogged about the topic, and asked the reading world several questions about what it means to forgive, are we supposed to forget, how do we get past the hurt even after we forgive? You can read her original thoughts here.
She got me thinking, and here are the thoughts I left on her blog:
That's a tough one Amy, and one that I'm having to practice again this week in a very real way.
For me, forgiveness has never been about forgetting. Pain lingers. Consequences don't end with a few nice words. A girl might forgive her mom's friend for molesting her over and over...but the guy should still go to jail (and, in my opinion, be castrated) and the girl will never ever forget it. It will mark her for the rest of her life.
I think forgiveness is about releasing the person. You are saying, "I no longer am reserving the right to punish you...I'm releasing you to the hands of God." Forgiveness doesn't mean the relationship can be the same. It doesn't mean you start hanging out with the person. It's an internal deal that the holy spirit works within you.
Sometimes it means going to the individual and letting them know that they are forgiven. But, sometimes they don't even know about it or they have long forgotten it--and in those cases it is a deal between you and Jesus. In those times, I have found it very therapeutic to write a letter to them with no plans of ever delivering it. I explain the depth of the hurt as clearly as I can, and then I release them, forgive them, tell them with God's grace I'll never hold it against them again. The letter stays between me and Jesus--but it helps.
Keep pursuing this. I don't think forgiveness ever gets easy. Bitterness and resentment is usually the path of least resistance. But it also tears you up, makes you cynical, steals your joy, diminishes your health, exposes a critical heart, and ultimately decreases your sensitivity so it is easier to hurt others without even knowing it.
You are on a good path Amy. These are good questions.