What Forgiveness Is Not


“Do I have to trust him if I forgive him?” This question reflects one of the reasons people find it difficult to forgive. Being asked to let go of resentment and any desire to hurt someone who hurt us is one thing. But being required on top of that to trust that same person again makes it too hard!

The good news is that forgiving a person and trusting him or her are not two sides of the same coin. That means you are not required to trust a person just because you have forgiven him. The two things are related, but very distinct.

Forgiving focuses on an offense committed in the past. It makes it possible for the wounds you carry in your soul as the result of other people’s actions to heal. It is a decision you make to set yourself free by setting your offender free. Remember, for you to keep a man down in the gutter you have to be down in the gutter yourself.

Because granting forgiveness to another person is something you are doing for yourself, you can grant it freely and unilaterally. The other person can receive it or reject it, but he or she cannot prevent you from granting it and setting yourself free from the emotional prison you are in.

On the other hand, trust relates to the present. It is the measurement of the dependability, truthfulness, and integrity of a man or woman. Since trust is a measurement, it must be based on verifiable evidence and is dependent on a person’s behavior. It, therefore, cannot be subjectively granted. It must be earned.

For this reason, we describe people as “trustworthy.” When we do so we are declaring that they have proven themselves worthy of our trust because of their reliable performance in some area. They have earned our confidence by the manner in which they have conducted themselves.

Search the Scriptures and you will find that even though Jesus commands His followers to forgive everybody who sins against them, He never commands them to place their trust in people blindly. On the contrary, He taught them to be gentle as doves, but wise as serpents.

Regarding who to trust, Jesus taught His disciples not to throw pearls before swine. That is, don’t entrust something of value to someone who will not take care of it. And in the parable of the talents, He made it clear that a person had to demonstrate he could be trusted with a few talents before he would be trusted with much.

Trusting a person with great responsibilities and with important projects and aspects of our lives, who has not proven himself trustworthy, is not spiritual. It is foolish and irresponsible, and could lead to serious and unnecessary harm to that person and to others.

We have to balance trust with responsibility. The greater the responsibility and the greater the risks, the slower we should be to trust and the higher should be the standard the other person must meet in that area.

For example, a person’s word may be all you need to entrust him with your bicycle, but you would be a fool if you did not require a lot more than that person’s word before placing yourself and your family in an airplane for him to fly.

So here is my advice: Forgive lavishly and unilaterally. Then give the people you forgive an opportunity to earn your trust, where possible. Don’t be unreasonably hard, but don’t be naive either. And always balance trust with responsibility.

Hope this helps.

Blessings,
Bishop Johnson

6 Comments on “What Forgiveness Is Not

  1. I believe and agree to everything being posted, but what if the hurt has become a scar that has become your being, a part of who you are, everything you do everywhere you go you are being reminded of this unjust. People judge your character or behavior and you judge yourself because of all of it, please tell me how do you forgive THAT. A person is not forgiven by others because of who they have become because of this pain, but then they have to turn around and forgive the persons who caused the pain, and the ones who don’t understand the pain………..that’s to much on a broken spirit. Help confused.

  2. Bishop, I hear you and I hear you well. Why is it so difficult to forgive when the offender keeps striking over and over again. I understand the word of God about forgiveness,but the pain is so hard to go away and it seems as if it will not go away. Does that mean that a person has not really forgiven????

    • Forgiving is a choice to behave in a loving way toward one that does not deserve it. Forgiving is hard, but not forgiving is much harder on you. It is poison that kills you, not your enemy. If this person is doing you harm, do you have to harm yourself as well?

      You choose to forgive and you continue to reinforce that decision with the words of your mouth. Depending on how deeply wounded you are, your feelings may take a while to change, but that does not mean you have not forgiven. Try praying for the person as well.

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