Forgiveness is not always what we think it is. In fact, when we are faced with a deep hurt that shakes us at our core we wonder if forgiveness is even possible. As we gain a clear understanding of forgiveness, it becomes a lot less complicated.

God’s Word speaks to the topic of forgiveness extensively. Let’s dive into  Scriptures on forgiveness…

forgiveness-is-not

What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a Command

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. -Colossians 3:13

We are called to forgive as the Lord has forgiven us. Forgiveness is canceling a debt. In other words, forgiveness is releasing someone from the punishment or payment of their debt or offense.

Christ paid our debt of sin through His death on the cross. It is through His death on the cross that our sins are forgiven – we are released from the payment of our sins. Jesus did not die on the cross for us because we deserved it. He did it solely out of love for us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16

There are no conditions that must be met by the offender in order for us to forgive. This is good news. It means we are never in a position that we can’t forgive another person. We are free to walk in obedience. Forgiveness is possible No. Matter. What. Whether the offender is sorry or refuses to change, we can choose to forgive.

Forgiving is a choice

Forgiving someone is not a warm, fuzzy feeling (more on that in a minute), rather we make a choice to forgive. If we don’t believe forgiveness is a choice, the ability to forgive can seem out of our control. But be assured, if God calls you to it – you can do it!

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. -2 Peter 1:3

How we actually go about forgiving is a great topic, too! I cover how to go about forgiving in this article. Don’t miss it!

7 Things Forgiveness Is Not

1. Forgiveness is not a feeling.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? -Jeremiah 17:9

If we wait around to feel like forgiving after a deep hurt – those feelings might never come. Feelings are unreliable guides as Jeremiah points out. Don’t wait on your feelings to shift before you make the decision to forgive. As you bring your hurt to God, your feelings will change. 

2.  Forgiving does not mean the same as trust.

The Bible clearly commands that we forgive (Colossians 3:13). Forgiveness is offered unconditionally regardless of the offender’s response. This means we forgive with or without an apology or evidence of change.

Trust, however, is entirely different. It is solely based on tangible evidence of change. In other words, trust is totally conditional. The condition is tangible evidence of repentance and transformation.

When we tangle up trust and forgiveness, we put ourselves in a vulnerable position and high risk of getting hurt again.

Another important thing to know… trust can only be repaired after forgiveness has taken place. In other words – it’s impossible to trust someone when you haven’t forgiven them. More on trust and forgiveness in relationships here.

3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciling.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. -Romans 12:18

I hesitate to say this because the entire Bible is the greatest love story ever told. A story of reconciliation of God and people through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Saying that forgiveness and reconciliation is important to God, would be an understatement.

Yet, people (you, me, everyone) are sinful. Some are unrepentant. As a result, these are relationships that can’t be repaired. It may be unsafe (physically or emotionally) to attempt reconciliation.

In the end, reconciliation is the goal, but reconciliation isn’t necessary to forgiveness. Prayerfully seek God for discernment on reconciling your relationship.

4. Forgiveness does not heal everything in a single moment.

He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. -Psalm 147:3

When the pain of a past hurt still stings, we tend to think we haven’t forgiven the offender. While we make the choice to forgive, it doesn’t mean we instantly feel better. Healing is a journey best done with our heavenly Father. But know this… forgiveness is a necessary ingredient in the healing process.

Without forgiveness, bitterness and resentment begin to take root. That same bitterness and resentment will slow, possibly even stagnate the healing.

5. Forgiving is not forgetting.

Our brain is simply not built to forget. While forgetting would certainly make forgiveness easier, we wouldn’t be relying on the One who can heal our broken hearts.

6. Forgiving is not excusing the offense. Nor is forgiveness condoning the offense.

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “it is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. -Romans 12:19

Many think forgiveness somehow excuses or condones the other person’s offense. Not so! Rather, you are entrusting the outcome to God. Putting the consequences of another’s sin in the hands of God is a demonstration of obedience and trust in God.

I even wonder if forgiveness actually has more benefit for the person who has been hurt. Without forgiveness, the offense has a hold on us, usually more so than the person who actually did the offense.

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. -Ephesians 4:26-27

When we hang on to anger, bitterness and resentment, we are actually giving the enemy the ability to make progress in that area. The anger, bitterness and resentment will only grow. Forgiveness is the antidote. More importantly, it’s God’s best for you.

7. Forgiving is not tolerating.

Forgiving an offense does not mean tolerating behavior that is hurtful. On the contrary, we are called to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). This is for the good of the offender and the offended. In doing so, we mature as the body of Christ.

Wrap Up

When we become clearer on forgiveness, it becomes a lot less complicated. We don’t ave to wait around to feel like forgiving. We can make a choice to forgive, obeying God’s instruction to do so. Forgiveness can be granted without excusing, condoning or continuing to tolerate the behavior.

It is also understood that forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. The choice to forgive doesn’t mean trust is restored or reconciliation is part of the deal. Finally, choosing to step forward in forgiveness will not heal the hurt instantly. But God, can heal the broken-hearted.

Forgiveness is not tolerating
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Do you have anything to add to the list? Leave it in the comments!

22 Comments

  1. Barb on August 14, 2019 at 6:52 am

    Thank you, I love that each statement is met by a scripture. This is a subject we all struggle with and need the word of God to lead us and teach us. Thank you for this very balanced look at a very real issue.

