To Forgive Doesn’t Automatically Mean To Reconcile
Back when I was getting out of my own abusive marriage, I binge-watched Patrick Doyle on the Dove YouTube channel (no longer available). There was one that was particularly helpful in explaining the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation called How Reconciliation Works (again, no longer available.)
This is a subject a lot of Christians are confused about. I know I was.
Here’s the conventional Christian way of thinking:
When someone does something that is hurtful to you, you need to forgive and be good buddies anyway. Even if they aren’t sorry or continue to hurt you, your job is to overlook a multitude of sins, turn the other cheek, and never keep a record of wrongs.
That’s what the Bible says, right?
The only trouble is the Bible says a lot of other things about relationships too. And depending on what’s going on, we will need to respond in wisdom using all of the Word of God as our guide. Not just small parts.
Especially not the small parts that people sometimes use as weapons to control and subdue others.
Patrick begins by pointing out something that was been a game-changer for me. And it’s this: Forgiveness doesn’t = reconciliation. Forgiveness and reconciliation are two separate things.
We can forgive those who sin against us, but forgiveness is something that takes place between the one who has been hurt and God.
Did you catch that? Because I had to pause for a minute and wrap my brain around it.
When someone hurts me, I go to God and work out the forgiveness part. Not the other person. I forgive, not to set the other person free – only God can save people.
I forgive because God wants to set ME free!
This issue was always confusing to me because I thought forgiveness was letting the other person off the hook. Like, they could do something nasty toward me, and I’d forgive them. “Oh, no problemo. I forgive you. Dude, it’s all good.”
And then they’d do something else nasty, and I’d forgive them. “Hey man, it’s okay. Just walk all over me with your crap-caked boots. My name is Creamy Shag Carpet.”
They never had to be sorry. They never had to change. As long as I was doing my Christian duty, they could do whatever they wanted to.
And all of this was supposed to eventually cause a metamorphosis in the other person and give God glory.
So if forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation, then what is reconciliation, and when do we do it?
Reconciliation is when you take a damaged relationship and heal it. When people go through the reconciliation process right, the relationship has the potential to be even stronger than it was before.
Conversely, when the reconciliation process is circumvented by well-meaning but “patch-it-up-quick” folks, the hurt party can become resentful over time, and the relationship isn’t healed; it’s more deeply damaged.
Reconciliation is not a requirement. It’s the desired outcome, but it can only truly take place when four things have happened:
One: The Offender is Convicted by God
How many times do we take things into our own hands and try to play the part of the Holy Spirit?
Both of my hands are raised.
Because putting pressure on someone to be convicted is a wasted effort. It’s not even real conviction.
The person may go through hoops to get you to calm down or go back to the status quo, but they will never, ever, ever, ever change because you pressured them to change.
Ever. So why try?
Conviction is a work of the Holy Spirit, so let Him do it. And if the other person is never convicted of their sin, that’s an important piece of information about their spiritual health that will help you make future decisions about your relationship with them.
Don’t ignore it or make light of it. To never be convicted is serious business.
When a person is convicted by God about his/her sin, they are convicted about specifics, not generalities.
Has anyone ever said to you, “I’m sorry I hurt you all these years” and then expect you to forgive and forget? All is well – let’s move on?
As I tell my kids, “Sorry Charlie, but sorry doesn’t cut it.” A person who is convicted by the Holy Spirit will be remorseful over the specific things they have done without anyone else telling them what those things are!
So it’s never going to go like this: “Hey, just tell me what I did wrong! I’m sorry! I SAID I WAS SORRY! How am I supposed to know what I did wrong if you don’t tell me?”
That is not Holy Spirit inspired. That isn’t a person who has any self-awareness or insight into his/her effect on others.
When we hurt someone, we need to humble ourselves and own our sin. God says “a broken and contrite heart I will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)
Contrition is brokenness over sin. It recognizes that I have failed. I have no rights. I’m wrong. I will take responsibility and change my behavior.
Without this conviction piece, you won’t be able to reconcile with them. Patrick Doyle puts it this way: “There is no hope for reconciliation.” Think about it logically. Is the relationship healed when the offender refuses to repent?
This next part was my Big Lesson in 2015, and God had been trying to teach me this for three decades. I’m a slow learner. I knew it intellectually before 2015, but I didn’t believe it in my heart.
Here is the lesson, and it has two parts: what the offended should never do and what the offended must do.
- The one who is offended must never become the convicter. They need to quit going to the other person in an attempt to deal with them. That is the Holy Spirit’s job.
- The one who is offended absolutely must put the relationship on the altar and be willing to let it go.
Patrick says “The most loving thing you can do to an offender is give them a boundary.” When you give an unrepentant offender a boundary, they fling their stuff on you and go running in the other direction!
So you have to be willing to say goodbye. Until you are, you’ll be stuck trying to make it work by yourself, and that will mean pretending, placating, avoiding, and stuffing.
Do you think that’s a real relationship?
I’ve idolized people, and I’ve wanted their love and approval more than I wanted God and His approval. I had to have the acceptance and even admiration of others.
In my closest relationships since childhood, I have not been willing to let go. I have not wanted to detach. There was something broken in me that had to hang on to those relationships even though I was being used, and they were destructive.
And I loved God desperately! But you see, He sees our hearts, and He knew I didn’t love Him as desperately as I loved approval and acceptance. He wants all of us. Every corner of our being. The wide-open spaces and the dark hidden crevices.
I’m not sure I could make all of this click on my own. I tried, and I couldn’t “get it.” But finally, God flipped on the light switch, and everything fell into place. It made sense, and now I was ready. I let go. Really and truly. And I was FREE! But it did have to be a God-given empowerment. God-given courage.
It’s been several years now since I let go, and those years have progressively moved me in a new, healthier direction in all of my relationships. It has also helped me see more clearly what to keep and what to let go of.
Did I only cover one step? This is getting too long. The next step is all about how you can tell if someone is really sorry.
