Only recently I had a fruitful discussion with an old friend I’ve known almost all my life. It’s amazing how life changes, because he and I are almost related through marriage. We discussed forgiveness, exchanging views, learning from each other.
What I didn’t realise at the time was this subject was now primed in my subconscious for a time yet undisclosed--fast forward to Tuesday 6 July this year. On this night I learned something quite basic about forgiveness that I don’t think I’d ever considered before.
It takes two parties to agree before forgiveness (true forgiveness) can be achieved.
Until I’d taken this knowledge on board I was of the belief that it was only up to me to forgive the people who’d hurt me, and it didn’t depend on them at all. I was wrong.
The discussion I had with my friend was a blessing in that he found it untenable that forgiveness could simply be a one-sided issue--and theologically and practically he was right.
What I was espousing was actually acceptance and the work of God’s grace in my own life--and this is enough to experience a vast peace, but it’s still not total relational forgiveness.
An excerpt from a parenting course I’m doing on the subject of forgiveness:
“Forgiveness is a process requiring agreement between two parties. It begins with the one offended, who offers it to the offender... The very essence of forgiveness [toward restoration of the relationship] requires acceptance on the part of the offender.” (Italics in original.)
In my very incomplete personal example there had not been the full cycle toward restoration of the relationship because the offender in my situation was still in a state of non-acceptance. This can only lead us both--both parties to the conflict and possible future restoration--to ongoing conflict.
And this is my ongoing challenge. In keeping the peace in this relationship, it is up to me, for there is little cooperation or consideration at times from the other person. I’m not able to change this situation because the circumstances drive it--I praise God, however, that he’s given me this opportunity as a means of sharpening my character one day at a time.
I have now, through my friend and this course, learned to use the word ‘forgiveness’ more circumspectly. Forgiveness is only part (though a major part) of the restorative process for relationships. It is too easy to see it in isolation, and to see it incompletely, and that’s one thing I’ve learned.
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.
 Gary & Anne Marie Ezzo, Let the Children Come... Along the Virtuous Way: Growing Kids God’s Way (Happy Valley, South Australia: Growing Families Australia, 2002), p. 207.