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Corzine-McCloskey: What forgiveness is, and what it isn't

By Cris Corzine-McCloskey
Contributing writer
updated: 6/1/2018 1:43 PM

I believe forgiveness is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the Christian faith. We know we are supposed to do it. Indeed, it is a mandate (Matthew 6:15). But it's a command often ignored. Many have told me they believe they have to forget to forgive.

I've had others tell me they think forgiveness means they have to restore the relationship with someone who is toxic or dangerous. With those standards, I can see why people have quit trying to forgive.

So maybe, if we understood it better, we could practice extending forgiveness. The best explanation I have ever read comes from William P. Young's best-seller, "The Shack." Here is what it said:

"Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person's throat. ... Forgiveness does not create a relationship.

"Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone, you certainly release them from judgment, but without true change, no real relationship can be established ... Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation ... Forgiveness does not excuse anything ... You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less, and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely. And then one day you will pray for his wholeness."

So you see, forgiveness does not mean we overlook the horror of what someone has done, but it does release them to God. And more importantly, it frees us to recover.

Someone I held dear recently betrayed me. It hurt. Badly.

But what hurt worse was the feelings I experienced while holding on to the anger. I completely lost the peace I am used to walking in. I was consumed with toxic thoughts. I was obsessed with thinking about that person (how could they?! After all I've done for them??, etc.).

I lost two nights of sleep and probably gained a pound from stress eating. But the worst part was how distant I felt from Jesus. Not that He went anywhere (He can't leave, He lives inside me) but in my sullen state, I had little desire to talk to Him.

The toll my un-forgiveness took on me was far more egregious than the original offense. That reminded me what a gift forgiveness is. Jesus died to give it to us. He died to restore our relationship with the Father, who forgives us because of Jesus' sacrifice. Then, Jesus moves inside us and enables us to forgive others. Jesus never asks us to do anything that He does not empower us to do. So go ahead, take your hand off that offender's throat, and repeat after me, "I forgive ... I forgive ... I forgive."

Cris Corzine-McCloskey, a licensed clinical social worker, is director of Caring Counseling Ministries, at 11264 Route 37, Marion; a, nonprofit corporation providing counseling from a Biblical perspective at an affordable cost. To reach them call (618) 997-2129.