April 2018


Exploring Forgiveness Part 2

Exploring Forgiveness (3 part series)

This is part two of a three-part series about forgiveness. This article will explore what is possible when we forgive in an authentic way. And why it’s an important choice to consider. Join me on my “journey” through forgiveness.

Part 2 (freedom and heroes)

In my previous article (HERE), I shared some examples of situations where I had a difficult time finding ANY reason to forgive.  If I can’t find any logical reason that someone deserves forgiveness, why forgive?


For ourselves

FOR OURSELVES! I would shamelessly argue this is one of the primary healthy motivators for us to consider choosing a life of forgiveness. Each of us has a capacity to carry a limited amount of emotions in our hearts. You can carry happiness, love, vengeance, anger, resentment and many other variations of those emotions. It is quite natural for us to have feelings of anger and prioritize this emotion when we have been hurt. Unfortunately, this can get in the way of emotions that would make us much happier. It’s up to you what kind of emotions you will choose to carry in your heart each day.

If your capacity to “feel” is being occupied with seeking “justice” from people who have hurt or offended you, this doesn’t leave much room for more enjoyable emotions like love, joy happiness. Also, it becomes quite difficult to heal from a wound when you continue to carry the blade of justice.  It’s possible to carry both positive and negative emotions toward someone at the same moment. This balancing act is tiresome and can create resentment. Good emotions that we previously had towards another are slowly eaten away by unforgiveness. The wound will become infected if left untreated. Eventually, it will lead to the death of trust and warmth in that relationship.

*NOTE There is a large difference between “forgiving” someone and being reconciled to them. There is also a huge difference between forgiveness and minimizing the offense. See the paragraph at the end of the article for a short explanation.

For Others

When we forgive others we release them from their “debts”. Justice becomes 2nd to grace.  In certain cases, the guilty individual who became cold, unkind, distant or depressed can be freed from these things when we choose forgiveness. There is not always a Hollywood ending when you tell someone you forgive them. Sometimes it reignites a conflict that the offender was hoping to forget, never to be confronted with it again. Of course, when we tell someone we forgive them for specific offenses, it indirectly implies they have done something wrong. For these situations, being forgiven feels the same as admitting guilt.  When we are offered forgiveness, our pride is on the front lines as a defense. Pride becomes one of the first casualties when we accept forgiveness.


Did you ever notice when we watch movies or read stories the person we find ourselves really intrigued with and attracted to is the one who faced some large challenge but managed to rise above it? Usually, this is through some amazing virtue or character trait. Courage, honesty (when it really counted) humility or graciousness are all character traits (virtues) we can have built in ourselves.

There is an old saying that asks “When is a thief, not a thief”? If he stops stealing, is this enough to NOT be a thief? No! Rather, when he has paid back all he had stolen previously and no longer steals. Only then he is NOT a thief. Think of how this applies to forgiveness. Being gracious or forgiving (as a character trait)doesn’t only mean no longer seeking to punish the offender or bring them to justice. No, it means more than that. Choosing to actively express and communicate grace in words and action.

“it becomes quite difficult to heal from a wound while you continue to carry the blade of justice.”


Most faiths advocate for forgiveness in one form or another. In historic Christianity, there is a text where Jesus teaches how much forgiveness should be granted to the same individual. “You should forgive someone 70×7”. An exaggeration to prove a point. If you are wondering if this was meant to imply only people who are sorry for their wrong, probably not. In another verse, Jesus teaches “love your enemies and pray for them”. Enemies are not often apologizing. I defined these teachings as “historic Christianity”. There seems to be a large canyon between this and much of what I see people who call themselves “Christians” following and believing.

There are many positive consequences of making the choice to freely forgive, for both the offended and offender. We also have a choice of what kind of life and legacy we leave. Each person has the freedom to do what they want. Justice may permit us to seek re-payment for our losses. I am not interested in spending a lifetime trying to collect what I may never receive.

I mentioned that there is a large difference between forgiving and reconciling. “Boundaries” by Townsend and Cloud contains an excellent chapter on forgiveness. And the differences between the two. You can see a short excerpt here.

I will publish one last article about some ways you may decide to put your lifestyle of forgiveness into practice. I’d love to hear what motivates you to forgive. You can leave your comments below.



Exploring Forgiveness Part 1

Exploring Forgiveness (3 part series)

This is part one of a three-part series about forgiveness. This article will explore how we define forgiveness. I’ll write two more articles in the coming weeks about what happens when we forgive others in a real way and some ideas on how to do this. Join me on my “journey” through this experience.

Part 1 (A choice of heart or mind?)

I often battle with myself trying to decide what people in what situations are deserving of my forgiveness. I usually start by weighing how severe the “crime” was in contrast to how much “positive” history we have together. Next, I wait for their apology. If an apology comes I usually believe they deserve to be forgiven.