Do you want help with all this? Consider joining hundreds of other women of faith (who are dealing with the same issues you are in their marriages) in my education and support community, the Flying Free Sisterhood. For only $29 a month, you’ll get weekly classes and coaching, monthly workshops and live online events, and access to a totally private online community forum where you can process all that you’re learning with us.
And if you’re not quite ready for that, I’d love to give you a free copy of the first chapter of my book, Is It Me? Making Sense of Your Confusing Marriage AND the first chapter of the companion workbook. All you need to do is sign up HERE.
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- The Crazy Things Your Pastor or Bible Counselor Told You to Do In Your Abusive Relationship - - […] here’s the thing. Just because someone says they are sorry doesn’t mean you have to be with them anymore.…
- How to Go From Crawling to Flying After Living with Emotional and Spiritual Abuse - - […] I also love Leslie Vernick’s blog, and Self-Care Haven. I also recommend the Youtube Videos by Patrick Doyle. I…
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- Rushing Reconciliation is Rarely Rewarding | Visionary Womanhood - […] Works. In part one we talked about the first step in the reconciliation process: conviction (HERE). Part two focused…
- How Can You Tell if Someone is Sorry – For Real? | Visionary Womanhood - […] ⬅ To Forgive Doesn’t Automatically... […]
Thank you so much for this article, Natalie!!! I could cry with joy at how clear and Scripturally sound this is laid out for me, and the freedom I feel in it. There are a lot of confusing resources out there. I’ve felt so much guilt (and even fear – I mean forgiveness is a command right?!) about setting boundaries with toxic family members, and the subsequent backlash from other family members. Very thankful the Lord led me to this article
Thank you for your article. This alone I have been struggling with. I desire so much to make things right, to just be at peace, that I am sometimes willing to do ANYTHING, even take the blame for it all. I regularly respond to abuse with an explanation for the other person, as if they are unaware. Here’s why it was bad, here’s what you did, here’s what you could’ve done. I’m sure if only you knew how badly this hurt me, how insensitive it was, how self-centered, how dismissive and neglectful, or even disrespectful, you’d change it. If you saw yourself treating someone you loved this way, like your mother, you’d object, or stop it. Then, when that doesn’t work, I think how can I make this my fault instead, so I can apologize and have the person and I okay? Maybe I shouldn’t have sent those emails, explaining. Yes, me overwhelming them is a problem, because I don’t like to be overwhelmed. Do I like to see into what the person is experiencing, and understand more my actions or what happens with them, and how I might help them feel better, or know about a way I can do things better, be more loving, or how I might have hurt them unknowingly? Yes! I like communication. I like improving the way I relate to others. I love self-reflection. BUT this doesn’t mean everyone does. And like you said, I can’t be the Holy Spirit. Are they really sorry? This question really got me. No, he isn’t. He couldn’t even think of anything to apologize for, after creating a similar set-up almost identical, to another where I was deeply traumatized. Even after seeing that, and wondering why I needed to be sad or hurt, or why he needs to tell me to my face what’s going on versus just text me coldly his decision to do something, especially as he tries to heal things with me (supposedly), he just thanked me for being understanding and considering him. Which I did. Of course. I thought of ways he might feel, having too many messages. I thought of the fact he needed to change plans on me after promising me a weekend day away from the city where so many bad things occurred, after we just reconciled somewhat. Even after he told me he might rather do something else, and didn’t explain why or do it in person with care. He just texted me. But here’s the thing. Our situation is one event after another rarely with remorse that is generated inside the other, but maybe from feeling sorry FOR me, because I am in pain. I need to stop being the convincer to change the outcome and put my hope truly 100% in Christ, after a simple explanation of my boundary that was broken and that I am unhappy with something that happened (communication). I recognize that I am willing to do anything to make something work, and one day, that will deplete me. What happens then, when only one person is willing to do anything? I will have spent myself, and be left with nothing but left-over pain and questions, or lack of respect for myself. I have a history of being left by those I love too, because I invest in those who don’t love me with an investment, a risk – my mother, my brother (the unstable ones in my family), my long-term boyfriend who I chose to treat like a husband even though we weren’t married. So, I too hung onto them as if I could love them into loving and respecting me. Always the one to apologize, always the one to try to do something different, be different, appease them, forgive no matter what (which allows them to do whatever they want with no ramifications). Well, I learned what was wrong with that, with my mom eventually, and set healthy boundaries. I got healthy. For a long time. But then, I think being away from my country, alone, and finally realizing it, less time in the Word, and just getting busy, I met someone who ministered to my past wounds in a way that was life-producing. It’s like he was sent to be everything I had not had. And it made me think he was the one. So I attached to this belief, and took that ‘I will do whatever I need to do, and grow & be good enough’ approach to make it work, even when he didn’t deserve to be with me (actions that were emotionally and mentally abusive), and yet… I would always let him come back, without any actual changes (ACTIONS) that showed me I could trust him. He would even say he knew and I had reason, to not trust him, and I shouldn’t allow things like that in my life. However, he would continue to do them. It was SO CONFUSING! But really, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe God was warning me through his words. But then I got pregnant, after so many obedient years of abstinence, making this error in my way, and this created an emotional/spiritual/mental bond/tie that made me go right back to my old way of behaving, where I will carry both people’s sins to make the relationship something maybe it’s not; make it love, make it work. Yet, I can see he loves me. I know I love him. BUT the boundaries I have are never respected. And I don’t know how to make someone respect them. I don’t know what the proper response is. Like, I quit too soon or run from things vs. I enforce a boundary. What does that look like? Now, I tend to do the opposite of what I did initially with him, and after it happened, well I over-explained, but then said right away maybe we shouldn’t be together, we tried, blah blah, and want to bail out soon – whereas he was the one to do that before. Then he agrees with me, vs. does something to come after me, which sure that hurts. But it’s that or what – stay? Stay no matter what? Then do that wrong method. WHAT is the middle reaction? What does that look like? How is it said? How is it that I forgot? Because I have pregnancy brain? How am I even pregnant? Children are gifts from God though, and I’m glad that I am going to see God’s faithfulness and goodness despite my failure, with my obedience and repentance. But my brain is a scrambled mess. But also thank you for this post, it helped me realize again that I can’t just reconcile with him in a day, and it’s rushing the process, all just because he said he’s sorry for leaving me and the baby for 