With God’s help, I have the power to forgive anything. That doesn’t mean that I’m willing to forgive anything or that it will be easy. And sometimes a wrong is so heinous that it can take the rest of my life to forgive completely. But the possibility is there. My capacity to forgive does not depend on anyone else’s behavior or permission. The person I forgive can continue to be cruel, thoughtless, and relentlessly set against me. But he or she cannot command my spirit to offer or withhold forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a spiritual act, which means that, ultimately, I rely on God’s grace to accomplish it. In fact, my own faults and weaknesses will get in the way of my ability to forgive, especially in some situations. But whatever I’m lacking, God can supply. At times my need for God’s assistance is acute, but when I choose to forgive, my effort does not rely on any other person.
Why Forgiveness and Reconciliation
Reconciliation is a multiple-person process. When I reconcile with another person, both of us must first ask and/or offer forgiveness. But it must go further than that. Both people choose to do whatever it takes to restore the relationship. One person can be completely willing, but if the other person is not willing, reconciliation is not possible. This means that I can forgive someone for damaging our friendship, but perhaps I don’t feel safe enough to resume the friendship. That might happen later, but for now I will forgive and leave it at that.
Or I might forgive and be ready to reconcile, but the other person no longer desires this relationship. Or the other person can forgive me but not want to reconcile; or the other person forgives me but I don’t want to reconcile. It’s worth noting here that some damage occurs in relationships that are out of balance to begin with, such as the friendship in which one person is needy and the other one always comes to the rescue. In such cases, reconciliation—if it should happen at all—will require a complete reconstruction and that only after one or both people have dealt with their individual issues. Reconciliation can be long and painful and messy, but it can also be well worth all the turmoil if the relationship is indeed restored. Sometimes restored relationships are stronger than they were before all the trouble.