Today guest poster Angi Schneider tells her story about forgiveness–what it means and what it doesn’t mean.
Neither my husband nor I grew up in homes where forgiveness was asked for or granted. We really didn’t know what forgiveness is. In my home, we’d have a knock down, drag out fight (literally) and when it was over we’d either say “sorry” or just walk away. Then, we’d carry on with our lives like nothing ever happened. Not the healthiest of situations. (In my parent’s defense, they did not know Christ, and my Mom grew up in an orphanage which doesn’t lend itself to good parenting training.)
When I became a christian as a young adult, I became intrigued with this idea of forgiveness. You see, when I asked for forgiveness from Christ, I not only received forgiveness but I also received peace. Peace was something that just saying “sorry” never gave me… and neither did acting like nothing ever happened.
When our oldest son was a preschooler and would need to apologize to someone, we were amazed at the number of times people would say, “It’s okay.”
Hmmmm, if it were “okay” he wouldn’t need to apologize.
And so we began a quest to instill Biblical forgiveness in our home. And let me tell you, it’s hard. It’s humbling. And it’s so worth it.
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:12-13
Saying “sorry” is not the same as asking for forgiveness.
“Sorry” can mean a lot of different things. It can mean, “Will you please forgive me?” but it can also mean, “I’m sorry I got caught” or “I’m sorry you got your feelings hurt” or as one of my son’s said one time, “I’m sorry you made me so mad I had to hit you.”
Forgiveness starts with repentance. And repentance starts with a realization of wrong doing. When I realize that I have mistreated someone, I have a choice to make. I can either pretend that nothing really happened or I can repent and apologize for what I have done. In our family, it starts something like this: “Husband (or children), I am really sorry I got frustrated (angry, short, etc.) with you. I was not being kind (gentle, patient, compassionate, etc.) to you, the way God wants me to be.”
We need to ask to be forgiven. Of course, forgiveness can be granted without the offender asking for it. But, how will I know forgiveness has been granted? How will I receive the peace that comes from knowing that I’ve been forgiven, if I don’t ask? In our family, we say, “Will you please forgive me?”
We need to grant forgiveness when asked. I know, I know, sometimes you just don’t want to forgive… neither do I… some people just don’t deserve forgiveness. BUT, I didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness and He granted it. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is important – and it brings peace. For our family, the person who was wronged says something like, “I forgive you because Christ has forgiven me.”
For some of you, this may sound forced and insincere. Let me assure you that it’s not. Some of us who didn’t learn about giving and receiving forgiveness from our families need a little structure.
What forgiveness doesn’t mean.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what was done was okay – if it were, you wouldn’t need to ask for forgiveness.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that there are no consequences to the sin. There are always consequences to sin and sometimes receiving forgiveness does not take those consequences away.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that the relationship will be just like it was. Hopefully, the relationship will be better and healthier but that’s because both parties are working on it.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you’re a wimp. On the contrary, it takes a strong person to do something as hard as granting, or seeking forgiveness.
We live in a culture that really doesn’t understand or practice forgiveness, even in the church. Yet, forgiveness is vitally important in order to have healthy relationships.
Angi Schneider is minister’s wife and homeschooling mom to 6 children. She journals their homesteading and homeschooling adventures on her blog, SchneiderPeeps. Angi is also the author of The Gardening Notebook which she wrote to help gardeners keep track of all their gardening information and dreams and The Busy Mom’s Guide ebook series to help other women discover their uniqueness, instead of continually comparing themselves to others –in real life and online.