3-4 weeks, saying I’m on my own he won’t be a dad (the same night he said how much he cares for me and wants me in his life, and blah blah, until he heard the words I was pregnant). He has come back another time too, saying he’s sorry he knows he hurt me but he panicked. So, I forgave. Because I want to forgive. It’s like my skill. I can forgive and move past things quite well. But then, it makes me look stupid, and I always feel stupid – because I just want to get along and be okay with someone. But then, I just…I was like this with my students too. Every day the naughty ones could do whatever they did, and the next day, I was just over it and happy with them. I had to learn that I had to make consequences, because there being no cost hurt their understanding of the incident or actions they chose. But I just loved them. But love is also discipline. I learned that years ago. Anyway, sorry this is incoherent probably. My skills to communicate clearly have been impaired lately, it’s like I’m not even myself. I just need Christian counseling, which may not even exist here in this city in Chile. I need to save money and go back to the USA where I have a huge network of Christian friends. THAT is part of how this happened. I was entirely without my support system (before I was their support; I guess I never knew I needed it too), and without those who think similarly with similar values. It’s so important to have a community of believers. We are not an island. Something he’s shown me through this. I truly have been without much need of anyone for years, just serving, healthy, always so close to God, and I felt fulfilled. Not that I didn’t need to have friends or something, but I just didn’t lean on others for my spiritual or mental well-being. Maybe this season is teaching even more dependence or reliance on others. But that has been a terrible thing for me – and I don’t like to have that. But now, with a kid coming, I must. But who is safe? OMG. It was so much easier when I was just there for everyone else, serving, helping, counseling. Now it’s like I’m a maniac. :/ Anyway, there’s my first my public post/comment about the state of my being. Please pray I develop a healthy habit of responding and put in God’s hand the responsibility to explain and convict, and if the other person isn’t ever convicted, that I set up boundaries and don’t engage again for love. Bless your ministry. Thanks.
I’m so sorry for all that you’ve been through. It’s exhausting to live with so much confusion and conflicting thoughts and beliefs. I’d love to continue connecting with you via email – I send out links to articles and podcast episodes that would all be helpful for you in clearing up some of that confusion. You can sign up on the top of the website here. When you sign up, I send you the first three chapters of my book free.
I’m a Man, & this article has brought the silver lining & closure to my last relationship in where I almost lost myself & could have damned me to the depths of hell. Thank You JESUS for using Natalie to interpret Your message for us all. +men+
I appreciate this article so much. I was terribly physically, verbally, emotionally, spuritually, and sexually abused as a little girl at the hands if my father and sexually abused by some family members if his. He was a “Pastor” and self priclaimed man of God, which has caused me great confusion in my adult years in regards to my relationship with Christ. I am 48 now, and have gone through a lot of healing to get to this place, but I know in my heart that I have forgiven my father. I believe he is not mentally well and suffered great abuse at his own father’s hands. I do have compassion for what he must have endured as a little boy. I am sad for that little boy. I have known in my heart for quite some time that forgiving does not mean allowing that person to continue the harm to you. I have wirked hard to heal….it is no small task. I know that he remains a toxic person based on his years of repetitive patterns of abuse towards others and his inability to own his behaviors without placing blame of them onto others. Ie. I know I hurt you but it’s because I was hurt, so really not my fault, kind of mentality. I have a hard-stop when it comes to allowing people into my life who cannot own their vhoices and actions. This is toxic behavior and is not healthy to be around. I have made peace that I don’t have a dad. It has been a sad fact to cone to terms with, but I cannot and will not pretend it is someting it is not. I have felt for years that Christian mentality is to forgive and reconcile and if reconciliation isn’t done then you clearly haven’t truly forgiven. I’m happy to see that there are those who know and understand that Forgiveness does NOT equal Reconciliation.
I totally get that. Just over a year ago, I escaped from an emotionally, sexually, spiritually abusive relationship with my dad too. I’m only 15, my mom came with me. Since then, I have had people tell me that I NEED to reconcile with my dad, who is now in prison, and since I’ve forgiven him, I should restore the relationship. I’ve had people tell me that if I had really forgiven him, I’d work to restore the relationship, and since I’m not trying to, then I have not forgiven him. It’s really frustrating sometimes. He’s made me question my worth, I’d attempted suicide over 10 times before I reported him, he made me question my identity in Christ, and my belonging. It was really messy, but I’m working on getting things sorted out. This article helped me with any doubts I was having about the choices I was making about that forgiveness=reconciliation thing.
I can 100 percent relate to you.im the exact same way..we should forgive and move out the way for the holyspirit to do his work in the other person.we should never think we can solve the inner turmoil that causes others to hurt others God will use us as vessels alot of times but a broken spirit iftom the holy spirit is what causes change .. I’ve decided to forgive but stay away for my own safety … When total repentance comes from the offender the actions of the offender will change .
I stumbled across this article while doing a search for reconciliation. My search entry ” I don’t want to reconcile with my sister in Christ”. What a terrible thought right? My situation is different in that I took up someone else’s offense and have carried it with them for four years. The problem began when I chose to support adult children who were in a difficult relationship with their family and still lived at home. I allowed myself to become emotionally involved and stood with them against their parents. It didn’t start that way by any means but it quickly turned that way once these individuals chose to leave their family home and pursue their own direction. (It’s a long story I won’t bore you with details) I know that my being a part of this has caused the family a great deal of pain and it has caused division within their family and with myself and their parents who attend my church. They have asked to be reconciled and I have been working towards identifying my own sin in this situation and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in my heart to expose areas where I have sinned against God and those who are requesting reconciliation. It’s not been an easy process, and I know it shouldn’t, but I’ve been resistant to reconcile solely because I don’t really want an intimate relationship with people who I feel were wrong and have not been convicted of THEIR part in the conflict. I told you it was different!! Although I have felt convicted about my sin I haven’t truly repented of the root of my sin. I haven’t identified the real reason I don’t want reconciliation. I have even said to those I’ve counseled with that I don’t need their forgiveness because God has already forgiven me. What a wretched sinner I am!! I know God is working in my heart and that eventually, something good will come out of all of this but right now its a work in progress.