    • Sunshyne on August 14, 2019 at 10:48 am

      Thank you Barb, I appreciate you taking the time to leave encouraging words:)

  2. Carmen Brown on August 14, 2019 at 8:57 am

    I recieved so many different nuggets from this post. Two of my favorite: Forgive is unconditional and you will never be in a position where you can not forgive. Great post!

    • Sunshyne on August 14, 2019 at 10:49 am

      Thank you Carmen!

  3. April on August 14, 2019 at 9:19 am

    Such a great post, wonderful points on forgiveness! There are so many people that struggle in this area and I know that the guidance you’ve provided with the truths from God’s word will be a help to a lot of readers!

  4. Rebecca Jones on August 14, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    I think that you have described it very well. Going back over things is the worst, I do think the devil will accuse us of not forgiving, especially because we just don’t forget. But God knows hearts and that we have. That seventy times seven, add up to even more doesn’t it?

  5. […] {Also check out “what forgiveness is not” here!} […]

  6. Sheryl Gregg on August 16, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    You turned a hard task into a pet puppy or kitten. There is much work required in the subject of FORGIVE. We put our own spins on every detail. We let our emotions become bigger than the insult sometimes. It is confusing and hard.
    I worked through reading The Shack, sermons, Bible studies, and mostly the New Testament Gospels. There are many examples in the OT. But topping to all was, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus forgave Judas in a loving way. He counted to ten with the woman accused of adultery. I love the reward of Joseph in Genesis. What you meant for evil God meant it for good. Many chances to “feel” what forgiveness is. It shows you love yourself, the self that God created you to be. Jesus is love and daily I strive for that. Be Loved.

  7. Ruthann Bond on August 31, 2019 at 9:36 am

    Thank you so much for this!!! Forgiveness is crucial to living in freedom! I sent this to my 2 girls that are going through hard times in their marriages. I believe that if there is not physical abuse in the marriage, then the emotional abuse can be reconciled. That’s where the “choosing” to forgive comes in! Thank you Jesus for healing our broken places and setting us free!!!

    • Laura Lowther on October 29, 2019 at 11:21 am

      I really don’t like to be negative. However physical abuse is seen by others. Emotional abuse is the hardest. Others don’t see what you are going thru. The effects of emotional abuse never go away. It is thought about everyday by those who suffer thru it. It cycles over and over for years.

      Please don’t let your girls suffer. As it says forgiveness is not.forgetting
      Ypu cant forget about the emotional abuse. The scars are there even though you can’t see them. Abuse in any form is still abuse and can hurt for many years. It never goes away. I pray that the abuse.stops and that they no longer must suffer thru it.

    • Holly Fuller on December 24, 2019 at 5:43 pm

      Emotional abuse is just as violent and leaves deep scars. Often forgiving an emotionally abusive spouses sets you up for continued gas lighting.

  8. Sarah- Inkblots of Hope on October 20, 2019 at 11:03 am

    I’m so glad this is out there on the web! There are many things that forgiveness is not: a sentimental feeling inside, instant trust, reconciliation, forgetting the offense… But yet, these are qualities we sometimes hear harped on by very well-intentioned believers as a condition to forgiveness. Forgiveness is a choice to place the burden of an offense onto Christ. Our desire shouldn’t be to get even. Yet from everything that I’ve seen in the Word, it’s also okay to pray for God’s justice if someone isn’t willing to repent, but of course, our desire should be for their redemption. Thank you again for sharing your insights!

    • Sunshyne on November 13, 2019 at 9:24 pm

      Thank you Sarah! I misunderstood forgiveness for far to long in my earlier years- such an important topic in a broken world.

  9. […] Forgiveness does not bring instant healing or a warm fuzzy feeling. It doesn’t mean you tolerate or excuse wrong behavior, either. In fact, there are a lot of things forgiveness is not. […]

  10. […] 7 Things Forgiveness is Not here. […]

  11. 7 Benefits of Forgiveness - Christian Counseling on December 18, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    […] 7 Things Forgiveness is Not […]

  12. Teena Linder on December 28, 2019 at 10:18 pm

    Situation: My older sister has helped to destroy my relationship with my adult children. She feels she was robbed of her childhood because our abusive and neglectful mother expected her to step up and take on the responsibility of the three younger of us siblings. Also recently my older sister and her family were “kicked out” of a nondenominational church for some very bad behavior. I am the oldest of the three younger children. I was singled out, beaten, told how ugly, stupid and anything else negative you can think of. I remember going for many months without any kind of affectionate touch. I’m done. I’m tired of people saying she’s always been that way. She’s never going to change. She will not acknowledge any wrongdoing–her feeling, why apologize, it won’t change anything. Another thing–it’s not a lie if you’re protecting yourself. I cannot do this anymore. Forgiveness, forgiveness, please. I never want to see her again. And how am I supposed to reconcile myself with my Savior? How, oh how can I get back to the one who died for me?

  13. Janis Myers on March 25, 2020 at 1:01 am

    You don’t have to see her again! Cancel any expectations and let God deal with her. Forgiving means you no longer dwell on what a wretch she is. It does not mean she is no longer a wretch. Concentrate on your own health and well-being and bask in God’s love. He loves you as he did at the foundation of the world. It’s hard to accept that when the people who SHOULD have loved you as a child did not, but you can trust Him!

    • Sunshyne on March 25, 2020 at 5:29 pm

      You are right, Janis!

  14. […] Check out these articles on “Scriptures on Forgiveness” and “7 Things Forgiveness is Not”. […]

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