A Ministry of Care by Dr. Daniel G. Bagby

Pastoral Care Guidance for Deacons, Stephen Ministers, and the Congregation of River Road Church, Baptist

Forgiving Others: Issues and Challenges

Issues that affect our willingness to forgive:

  1. We want someone first to take responsibility for the harm or hurt they caused.
  2. Sometimes we want someone to understand the amount of pain caused.
  3. Sometimes the people to forgive are “invisible” or unknown.
  4. In early stages of healing the pain is still too great to “release” the offender.
  5. Sometimes we want the offender to suffer for a while—because we have.
  6. We struggle with whether offering forgiveness takes the deed too lightly—or betrays a cause or person.
  7. A major myth: that withholding forgiveness only harms the offender.
  8. We suspect that forgiving restores a relationship to its original place.
  9. We may believe that forgiving is an expression of weakness.

Presuppositions that shape Biblical forgiveness:

  1. Retaliation does not satisfy; it multiplies injury and alienation.
  2. Unresolved forgiveness injures and debilitates the offended (victim).
  3. Forgiveness assumes taking anger, pain, and sorrow seriously.
  4. Forgiveness is a process, not only an act of the will (first step).
  5. Forgiveness is an expression of strength (not weakness).
  6. Processing forgiveness creates an experience of freedom—not control.
  7. Forgiving need not depend on acknowledgment or accountability.
  8. Initiative in the journey of forgiveness is critical to reconciliation.
  9. Forgiveness does not mean returning to the same prior level of trust with the offender (some people are not capable of our prior level—need boundaries).

Steps in Forgiveness:

  1. Acknowledging the hurt, betrayal, or failure.
  2. Expressing the pain, anger, and sorrow the offense creates.
  3. Employing the anger, pain, and grief as expressions of care in a relationship.
  4. Gradual willingness to let go, heal, and move on.
  5. A redefining of the relationship to account for the change (boundaries, caution, trust, vulnerability): Some people deserve the gift of “partial trust.”
  6. An individual journey, with chapters and a story all its own.