I think I can see what you are saying. And I’ve gone through similar situations. I believe you can take care of your part in a problematic circumstance – personal responsibility is always a healthy, mature thing. However, if they are not taking care of their part in the mess, then you are not obligated to be reconciled. Reconciliation takes two repentant people. Or, in the case of abuse, it takes repentance on the part of the abuser since the victim has already groveled and sorrowed over their “sin” for years as part of the abuse dynamic.
Also, I have had a situation where I took care of my part and the other party took care of theirs, but I had been used by this person too many times already, and I no longer trusted them. So while we were “reconciled” in a technical way, I no longer allowed that relationship to continue the way it had before, and it eventually disintegrated over time – not in a bad way, but because we no longer communicated. I think that’s pretty normal.
Bottom line: you get to decide how to use the hours of your days because they have been given to you by God to steward. That means you get to decide WHO you spend those hours with. The Bible has a lot to say about our companions and how they affect our lives. Jesus didn’t hang out with every Tom, Dick, and Harry that came across His path. He chose who to spend His hours on earth with. You do the same.
Your article helped me so much in accepting the estrangement with my parents. Your point that forgiveness doesn’t always include reconciliation and that forgiveness is between you and God… those two points really hit home for me. Also, I don’t feel so alone in this. And I don’t feel so guilty. There is hope that God can set me free from this guilt and pain because it is for my benefit to let these people go.. for my emotional and mental health. It’s not healthy to be surrounded by mentally unstable people. Even if they are your family. As much as it hurts. As embarrassing as it is. As guilty as you are about it. It is the right decision. I am learning to forgive. But this does not mean that I will be willing to accept them back into my life to allow them to do more damage. Thank you so much for helping me through all of this. God bless, Danielle
Thank you!! What a helpful post!! And thank you for citing your source: Patrick Doyle. He is new to me, and I think he is a good find. God bless you on your journey to forgiveness!!
You show no scripture to your thoughts. I want scripture to know if I forgive someone so I have to be friends and love them.
Well, actually there is Scripture in this article. Do you see something in this article that contradicts Scripture? Also, this is just the first post in a series. If you click on the link at the bottom you can read more.
Geeze I needed this…..my wife has all but wiped me out. Wow forgiveness isn’t reconciliation……wrapping this around my head I thank and trust Holy Spirit guidance. This has broken something in me that was emotionally cancerous, a killer. Wow what a revelation.
THank you for sharing 🙂 <3 xoxoxox
I found your FB group last night from a friend of mine sending me articles from it. Wow. It’s exciting and scary to read at the same time because it rings so true. Please pray for me as my eyes are being opened.
This was very helpful and has clarified some things for me. It is indeed not my job to convict people, and I have been doing this for many years! Oh no! I have this friend whom I brought to Christ 7 years ago. Ever since, I’ve been trying to tell him to continually seek God through attending church services, joining spiritual trainings, reading his bible and some inspirational books. Almost each year there’d be a season where he’d seem lukewarm and I’d be upset and reprimand him but over the years I started to tone down my voice and began trying to be gentler in confronting him, and after “rebuking” him I’d tell him that’s it’s only because I care too much about him and his spirituality. Some of our talks have been productive, but most of the time I’d still feel as if nothing has changed. All these years I’ve been trying to change him and manipulate him – and when things don’t go my way I’d feel rejected and unappreciated for my efforts. No wonder there hasn’t been much progress in our relationship for the past 7 years. It’s like we just go through the same cycle every year. How liberating to have read this. Holy Spirit, please forgive me for taking your place! I really am sorry. If only I could have done things better. May the Lord help me to change continually. May He remove the sin of idolatry in my life, Oh Lord help me! Save me from myself, Lord! And thank you for reminding me today.
Last weekend my husband and I celebrated our 35 Anniversary by renewing our vows. We did the whole white wedding dress rings and everything, because we didn’t have that the first time, and because my husband was just listed for a heart transplant and we felt it would be happy memories to look back on in the hard days ahead. Both my Mom and one sister instantly made excuses why they couldn’t attend, but the real pain came when neither one even contacted me on our big day. 2 days before our wedding, my sister and her husband asked for payment of a loan they gave us back in April. We did not ask for the loan, and they said we could pay it back when Jim gets his disability. We just heard the day before the wedding he is finally approved , and will get the first check in November. I am reeling between pain and anger and both of my sisters are pressuring me to talk it out. I feel that if I couldn’t count on them to stand with me on one of the happiest days of my life, how can I rely on them to be there when Jim gets his new heart. I really need God’s wisdom and guidance, and am grateful for all prayers!
Stephanie, My heart aches for you and your husband.
Honestly, I don’t think you can rely on your family to be there for you when Jim has his transplant.
I will be praying for you — I’ve been alienated by my adult children and their spouses. They visit me for a couple of hours but spend most of their time with the man I married who remains here but we are non-verbal.
Stephanie – your family sounds selfish just like my family has become. I have received both secular and Biblical counseling. Some good and bad, however most of them diagnosed the selfishness of the family which also includes my siblings.
May the Lord protect you and your husband from more emotional pain. Hang on to each other as God would have you do. The Lord is your strength. ((hugs)) <3 Wish I lived closer to be a 'friend' for you.
Thank you so much for your article. I have a sibling who has been extremely abusive to me in the past although they get along very well with our other siblings. I chose to cut off the relationship a number of years ago. I finally forgave them through prayer but one of the other siblings was always on me to renew the broken relationship. The reasoning you wrote about is what I have been trying to get my sibling to understand. I can forgive but I don’t have to have any contact with or interaction with the sibling who abused me and accused me of doing all kinds of horrible stuff. You have reinforced my heart and mind. Thank you so much!!
