Forgiveness When a Relationship
FORGIVENESS never seemed a struggle for me until I found myself in a situation where wrong had been done to me and there was absolutely no burden felt by the other side. And to give you an indication of how much I’d been blessed by God in the extension of forgiving grace, I’d forgiven a major marital infidelity in my first marriage.
Having attended the ‘church of AA’ at the time, I was skilfully coached through the blessings of journeying with my responsibility and not my blame. Still, to have a partner of over a decade move you out so they could establish a relationship with a new partner, and to reach a place of real forgiveness and understanding in less than nine months, that was God’s blessed grace – a miracle I have no power of explanation for. Though it wavered for a time, I never lost respect for nor the friendship of this first spouse. And, to that end, I thought forgiveness was easy.
But for some issues forgiveness is not easy – and it can seem impossible.
FORGIVING SOMEONE WHO SHARES NO BURDEN OF RESPONSIBILITY
This is the hardest issue; where there’s no responsibility taken for the mess. In such situations where people we’re in conflict with aren’t sorry, and worse, when they can only point their finger at us, we’re left feeling infuriated.
Of course, some people don’t understand because they’ve got no desire to understand; they don’t want to compromise nor see that the way they treated us was uncaring. They may not have a heart to reconcile matters. I’m assuming here that we’re the ones who’ve owned our side of the mess; we’ve done our apologising and reparation.
For some, it’s more important being right than having right relationships. And, even though that is a foolish way to live, we have to respect their right to live as they see fit. But living as we see fit is opposed to God’s purposes, when God would have us reconcile to make the relationship right. Being right is secondary to the relationship in the Lord’s eyes.
RECEIVING AN APOLOGY WE MAY NEVER RECEIVE
Many of us are waiting on an apology we may never receive. I’ve heard many encouraging stories from pastors who, years and even decades later, received someone’s heartfelt apology. We should live in hope that people are close enough to God that his Holy Spirit may convict their hearts to reconcile unreconciled matters. Of course, we need to follow this ourselves, ardently.
In the meantime, we can take their avoidance of us as an indicator that they’re uncomfortable without being sorry. We can take their ongoing mistrust of us as an indicator that they anticipate that we cannot trust them either. We can be thankful that relations don’t need to be close. And yet we ought to pray that one day there would be an opportunity to reconcile.
We don’t know how much we need God’s strength until we have to forgive someone who isn’t sorry, and accept an apology we may never receive.
God’s wisdom bears repeating: it’s better to be in right relationship with people than to be right. When we think we’re right, more often than not we’re wrong. Just thinking that we’re right means we’re blind to the portion of wrong we cannot see.
Relationships are a two-way street, no matter whether it’s family, church or work. One-way relationships only work if the person doing all the work is empowered by God’s grace.