Defining Forgiveness: Forgiveness Is Not Trusting or Reunion


Forgiveness is not trusting or reunion

This is part two of noting five things that forgiveness is not.  In part one I noted that forgiving is not forgetting or excusing. Here are two more to chew on.

Forgiveness is not trusting.

This might be one of the biggest misunderstandings about forgiveness. I can forgive you immediately but trust takes time. You’ve probably heard it said that forgiveness is free but trust is earned. Trust and forgiveness are mutually exclusive. That means that don’t go hand-in-hand. They can and often do exist apart from each other.

I see this all the time with alcoholics. Let’s say parents forgive their daughter for her drunkenness and destructive lifestyle. But when the daughter comes home to visit they lock the liquor cabinet.  The daughter sees this and gets mad. She says…you said you forgave me but you locked the liquor cabinet. What hypocrites! 

No. They aren’t hypocrites. The parents understand the difference between forgiveness and trust but the daughter doesn’t. The girl broke trust with the parents. Trust needs to be rebuilt over time. But they can forgive immediately because, as we learned earlier this week, to forgive is simply giving up the right to get even.

Forgiveness is not reunion.

Just because I forgive you doesn’t mean that we must automatically get back together as friends. I might forgive you but decide that you have betrayed my trust so much that I can’t be with you. For me to reunite with you would be self-destructive.

I’ve seen this when one person has an affair outside of marriage. Let’s say it’s the wife who had the affair and the husband is gracious enough to forgive her. The wife might assume they can just pick up where they left off but the husband says…

I love you and I do forgive you…but I can’t live with you right now. It’s not just the affair, it’s the five years of lying and deception that surrounded the affair. I need some time apart from you to reestablish my trust in you.

Sometimes you can forgive someone and be immediately restored to them. But sometimes forgiving enables you to separate,  or even move on, from an unhealthy person.  One author summed up reunion like this…

It takes one person to forgive…It takes two to be united. Forgiving happens inside the wounded person…Reunion happens in a relationship between two people. We can forgive a person who never says he is sorry…We cannot be truly reunited unless he is honestly sorry. We can forgive even if we do not trust the person who wronged us once not to wrong us again…Reunion can happen only if we can trust the person who wronged us once not to wrong us again. Forgiving has no strings attached…Reunion has several strings attached.  Lewis Smedes, p. 47, Art of Forgiving

I have one more thing to share in regard to what Forgiveness is Not.  Follow my blog so you don’t miss out! Learn more in my book STUCK.

Question: Do you agree or disagree with this post? Share an example from your experience. Thanks.

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8 thoughts on “Defining Forgiveness: Forgiveness Is Not Trusting or Reunion

  1. B. Graffunder

    My small group was just discussing how, as Christians, we sometimes feel so under-equipped with the tools needed to tackle tough relationship issues in a God-honoring, yet healthy way. These posts have been so appreciated as I seek to establish boundaries with family members. I often fall into a pit as I seek to figure out how to stand up for myself and the desire to not be self-centered and self-serving. When does “love” not equal being used, manipulated, and mistreated and when is it being giving, humble, peace-loving, etc. Sometimes the lines are very blurred! I also have struggled with the “what happens now” after forgiveness has been given. I would love to hear your perspective on how to let-go of an unhealthy relationship (sibling, etc.) in a way that still honors God.

    1. F. Remy Diederich Post author

      I just had that conversation today with someone. Maybe I’ll put that in the “hopper” for a post next week. Thanks. I agree. We are often told to “forgive” and “love” as if we know exactly what that looks like. We don’t. That’s why I think this is such a huge untapped field. This series of posts has sparked a lot of activity this week. They have clearly hit a nerve. I’m glad you are finding encouragement. Keep feeding me ideas!


  2. Anonymous

    I can’t believe I “stumbled” across this series of forgiveness. God works in mysterious ways, my word, grin. I have experienced great hurt, disallusionment etc 2 years ago and yet these articles have struck a nerve as I thought I had gone through the healing process. Obviously not, I realise I have much to learn still about the situation, where my heart and mind is and how to overcome completely and live a free and happy life. Thank you, God !

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