The truth almost always resonates with our common sense of rightness. It brings peace and not turmoil. I am also estranged from one sibling, and I have no guilt about that anymore whatsoever. It hurts to not have the ideal, warm, loving, connected family, but at least there is inner peace in understanding the truth.
I have read your article because we are discussing in Sunday School ” if someone wrongs you” and you forgive them and reconcile with them. Are you to ever remember that wrong again? Please send me scripture to support the answer.
How does this work when the offender is your husband? No conviction by the Holy Spirit, and never true repentance for grievous sins against me.
That’s who this blog is for. Women who are married to a man like this. I hope you’ll read some of the other articles here to find out more about the dynamic going on in your marriage. Here’s a good place to start: https://flyingfreenow.com/tale-two-women/
What a blessing this is for me. I would like to staple this article to my forehead for the “hurry up and reconcile” people in my life. I had to cut ties with my abusive sisters and some of my ‘Christian’ family members say I am wrong for it. Though my siblings NEVER apologize and continue the same abusive behaviors toward me, and sometimes my husband, I am expected to be a good Christian and forget about it almost immediately. Because I find that impossible to do I started to think that something was wrong with me. I’m not crazy for protecting myself. I’m not crazy for setting boundaries. I’m not crazy for deciding that reconciliation is not all on me. Thank you, Natalie.
Thank you so much!! What you said is truly liberating. I come from a very dysfunctional christian family. I see what you are saying. I can’t forgive them on my own. I have to ask God to help me to forgive them, lay them at the altar and let them go. Thanks again, I no longer feel like a guilty sinner on my way to hell by wanting out of this dysfunction.
Thanks for this indepth study on the important subject of “Forgiveness” that has been misunderstood by many., and abused by many to the hurting/,breaking of many hearts
A few questions for clarification on some Scriptures and my own comments:-
1) The Bible talks of Justification by Faith.
This is the work of God.
Inthe Plan of Salvation, no one becomes perfect once they accept Christ as their Saviour and Lord. This means we will continue hurting one another, repenting and confessing.
Please clarify what it means “,to let go so we may be free”
Because what do we do in family set ups where.people live together? Aren’t, we to say sorry to each other ? Since this to your explanation is patch work?
2)I agree that conviction that one has done wrong is the work of the Holy Spirit.
But What is the meaning of James 5:16; Matthew.18:15-17? If we are not to tell each other our faults and leave it as the work of the Holy Spirit?
3) What does Eph.4:30-32 mean? Can we we truly forgive yet continue to be resentful, bitter and angry towards the offender?
4) What does 1Corin. 13:4-8; especially vs.5: love is not easily provoked?” and Matthew 5:43-48? mean?
5). When the Bible talks of reconciliation, it begins with God, we cannot be buddies with people who continue hurting us forever are to live ourselves as we love others. So far so good.
But what do we do with spouses and family members who continue to do us wrong even after saying sorry and we have nowhere else to go.
In marriage it wd mean us separating from that spouse, but does the Bible sanction this unless it is in serious cases of emotional or physical abuse? Otherwise no marriage wd last on this earth then.
6) So how do we protect ourselves from people who hurt us daily yet we have to stay with them – quiting 1Cirin.13:5?
1. To let go means that we don’t force others to repent or change. That’s not our job. We INVITE. We don’t force. And if someone chooses not to – we let go. Jesus didn’t force the rich young ruler to follow Him.
2. We tell the other person they hurt us, but we cannot FORCE them to repent. Conviction is a work of the Holy Spirit.
3. Forgiving someone who has never repented is also a work that God does within us. If someone rapes and murders your 7 year old daughter, are you going to be able to shrug it off, “Oh, that’s okay, Not gonna be bitter about that. You’re forgiven.” Nope. We are human beings, and we experience emotions. And walking through trauma is more complex than that. It takes time and much inner work – and that is not something we can do on our own. Nor should we rush others into forgiving those who have perpetrated trauma upon them. Abuse is not like accidentally bumping into someone. And yes, you can absolutely forgive and be very angry about the sin of the perpetrator. God is, and we are made in His image. If we are NOT angry over the sin of abuse, I believe we have a heart problem that is not in alignment with God’s heart for human beings.
4. Again, we are not talking about garden variety relationship issues. We are talking about abuse. Is doesn’t say love isn’t provoked. It says love is not EASILY provoked.
5. True repentance isn’t just words. It’s actions. Do we slip up? Yes. Abuse is not slipping up. I’m in a healthy marriage, and we slip up. TOTALLY different from my former abusive marriage. Night and day difference. I don’t agree with your statement that no marriage would last on earth because that would assume all marriages are abusive, and that’s simply not true. The Bible says in Proverbs to not go near an angry man lest you become like him. There are many instances of people getting away from abusive individuals. David getting away from King Saul, for example.
6. I don’t believe we do have to stay with unsafe people. I don’t believe the Bible teaches that, and I don’t believe it is healthy for this world for people to enable abusers to continue to live lives of abuse without consequences. I don’t think it is loving, even! Not loving for the abuser, not loving for the victim, and not loving for the victim’s children. So how do we protect ourselves and our children? We get away from the source of abuse.
So true that forgiveness and reconciliation are not automatically connected. Thank you for helping victims understand this.
Maybe I am misunderstanding your intent here, but when you say that a person will be convicted of the Holy Spirit without anyone telling them what the things are that they should feel remorseful for, do you mean that we should not confront or communicate offense? This seems to contradict every passage in Scripture that encourages us to communicate to each other, draw each other away from sin and temptation. And most directly it contradicts the passages involving reconciliation where we are told by God to bring our grievances to the offender and give them an opportunity to see their sin and to change. I think I understand you when you say that we are to let the Holy Spirit do the convicting rather than ourselves, but maybe you could clarify that communication is a necessary first step and is an important act of love. In fact, choosing to communicate with the goal of reconciliation may actually be evidence that the offended has chosen forgiveness and is thus posturing themselves toward the degree of forgiveness that may reconcile the moment real repentance is evidenced.