But is this the way I really want to live with those around me? What if an apology never comes? Should forgiveness still be given? What should determine why we FORGIVE or DO NOT forgive? I’m starting to believe that if I use a “justice” based system to approve my choice to forgive. It’s likely not true forgiveness.  I”ll share a few stories that raised this question in my mind.

Justified forgiveness. Is it really forgiveness?

forgiven due to (positive history)

A few years ago, a close friend and confidant revealed information about some of my, hmm… how can I say, less than flattering behavior to some of my family members.This resulted in multiple family members guilting and shaming me because of what I had done. I felt betrayed because I had trusted him with this information and he shared it in a way that brought me pain. Although he committed this act of “treason” against me, we had many years enjoying each other’s friendship. Because of this, I was able to justify forgiving him. Even though he did not apologize. I didn’t ask him for an apology or mention anything to Him about it. It took me a few months to conclude I did not want to risk losing this friendship. I felt sad, angry, disappointed and distant during this time.

forgiven due to (apology)

During my late teenage years. I played in a band with my friend. We scheduled a fairly important show and had been practicing for nearly 2 months in preparation. 1 week before the show my friend called me and said he wasn’t going to play the show. I asked him why, and his answer was simply ” I don’t feel like this is something I want to do any longer” so he was stepping back and would not be playing at our show. It was a huge blow to our relationship. I thought this was a stable and trusting friendship. (note. A musician by definition is NOT stable 🙂  My friend did offer an apology and felt bad that he resigned. In spite of his last-minute breaking of commitment. I deemed him “worthy” of my forgiveness due to his apology. (If we use this method to determine whether forgiveness is offered we will often create an additional challenge for ourselves. Trying to determine if the offender was REALLY sorry, or only just saying they were)

If I only forgive someone when I am able to find a reason why it’s deserved is it really forgiveness? Or am I only trying to preserve what that specific relationship offers me? Maybe I don’t want to risk losing companionship, shared interests, attention, sexual benefits or ______?

What happens when I face a situation where I cannot find a justifiable reason to forgive? Another story…


I grew up in a family similar to many others. For most, it’s a mix of good and bad experiences. This story relates to my mother. My mother had many faults that affected our family in a negative way. The fact that each of us has faults or that they affect those around us negatively is not uncommon. Actually, it’s completely normal. But healthy people take the time to apologize for their wrongs and try harder next time to avoid repeating the same mistakes. (often this requires counseling or other professional therapy).

My mother was not one to apologize. In spite of feeling bad for what she had done or said, she had a very difficult time apologizing or taking responsibility for her hurtful actions. Any number of reasons can make it difficult for someone to apologize even if they feel guilty.(I will try to reveal a bit more about this in article 3). Even as she was suffering from cancer for 3 years that led up to her death (in early 2016). She was unable or unwilling to apologize for most of her wrongs. In this situation, I was faced with a big challenge. As I reflected, I had a list a mile long of things that my mother hurt me or my family with.The list wrongs are long enough and deep enough that I struggle to find justifiable reasons that forgiveness is deserved.

I had to come to terms with the fact that I will never hear an apology from my mother or see her adjust her behavior towards me or my family. I will never see a restoration of healthy family relations. My thoughts could not produce an acceptable solution. I realized that when there is no apology and no change of attitude from the guilty, forgiveness becomes a choice of the heart, not of the mind.

“Forgiveness can only be given or received when we realize that neither others nor ourselves deserve it.”
undeserved favor

Look up the meaning of the word “grace” and you will find an explanation of “undeserved favor”. Ironically, this was one of my mothers’ favorite words. The root of authentic forgiveness is born in the definition of grace. Forgiveness is only possible when we come to terms with the idea that forgiveness cannot be earned or deserved. I think we often resist this idea because deep down we know that WE ALSO will need to be forgiven by others. In some twisted selfishness, I would like to think others will forgive me because I deserve it. Because I was good to them, because I was honest (most of the time). Because I tried to help or be kind in the past. None of this makes us deserving of forgiveness. Forgiveness can only be given or received when we realize that neither others nor ourselves deserve it.

There is a very well written chapter on forgiveness in the book “Boundaries” by Townsend and Cloud. You can see a short excerpt here.

When I reflect on all the wasted months and years carrying anger in my life I can see the loss of so much happiness and enjoyment I could’ve had in my relationships. I am very grateful that I was able to discover this “secret” of forgiveness relatively early in my life. In my next article I”ll talk about the effects of forgiveness on ourselves and others, and why forgiveness may be a good choice even when the offender doesn’t deserve it!  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post or some feedback about how YOU define forgiveness.