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:
- We want someone first to take responsibility for the harm or hurt they caused.
- Sometimes we want someone to understand the amount of pain caused.
- Sometimes the people to forgive are “invisible” or unknown.
- In early stages of healing the pain is still too great to “release” the offender.
- Sometimes we want the offender to suffer for a while—because we have.
- We struggle with whether offering forgiveness takes the deed too lightly—or betrays a cause or person.
- A major myth: that withholding forgiveness only harms the offender.
- We suspect that forgiving restores a relationship to its original place.
- We may believe that forgiving is an expression of weakness.
Presuppositions that shape Biblical forgiveness:
- Retaliation does not satisfy; it multiplies injury and alienation.
- Unresolved forgiveness injures and debilitates the offended (victim).
- Forgiveness assumes taking anger, pain, and sorrow seriously.
- Forgiveness is a process, not only an act of the will (first step).
- Forgiveness is an expression of strength (not weakness).
- Processing forgiveness creates an experience of freedom—not control.
- Forgiving need not depend on acknowledgment or accountability.
- Initiative in the journey of forgiveness is critical to reconciliation.
- 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:
- Acknowledging the hurt, betrayal, or failure.
- Expressing the pain, anger, and sorrow the offense creates.
- Employing the anger, pain, and grief as expressions of care in a relationship.
- Gradual willingness to let go, heal, and move on.
- A redefining of the relationship to account for the change (boundaries, caution, trust, vulnerability): Some people deserve the gift of “partial trust.”
- An individual journey, with chapters and a story all its own.