I would like to clarify that some sins should not be confronted by the victim for their own physical, emotional, or spiritual safety. Since you are writing from the perspective of a blogger helping those who have been abused, I think this is probably your point of view. In these cases, a third party at least should be called in to intervene and protect the victim. Often that third party should be law enforcement or a legal team. And the victim should not be expected to bring the offender to the truth. Abuse is obvious enough that, if the abuser doesn’t see or refuses to own up to it, then either he/she should be written off as utterly reprobate, or perhaps mental health needs to be evaluated before spiritual intervention should even be attempted. But in cases where the offender really might need to be brought to a better understanding of his error, communication is a mercy and an act of love. Everyone has a backstory. Everyone has blind spots. Everyone needs help.
I love everything you said i have let go but i have questions she calls me like to be friends and i don’t know what to do should i not talk to her is like the devil used her to try to rob me of my peace
Love Patrick Doyle. He saved my life.
This article puts everything into perspective for me. A spiritual leader whom I confide in suggested I reconcile with an abusive family who hurts, buys you things to get you back and repeats the cycle. Now that I don’t have to rely on them I cut off contact. Some people will never repent (change) I have moved on for good. May God help them.
Can you give me an example of what “mutualizing marriage problems” means?
I can’t find it anywhere on the web but the term resonates something in me.
When I tell My husband I’m unhappy about something he always always never ever fails to say “we’ll yiu do it to” or “ I feel the same way”
Essentially shutting down all further communication on the subject. Leaving me with a backlog of things that never get processed or resolved.
Is that what you mean by “mutualizibg?”
That’s exactly what it is!
I am really struggling with Matthew 18:15-17 (quoted below in second last comment). It says when someone sins against you, you must go tell them their fault. I know that is different than convicting them, but we are supposed to tell them what they did wrong. The verses say that if they will not hear, we need to get witnesses. After that, tell the church. Sounds like we are supposed to press the issue. But you say we should not press the issue. How do we reconcile that?
What I have experienced and observed over and over is telling someone their sins (KJV says “fault”) and all hell breaks loose, no matter how much love you do it with. They flip out, blame, deny, lie, withdraw, and/or make life horrible for the one who tried to help. What are you supposed to do with that?? Keep pressing? Go tell the church?? We would make things much worse. I really don’t know how to implement Matt 18:15-17. Any ideas??
You’re right. I told the church, and they didn’t believe me. They excommunicated me! The church of Jesus Christ is not a specific place. It’s a global church made up of the followers of Jesus Christ. When you tell safe people who know and love Jesus, you are telling “the church.” When the abuser doesn’t repent after that, you are free to move on. We don’t press the issue until someone dies. We do our part – and then let go of the abuser and get to a safe place. If you’ve ever tried to get help – and it backfired, you are done with that part. You tried. It’s over.
Wow that is really helpful – thanks! The toughest part is knowing when you’ve done your part and when it’s time to move on.
Another question I have, in your article you say, “A person who is convicted by the Holy Spirit will be remorseful over the specific things they have done without anyone else telling them what those things are!” and also, ” “How am I supposed to know what I did wrong if you don’t tell me?” That is not Holy Spirit inspired. That isn’t a person who has any self-awareness or insight into his/her effect on others.” I had a really “good” friend who stopped calling or texting and I asked her twice if there was something I did wrong that I needed to apologize for, and both times she said, “No, everything is fine, I’ve just been busy that’s all”, yet every time I saw her she was hanging out with her new friend. (Sounds so elementary school). I prayed and never got any conviction of the Holy Spirit. Are you saying I have no self-awareness because I had to ask her why she withdrew from me? Are people always supposed to know what they did wrong strictly only from the Holy Spirit, and we are not supposed to ask what we did wrong? I’m a little confused. (In this case, after I read the book “Safe People” I realized she is not a safe person and perhaps God was removing her as a close friend.)
I think those are two different situations. In one scenario, you’ve got a man and wife who have been together for years and years, and the wife has tried every which way to get him to understand that his behavior hurts her. He blames her and minimizes, mutualizes, and denies his behavior (or the wrongness of it.) If he was convicted by the Holy Spirit, he would take her feedback to heart and get help for himself and quit blaming her for his issues.
In the other situation, you have two girlfriends – and one isn’t being honest and expects the other one to read her mind.
See the difference?
Yes, thank you for clarifying that. Makes total sense.
God sent advice and information. thank you.
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector”
I’m new to your blog and learning lots here. However, this topic confuses me. If I’m not to be the ‘convicter’ in any way, how was my ex supposed to know what was wrong? Also, is there Scripture for examples of reconciliation taking place to restore broken relationships? Because my ex said this concept is nowhere in the Bible–that it’s ‘wordly psychology’. He says all that is required is me moving back in with him, end of discussion. (We were married 22 years and been divorced 1 year. He filed when I set a boundary.)
(Worldly psychology? Does he know what psychology is?) The entire Bible is the story of man being reconciled to God. Reconciliation is the main point. For man to be reconciled to God, he needs to repent. Oodles of examples in Scripture. Christ paid the price for his sin, but repentence is required on the part of the sinner. No repentence, no reconciliation. Your husband needs to read his Bible more, because he clearly doesn’t know its message. Hence his confusion over why you won’t just let him come back when he hasn’t changed. You keep hanging on to the truth, Suzanne. If you’ve told him what he’s done wrong, and he won’t listen, you are wasting your time to keep telling him.
After a lifetime of abuse from my dad, husband, in-laws and a few other family members, I felt God leading me to break of relationships with them so that I would be able to forgive rather than constantly being angry, finally getting through it and then be with them for a short amount of time and the cycle would start over again. Unfortunately, I have been accused of not being very Christian by those in the family who are not Christians. I’m the first one in both families to say “no more”, put up boundaries and, finally, walked away when the abuse didn’t stop. Hearing about reconciliation is always hard because it’s just not true that there is always reconciliation and it shouldn’t happen when abuse keeps happening. Thanks for your words.
I can totally relate to what you said!
God Bless and may He lead you along the right path to heal.
