What Forgiveness is Not

You’ve heard it time and time again. Forgive, forget and move on. Easier said than done, my friend, easier said than done.

In a divorced or blended family, forgiveness takes on a whole new depth and dimension. We’re not just talking about snapping at someone rudely for not being ready on time or for leaving something out in the rain or failing to show sympathy. No, divorced or blended family issues have resulted in outcomes that proved to be life-altering. Can adults who were married forgive each other after it all fell apart? Can children of divorced parents forgive those who shifted their world unchangeably on its axis? Can grandparents forgive those who profoundly hurt their children or grandchildren?

There is a misconception out there that says that every time you forgive someone, all will be well and you will be able to continue the relationship where it left off. Sometimes that is true. Sometimes it is that simple and life continues on. Sometimes there will be a change of heart and action. Sometimes the relationship can be restored. This is quite common among friendships and family. But after a divorce, forgiveness is often longer in coming. And that’s okay. It is a hard-fought battle of mind and soul to set aside hurts and anger and bitterness and disappointment to forgive.

Forgiveness is good. It is always to everyone’s benefit. It takes a huge burden off your shoulders. It keeps you from being sucked down in the pit of despair along with ugly enemies like envy and retaliation. It’s biblical. God forgave us and we are to forgive others. It’s freeing.

Here is what forgiveness is NOT.

First, forgiveness is NOT always reconciliation. Yes, sometimes it can be if both parties involved are willing to repent, go through rehabilitation counseling and work hard to right the wrong and restore the relationship. However, in a divorced situation, reconciliation is not often a realistic outcome on the part of the adults, although it is a commonly much-wished outcome from the children. Here’s what I’m trying to say. You can forgive someone who has deeply hurt you thus allowing you to begin healing and moving on in life. That “someone” may never admit they hurt you or accept your forgiveness and that’s okay. You are not responsible for their response. You are only responsible for your actions.

Second, forgiveness does NOT mean what they did was acceptable. Abuse of all kinds. An affair. Addictions. Absenteeism. These choices are never acceptable. Forgiving a spouse or an ‘Ex’ spouse for these things is momentous and can only be done with the help of God in heaven above! Recognizing that you are not to blame for their actions and releasing yourself from any guilt to that end is a huge step for growth and healing.

Third, forgiveness does NOT mean you give up your desire for justice. There is a check and balance system in our hearts and although we do not keep score, we long for justice. Here’s where the value of forgiveness comes in. Forgiveness turns your heart away from vindictiveness towards the one who hurt you and changes it to pity for them. The ‘Ex’ ran off with someone else, doesn’t want to pay child support, and rarely shows up for visitation. Wouldn’t you rather go through the next chapter in your life having forgiven them and feeling pity for them rather than bottling up your anger acting vindictively towards them? Wouldn’t that be better for the kids involved? And the possible future step-parents?

I live this life of a blended family for twelve years. As a custodial step-parent, my family’s world is knocked off-center every so often by the unpredictable vindictive actions of my step-daughter’s biological mother. Whether it be an investigation from CPS, a stream of obscenities screamed in the presence of my step-daughter, a policeman at my front door during an exchange, a lie told in courtroom proceedings, physical assault in a public place…. the list goes on and on. And let me tell you, I pity that woman. I really do. Because I have forgiven her with a clear understanding that forgiveness is NOT reconciliation in this case or saying what’s been done is acceptable. Forgiveness has freed me from vindictiveness (and Technology Man would say the same), while certainly not giving up my desire for justice.

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