Forgiveness is an incredibly delicate subject. When one has been deeply wounded, the thought of forgiveness can bring a person from a state of calm to full blown anger in 0.2 seconds. This is mainly due to a huge misconception of what forgiveness truly is. In the last 3 posts in my Live in Freedom series, I have addressed many problems that arise when considering forgiveness. I have brought truth to the forefront. In this last post, I want to explore the idea of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Before we dive in, here are direct links to my last 3 posts on forgiveness:
If you have been reading my posts on forgiveness, I believe I have covered well what forgiveness is. It is a long process in many instances. Forgiveness must be chosen more than one time in some cases. Forgiveness means letting go of trying to get something from someone. It means releasing them to God for Him to deal with and moving on with His calling on your life. Forgiveness is freedom.
When To Seek Reconciliation
But what about reconciliation? If I am to be the ‘good Christian’, ought I not reconcile with everyone?
The easy answer is yes, we should.
But life and situations are rarely ‘easy’, correct?
God always desires for us to have reconciliation with others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we ought to endeavour to reach reconciliation with someone who is willing to recognize that there is a problem and agreeable to be a part of the solution. If someone hurts us, in order for true reconciliation to occur, that person must admit the hurt caused, apologize and seek forgiveness and restoration. If we are the ones who need to apologize, we must do so without delay. The Brother-Offended Checklist is a great resource…not just for kids, but us adults, too.
When I say apologize, I am not talking about a ‘blanket’ apology. Broad apologies rarely accomplish true reconciliation. We need to know exactly what we are apologizing for in order to be truly sorry.
When both parties are willing to acknowledge their wrongdoing and repent of their behaviour, then yes, reconciliation is in order. Christ must be invited in to be mediator – I do this often when my kids have a spat. I encourage them to ask Jesus for wisdom and insight. It is amazing what prayer will do! How the heart softens and changes when we pray with each other!
The other consideration is with whom you are reconciling. Reconciliation with my husband and with my children is non-negotiable. True and full restoration of relationship in these instances is a must. I know my husband’s heart towards me. I fully trust him and his love for me. He is my safe place. Reconciliation with him is easy…we have made it that way.
Reconciliation with my children is also off the table for being optional. As their mother, I am responsible for modeling healthy reconciliation. And that begins with me making the initial steps towards restoration when I have wronged them or when they have wronged me.
When Reconciliation Is Not An Option
However, there are just some people that we should not be seeking reconciliation with. A perfect example can be taken from my story. There is no reasonable basis for me to be in any kind of relationship with those men who abused me as a little girl. This is especially true of abusers who refuse to repent and turn to Christ.
Reconciliation with an offender does not always follow forgiveness, and in many situations, it should not. Scripture says that a person who does evil will not change – at least not without the help of the Holy Spirit.
When The Offer For Reconciliation Is Not Received
I recently had the pleasure of being on the receiving end of some hurtful and unkind words. My apology was rejected and reconciliation did not occur. This was difficult for my people-pleasing personality to accept. I seem to always want things to work out well. I want the other person to be happy, even if it means it is at my expense.
During that time, I was flipping through my Smashbook journal and I glimpsed a quote I had written a couple years back. “If I make an effort to handle conflict well, I can be freed from the pressure to make everything rosy. Don’t force it to end perfectly.” ~Lysa TerKeurst.
My heart needed to hear that piece of wisdom again! I did what I could to reconcile. It was the other person’s responsibility to receive it and to work towards reconciliation as well. I can’t force it…and I had to be ok with that. I continued to keep my focus on my Saviour.
My husband also brought up a very good point. He told me that I did not know what was going on in that person’s life. Marcus kept saying, “There is something else going on there”. My heart needed his wisdom, too! **Thank You, Father, for giving me a Godly man who is full of Your wisdom!! You know just what my heart needed when You gave him to me!
All I can do for this other person is pray for her, pray for God’s healing touch on her life. Reconciliation with her may happen down the road…I would like that. I will continue to pray for this.
When Reconciliation Is Not Healthy…False Reconciliation
Then there is that person with whom you have reconciled with over and over again…and it has gotten you nowhere. That person hasn’t changed. That person does not recognize the wrong they have done nor the pain that they have caused.
I was purging my prayer journal. I tend to keep certain things for a very long time…sermon notes, prayers, requests? Yup, I do keep them!
I found some prayers that I had written out to God. Cries of grief and sorrow. The dates were from the summer of 1999…the summer I had disclosed my abuse. To read those words from a shattered heart brought me back to that time. How broken and destroyed was my soul!
And then, in one letter, I had written these words about a specific person in my life who continued to hurt me…I was asking God why she kept saying such hurtful things to me. In another letter of prayer, I confessed to God that I did not want to be angry about what happened to me because I did not want to be angry and unforgiving like this person. Hmmm…
This person had not changed at all. Still incredibly angry, bitter and unforgiving. After over 25 years of hurtful words, inexcusable behaviour and fits of rage, there cannot be true reconciliation unless there is change and repentance. To repent is to confess sin and turn away from it.
Healthy Boundaries is Essential For A Forgiving Heart
So, for my own emotional and spiritual health and that of my family, boundaries are required and distance necessary. I need to be emotionally present for my children, especially since my oldest is now 14. She needs her mom. She comes to me for advice on many situations. I need to be able to be in a position of healthy functioning in order to assist her. And I often wasn’t when I’d try to reconcile with this individual.
My husband also needs…and longs for…a wife who is living in freedom.
Forgiveness and reconciliation can be a tricky subject. It can be difficult to balance between forgiveness and healthy reconciliation. Each and every case must be presented to God for guidance. In many instances, Godly counsel is advisable. Perhaps a good question to ask to help keep a healthy perspective is this, “Will reconciliation help bring about an abundant life for myself and for my family? Will it help to further the Kingdom of God?” Jesus calls us into an abundant life. Most of the time, reconciliation brings healing and life. If it doesn’t, it is not true reconciliation and ought to be re-examined prayerfully.
The ideal scenario is full reconciliation, with Christ as mediator. But, realistically, it isn’t always possible nor is it always wise. Always seek the Lord on such matters.
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