Thank you for this article/topic. I’ve been struggling with forgiveness and reconciliation for some time, wondering if I should pick up where we left off after being hurt a multitude of times by family members. I do love my siblings, but it’s been a toxic love and conditional from many. I realized recently that I have to let go. It’s like being on a roller coaster of emotions with many of them, never knowing when they will disown you for something someone else has said or just because you might have a different point of view on things.
This has made it much easier to understand and accept what I need to do, what’s best for me and trying to walk with God. I really have struggled with this. I did try to make them feel the convictions of their wrongs, to no avail. Which now I see it was never my job. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you…:-)
You are so welcome. I’m glad it gave you some clarity and direction! (((hugs)))
Oh my gosh! You took the words right out of my mouth!
I understand how you feel. I hope you continue to follow along the path where God leads you in healing!
Pretty amazing timing in my life for this article. I went away for a few days and when I came back he apologized for all his anger and blaming me for everything. I didn’t want to believe him or forgive but I’m convinced he’s really taking all the responsibility, and nothing he apologized for were things I had directly told him I was upset about. So it was real. And we are making a new start. I’m a lot smarter now and being cautious, but it feels good.
Hello, I had a bf who was with me for eight years … I felt like I’m the one who is in control in the toxic relationship because I am afraid to let him go . I was too afraid that if I let him go … he will never return . He had loved me and being faithful to me all the time . He never had abuse me . But I felt toxic because of the long distance and I felt like I don’t want to talk to him about my problems just with someone else . I felt like I had hurt him deeply and kept hurting him more but also when I talk to him I had gotten more depressed . More into deep depression that my bf doesn’t know what to do …he had sended me Bible verses even though he isn’t a Christian . I kept pushing him away … because I felt too toxic . My mother believe the problem is me because i felt like I want to destroy to the relationship to push him away . I felt loving and hate him but I wonder does god want us to be seperate ? Does he want me to let go of my bf who hasn’t wrong me and want to be with me more than 8 years . Now I feel like I had someone in my mind and I couldn’t get rid of it and every time I am thinking to be with at guy instead of my bf I keep on crying …then today I said I love my bf but then this feeling start to change me like i want to forgive him and move on . But moving on … is this is what god want me to do ….does it mean I have to tell my bf I forgive you so let me move on ?
If I’m hearing you correctly, it sounds like you are confused about what you want. You may be emotionally addicted to you bf, but you are also questioning your own commitment and love to him. Is that healthy for you? Is that healthy for this other human being you’re involved with?
What if you spent a year or two focusing on your own personal growth without a man involved? If you want to bring your best self to a relationship, it’s important to be healthy and whole on your own. What if you spent some time exploring your relationship with Jesus – and your relationship with yourself? Get into counseling and talk with someone who can help you uncover some of the deep parts inside you that are crying out for healing and wholeness.
Looking to another person to fill that void will only leave you hungering for more. Jesus tells us that He is the bread of life and the Living water – He is the only One who can feed us and quench our thirst. When we are filled up with Him and loving ourselves the way He loves us, we can then enter into more intimate relationships with others that are built on mutual trust and commitment.
I pray you will know how much Jesus loves you – how completely you are cherished by Him.
I came across your blog after two years of struggling with unforgiven and unreconciled relations with my family. I want to thank you because this spoke to my heart and gave me so much confirmation and has directed me to take a different path. God bless you!
God Bless you, When I was reading your article I was amazed because I felt that each and every word of yours is my own story. I was also confused about forgiveness and reconciliation,because pastor have pressurised me to say sorry to in-laws even he knew taht I was not at fault , he knew that my in-laws wanted to break my relationship with my husband and they have succeeded in it . For 5 years without my mistaked I used to say sorry and used to reconcile and they never changed, they didnt stop at only saying bad words, and provoking my husband to beat me and goin to witch doctor to destroy me , they did more things by saying everone that I am mad.
And these hurts ruined my life I was in sever depression and my husband also didnt care for me .
And it filled with me bitterness. I met 3 pastors and three were devilish were running after money, power and fame .
I thought How can God’s servant do this?
But Jesus showed me they are false teacher
Today When I was searching about forgiveness I saw your post and it really helped me
Sorry for my english , its not my native language
I’m so glad you found this website! (((hugs)))
I absolutely shattered into hot,messy, cleansing tears while reading this!! GOD BLESS YOU SO MUCH!! For the past few days, I have been listening to the lies that almost convinced me I was a selfish, evil , mean-spirited person for choosing to protect myself and the offender from further emotional damage and hurt! I set those exact boundaries you spoke of, and I was being persistently guilted and persecuted for it. But through the guidance and mercy of the Holy Spirit, you have shed light on that ever-swarming darkness. I can finally let go and let God. Thank-you!!
You aren’t mean to stand up against abuse. Abusers always tear into a target when she stands up for herself. You aren’t allowed to have feelings or boundaries. You aren’t allowed to be safe. You aren’t allowed to have your own thoughts. You aren’t allowed to say “no” to them. If you do, they accuse you of all the things they are. But their words are just that. Words. They are liars, and they are living in a fantasy world. Once you get out and walk in the truth, you will be safe. You’ll be able to recover and heal.
Standing up for truth always makes the darkness rage. Once you know that, you’ll be ready for the onslaught next time around. 🙂
Thank you for these words of truth and encouragement.
Thank you for this article.
I praise the Lord for leading me here today. I feel a load has been lifted that I was never meant to carry.
God Bless! ☺
Amen. Same thing happened with my ex when I said not to tolerating his addiction to pornography. Then he said it was up to me, and if we didn’t last it’s because I couldn’t compromise. That he needs me and then variety too. That if I can just compromise, we can be together and get along. I said no.
My mom stopped talking to me for over two years when I told her I can no longer tolerate the abandonment at every single difference of opinion. That to move forward we need healthier ways – and she can choose something she prefers of several options: counseling, reading a Christian book together about communication or healthy boundaries/relationships, talking regularly to a pastor. After two years, she says, “hello, how are you?” I am still standing by my original boundary, not just letting her come back condition-less as always. She hates boundaries; we never had them growing up, always shifting rules, and when my other step-dads would have them she would rebel. I won’t allow this dysfunction anymore, and I am not angry nor resentful towards her. Just firm in what I know is the right thing to do now.
