Forgiveness isn’t condoning the behavior.
To forgive isn’t saying, “What you did is okay.” It’s saying, “The consequences of your behavior belong to God, not to me.” When you forgive, you transfer the person from your own system of justice to God’s. To forgive is to recognize that the wrong done against you is a debt of sin, and all sin is against God. Therefore, in forgiving, you transfer the debt from your ledger of accounts to God’s, leaving all recompense in his hands.
Forgiveness isn’t forgetting what happened.
It would be foolish to erase from your mind some of the wrongs done to you. If you did, you’d never learn from your experiences and would relive the same situations, and consequently, disappointments. What can eventually be forgotten are the raw emotions associated with the event. When you forgive, the terrible memories and feelings gradually diminish.
Forgiveness isn’t restoring trust.
Trust is earned. To blindly trust someone who’s hurt you is naïve and irresponsible. If a person’s a thief, it’s foolish to give him a key to your house. If he’s a pedophile, you’d be derelict to hire him as a baby-sitter. As such, forgiving a wrong does not mean extending the person an invitation to sin again.
Forgiveness isn’t synonymous with reconciliation.
It’s a necessary step toward reconciliation, yet reconciliation isn’t necessarily the goal of forgiveness. In fact, there are situations where reconciliation is not a good idea. If the other person’s unwilling to reconcile due to bitterness or denial, you can still forgive. But it’s silly, if not dangerous, to seek reconciliation when the other person is unrepentant, unchanging, or unwilling.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean doing the other person a favor.
In Judaism, forgiveness isn’t required unless repentance is demonstrated and pardon is sought. But Jesus raised the standard, commanding that you forgive even those who remain unrepentant.
Forgiveness isn’t easy.
But if you desire to be faithful, you must follow in the footsteps of God, who has forgiven your great offenses. Hopefully by understanding what forgiveness is not, you’ll be better able to honor this great command.