Forgiveness: Insiders and Outsiders Part III

Is it demanding repayment to remove myself from relationship with someone?


Yesterday we talked about the challenge that some in our community have had processing the way this theory of forgiveness applies to their relationship with their abusive fathers. We said this: it is not demanding repayment to remove yourself from relationship if you are doing so because you've been injured, attempted forgiveness, and have repeatedly met strong resistance. That was the case for each of those people I had spoken to about their fathers.


Moving beyond that particular example, we may ask, when would it be demanding repayment to remove myself from a relationship? When would that be evidence of a lack of forgiveness?


It is, in part, a question of motivation.


Are you removing yourself from relationship in order to punish someone (not because the harm caused is too great to remain relationally close)? Are you removing yourself from relationship in order to inspire a change of behavior in the other person (and, again, not because the forgiveness process itself has broken down)?


It also depends, again, on the type of relationship. The limits Jesus puts on forgiveness (in community relationships) assumes we have tried to come to some understanding about the harm that was caused. If we haven't attempted to come to some kind of understanding then perhaps we're being hasty to withdraw.


If the relationship was an outside the community relationship, then things get a little complicated. Are we talking about a complete stranger? Are we talking about someone with whom you have negative history and baggage? Are we talking about an acquaintance with whom there is no particular baggage or trauma?


I'll unpack these questions tomorrow.