| from Lauren Roman |
The difference between forgiveness and reconciliation is often misunderstood. I’ve found this to be true for many adults – and if we don’t understand that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation, we can’t help our kids understand it.
Forgiveness is vital for our spiritual and emotional health. It’s also the exact opposite of what our flesh (human nature) wants to do when we’ve been wronged! Only in the strength of God’s Spirit can we truly forgive… in other words, we need His help.
Forgiveness requires divine assistance.
We know from Scriptures like Matthew 18:21-35 that we are commanded to forgive. We also know that Jesus doesn’t command anything the Holy Spirit can’t, or won’t, empower us to do.
Yet we repeatedly find ourselves acting like the “unmerciful servant” in that passage. When we’ve done something wrong, we want mercy. We’ll beg, plead, and bargain for mercy. Whatever it takes.
But when another person wrongs us… we want justice, not mercy! That’s our default setting. And, depending on the situation, mere justice might not be enough to rebalance the scales.
It’s for good reason that “getting even” is a common euphemism for revenge!
“Vengeance” has the ring of a Medieval relic, doesn’t it? We’re too evolved and sophisticated to seek revenge, aren’t we? Sadly, no. Just because our mechanisms of vengeance are more sophisticated than those of the Dark Ages doesn’t mean we have any less proclivity to darkness.
Generally speaking, our natural human reflex is reciprocation. You raise your voice, I raise mine. You make a biting comment, I do the same. You hit me, I hit you back. We’ve all experienced or witnessed the truism “hurt people hurt people” in some way, even if we didn’t realize the dynamic in play.
This is why forgiveness is essential for every Jesus follower. Forgiveness is the antidote to hurt and anger!
Paul lays this out clearly in Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV): “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Any clear-eyed observer can see this world is permeated with bitterness, anger, and every form of malice. But this world is not our home. Every follower of Jesus is called to forgive others, demonstrating God’s love through kindness and compassion.
We are called to forgive regardless of the offender’s remorse, repentance, or lack thereof. Forgiveness only takes one person. Reconciliation takes two.
Restoration of any relationship requires trust. Trust is built – or rebuilt – by both parties. Look for “teachable moments” to help your kids understand this concept and bring it into their everyday world.
When Justin makes a bad choice that warrants negative consequences, remind him that you love and forgive him… and, once he’s accepted the consequences, you can discuss how to reestablish trust.
If Sally’s angry at a friend who betrayed her confidence and wants to retaliate, hit pause and talk her through it. If the friendship is worth keeping, and the situation can be resolved, they may be able to reconcile. If the breach is irreparable and the friend is unrepentant, Sally still needs to forgive. She can choose to trust God and let it go, while also choosing not to continue the friendship.
We can’t let the uncertainty of reconciliation hold us back from forgiveness.
When we forgive, we’re not giving the offender a “free pass.” We’re relying on God’s strength to free ourselves from the bitterness of unforgiveness.
Author Lauren Roman is a creative communicator, truth teller, and enthusiastic encourager who captivates audiences of all kinds. Her eclectic career began in her teens with a starring role on the ABC soap All My Children, continued with more TV and film (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Nashville, Grace Unplugged), and now encompasses speaking, singing, and writing. Lauren inspires others toward true identity and freedom in Christ, sharing from her own journey as a “recovering perfectionist” with bold transparency, emotion, humor, and practical biblical insights. Uniting ladies of all ages and life stages, she addresses tough topics like recovery, food/body image issues, sexual integrity, identity/self-acceptance, and mental health, sparking important multi-generational conversations. For the past decade, Lauren has delivered impactful keynotes for women, youth, and pro-life ministry events. Her messages reach thousands of parents and families through her role as a Celebrate Kids Associate Writer and Speaker. A lifelong poet, Lauren is thrilled to launch her debut children’s book Think Good, Be Good! in 2021. For more information or to schedule Lauren for your next live or virtual event, please visit: laurenroman.com.