Unpacking a new theory of forgiveness

By my way of thinking, forgiveness is either an action or a lack of action. Depending on circumstances, forgiveness is either 1. treating the wrongdoer as if no offense has occurred or 2. refusing to demand repayment from the wrongdoer.


1. Action.


Minor offenses can be overlooked. When someone leaves dirty dishes in the sink despite the fact that you’ve asked them not to, you honestly do not need to demand repayment (in other words, retaliate). You do not need to make passive aggressive remarks (like I do) about their cleanliness or lack of respect of some such thing like that. You really can go about your business, even if you’re annoyed. It takes discipline and practice, but you can do it. And you can do it because the offense is minor and not worth the additional conflict that comes from demanding repayment. In this way, we may treat our wrongdoer (perhaps an overly harsh term when it comes to minor offenses) as if no wrong has occurred. I am considering this an “active” process because it is all about the ways in which we tangibly (and positively) respond to the wrongdoer.


We may also choose this option for larger harms, if we’re able. But, here are some issues to consider first:


Are you treating your offender as if no wrong has occurred simply to avoid confrontation? (This would be avoidance, not forgiveness.)


Are you treating your offender as if no wrong has occurred because you do not think you deserve to be heard? (This would be a sign that you do not respect yourself, not a sign of forgiveness.)


Are you treating your offender as if no wrong has occurred because you think you deserve the harm you received? (This would be a sign that you have a shame issue to confront elsewhere, not a sign of forgiveness.)


Are you treating your offender as if no wrong has occurred because you’re more concerned with that person’s experience than your own? (This would be a sign of codependency to confront elsewhere, not a sign of forgiveness.)


In short, we want to make sure we’re choosing the appropriate behavior (action vs. inaction) for the proper reason. Forgiveness is never about running away from a problem or denying that a problem even exists. If that is what drives our action (or inaction) then we have misunderstood. Forgiveness is always, always, about confronting the harsh realities of life. We may choose not to retaliate in response to the harsh realities of life but we do so consciously, knowing that this does not minimize the offense but, instead, spreads the love of God over his creation.