Should I forgive in person or in prayer?

August 2, 2011 — Leave a comment

Jesus took for granted two things in His prayer framework: we are going to sin, and others are going to sin against us (Luke 11:1-4).

We are going to wound and be wounded. Whether with words, or works; eventually we are going to offend or be offended. Jesus placed the forgiveness facet into our prayer, turning the floodlight on our human frailty. Unforgiveness festers and eats away at our faith. Prolonging forgiveness endangers our personal development. We must forgive.

Without delving into the intricacies of forgiveness itself, I’d like to handle one aspect of the forgiveness process. Should we always tell the offender, face to face, we forgive them?

Jesus forgave from the cross, while in conversation with the Father. Jesus instructed us to forgive through the outlet of our daily prayer time. In almost all instances – this is the best method for forgiving others.

It takes a lot of faith to forgive. Especially when considering scarring situations like rape, molestation, and physical abuse. Forgiveness is an emotionally exhausting evolution. With a broad brush, the portrait of personal forgiveness is painted with hurt, anger, Jesus, and finally courage to be compassionate.

Finally you reach the moment of release. Through forgiveness you are mainly releasing yourself; this is a point which must be pondered. Forgiveness helps you more than any other human. You are also setting the offender free. They don’t deserve it, but your emerging discipleship demands it. However, I do not want to minimize the myriad emotions the release moment mounts. Vacillating between vindictive vengeance, and virtuous faith: the victim turns victor by voicing their forgiveness. The process to this moment was painful and you’re fragile.

Face to face forgiveness is faulty. I don’t recommend it – here is why. Mentally you’ve concocted a montage which mirrors your own misery. Tearfully you tear apart the record of their transgression through true forgiveness. Best-case scenario, the offender expresses sadness and godly sorrow for their sin. Perhaps reconciliation is reached and a relationship is recreated.

Worst-case scenario: they repel you. They may refuse reason and their response is littered with rejection and retaliatory remarks. Standing there shocked, scars are split open. A haughty spirit can cause your healing heart to hemorrhage. Past pain begins to seep back into your soul. Their reaction can cause you to go into remission. Mental momentum is now regressing. The venom of vindication begins to poison your psyche.

Walking away from this encounter with your head held high would make you a hero in my eyes. The truth is tragically you may turn down the road from which you have come. A road riddled with rejection, rifts, and retort: retrospection that leads to retrogression. Rebounding from this reversal is tough.

It’s too risky to gamble your spiritual growth by running it through the gauntlet of human responses. You’ve worked too hard and long to get where you are right now. Set yourself free by going to the Father with your forgiveness. He won’t ever let you down with His response.

What do you think? What has your experience with face to face forgiveness taught you?