I was very resistant to the concept of forgiveness for most of my life, in part, because I had absolutely no interest in reconciling with people who had harmed me. An example I would use was the idea of forgiving a stranger who rapes a woman in a park. Why should she be required to establish a relationship with this man when their only interaction was violent? Why must some sort of relationship (and a positive one at that!) be required of the victim?
God taught me that forgiveness and reconciliation are two different concepts, and one does not necessarily lead to the other. If it were true that forgiveness required reconciliation, then people would be unable to forgive someone who has died or who refuses to have a conversation with them, leaving them bound in their bitterness for reasons that are outside of their control. If reconciliation was a requirement, then the “power” to forgive would be out of our own hands, and that simply is not biblical. God would not command us to do something that we are unable to do.
God has taught me much about forgiveness and reconciliation over the last few years, both with people I reconciled with and through those with whom I have not. I have forgiven all of them (or continue in the process of forgiving them), and whether or not reconciliation has taken place is not an indicator of whether or not I have forgiven them. I will share my experience with two of them without specific details to protect their privacy. My forgiveness of both is complete, but I have reconciled with one but not the other. I have experienced the same healing and freedom from bitterness in both cases. My lack of reconciliation with one of them has not, in any way, impeded my ability to forgive her.
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding up two signs: “Yes or no?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]