Forgiveness: What it is NOT

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Before I continue with my story, let’s talk about forgiveness because it is such a stumbling block for so many Christians. Christian speaker and author Joyce Meyer says that informal polling at her conferences indicates that 80-90% of us are angry with someone.

Why is it so hard for us to forgive others when God so freely forgives us? Here are five of the lies I believed, which kept me from obeying God in forgiving those who hurt me:

Lie #1: Forgiveness = Forgetting

Nowhere in the Bible are we told to “forgive and forget.” I will never forget having been raped and emotionally tormented as a helpless child. After forgiveness, I still remember the wrongs, but those memories no longer carry an emotional punch, just as a scar no longer hurts like an open wound.

Lie #2: Forgiveness = Reconciliation

While I have forgiven everyone who has hurt me, I have not reconciled with all of them. I have reconciled with people who took responsibility for their actions, but I am not in relationships with those who did not. This has not kept me from forgiving them. Just as the father of the lost son was ready for immediate reconciliation after his lost son repented, my forgiveness has positioned me to do the same if and when those people take responsibility and repent.

Lie #3: Forgiveness lets the wrongdoer off the hook.

For many years, I was unable to forgive my child abusers because I thought this was letting them off the hook. I believed that holding onto my bitterness was imposing a penalty on them, but it actually kept me in bondage while they were off living their lives. When I forgave my abusers, their lives did not change, but mine changed radically.

Lie #4: Forgiveness requires the transgressor’s repentance.

Waiting for the transgressor to apologize before forgiving puts the ball in the transgressor’s court, and let’s face it – many are not sorry for what they did. If we had to wait for God to change someone else’s heart before He could heal ours, we might live our entire lives in bondage. Forgiveness only involves you and God. You must be willing to let go of your bitterness, and then God does the heavy lifting of making it happen, regardless of whether the transgressor ever repents.

Lie #5: God will heal your emotional pain while you remain bitter.

As Joyce Meyer has said on her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life, God will give you beauty for ashes, but you don’t get to keep the ashes. If you want to experience God’s healing from the pain, you don’t get to keep the bitterness. It’s an exchange: you give up your “right to be bitter,” and you exchange that bitterness for joy and peace. As someone who has made the exchange, it’s a great deal!

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[Graphic: Cover of Joyce Meyer’s Book, Beauty for Ashes: Receiving Emotional Healing. Courtesy of]