With new people, it’s still a challenge. But keep doing what you’re doing!
This is pretty awesome – thank you for sharing how you’ve made this work for you!
Ok thank u
When growing up my mom had said and did some bad things to myself and my siblings. I have been wrestling with these thoughts on and off now in my adult life. I have forgiven her in my heart but I wanted to tell her personally. she wonders why I don’t call her much. I called her yesterday to get some things that were a burden on my heart and she got mad. She wanted me to tell her so I did. I did in a calm loving way and she said that I was a liar and made this all up. Then she hung up the phone. I do feel better to be open about it. I wanted to forgive her personally but she did not want to hear it.
I’m just letting this with God now. It bothers me that she acted this way but I cannot change the fact on who she is. She will never change unless God gets a hold of her.
I’m sorry. It’s hard to get close to people like that because they don’t want to see themselves as having good and bad parts – as all humans do. They want to see themselves as all good. Something inside of them is broken – perhaps due to things that happened to THEM as children. Maybe they were discredited and judged and lied to. They have a judgment mentality that judges others as well as themselves, and to protect themselves, they discredit anyone who brings up their dark side and what it does to those around them. It’s a viscious cycle until someone comes along in the family tree and BREAKS the cycle through the power of Jesus Christ. Jesus knows our humanness and loves us exactly IN our humanness. He died and rose to take care of our dark side – and this means we can live and breathe in freedom. We still sin, but we are FREE of the shame because of Christ. That is the good news of the gospel. Nothing less. It sounds like your mom is still living in shame and covering it with her own efforts at perfectionism rather than with the blood of Christ. She is unable to live in courageous vulnerability, loving others freely and whole heartedly. I’m sorry you won’t be able to enjoy an intimate and safe relationship with her. Always remember it is due to her inability to love rather than yours. This will help you have compassion and empathy with her while still protecting yourself and walking in reality. (((hugs)))
So beautifully said….so perfectly said. I am amazed and so humbly grateful by how the Holy Spirit has manifested Himself to me in such gifted and skilled writing. I needed to read this today, because I’ve been burdened my whole life by this exact same situation. This has been more than cathartic, it’s spiritually liberating. Again, thank-you for being such a faithful servant of God and allowing Him to work through you. God Bless!
This message has helped me so much. For decades, i have let the same people use and hurt me. But i was so absorbed in religion, that i would make myself believe that jeasus forgives me daily, so therefore i should forgive and forget what others do . i now know i have to set boundries. Thanks for this message.
Great post Natalie. It helped me get clarity on something I was grappling with today.
You are so welcome, Jane. I’m glad it was helpful to your life.
I’m praying on this but if you have any leading from the Holy Spirit to respond I’m all ears.
So an elderly couple… both Christians, married 44 years, the husband thinks the wife cheated on him 30 years ago. He is telling her she must confess so he can forgive her and she will get in to Heaven. The wife confessed to flirting and she is sorry, but she refuses to admit she had an affair. She told the husband that if she said she had an affair she would be lying and she isn’t going to lie. The husband is 73 and the wife is 80… with cancer. He is kind of being way rude about this. He has taken down all pictures of her and told her “I can’t stand to look at your lying face. ” the wife is constantly in tears and just tells me “I have to ignore it and keep my heart free of hate toward him. I am just trusting the Good Lord… that’s all i can do. ” I’m continuously in prayer. This article really helped me. I have to speak with the husband tomorrow and need God to guide my words and heart. Thank you.
It sounds like there is a lot more to their marriage than meets the eye. I hope you will be able to reach his heart. If not, she will need your support. You can’t make someone see the truth or change, but you can reach out in love to the victims of that kind of animosity.
Thank you so much for this. You just don’t know how much my heart needed this!!!
Something of note that I’ve experienced is when my husband has seemingly repented, but in the future will retract said repentance or apology by blaming me yet again! This manipulative move has me mentally and emotionally exhausted! It has also inflicted a feeling of hopelessness into my marriage. This article has truly validated my marriage’s crazy cycle and what I know I must do to heal and be free again adter 11 years of cyclical abuse. Thank you, truly. It’s amazing how lonely a person can feel through such tramas.
I’m glad you found this site! I know how crazy it gets, and you’re right. It’s exhausting on every level.
For the past two months my relationship with my girlfriend (now ex-girlfriend) Kauana had begun falling apart, she no longer had romantic feelings for me (mind you this was my fault because I was way to clingy, anxious, and emotionally needy in the relationship, it ended up suffocating her and pushing her away.) (I also have a real struggle with anxiety, neediness, and possibly depression) But, now that I saw that the relationship started to fall apart I became more anxious and desperate, I would always call her, cry to her, try to do anything that would make her love me the way I loved her, but of course this pushed her off the edge, and she ended the relationship.
After she ended it with me she spoke to me as a genuine friend and we both talked about what went wrong in the relationship with friendliness and maturity. I apologized for being clingy and suffocating her and told her that I would work on fixing my emotional issues and insecurity. She also told me where she went wrong and apologized to me. We kept talking as good friends for a week wishing each other the best. Kauana then invited me to stay over her family’s ranch for the week during Carnaval (basically a vacation week here in Brazil) and I agreed to go. I was treated very well over there as a son. However, my heart was still longing for Kauana, it was difficult to constantly be around her and not receive the same attention and affection that I was used to from her. I would always try to talk to her as a friend (still trying to win her back, but I genuinely do value her friendship.) But there was one time where I asked her if we could speak privately, she agreed and I began sobbing telling her how much I missed her, that I want another chance with her, and she said that she wasn’t sure and I could tell that she began to become irritated with me. The conversation ended and we went about the day. Later that night she asked me how I was feeling, and I was so happy that she cared that I told her that I wanted to enjoy the week with her as a friend, we than proceeded to talk again as friends. The next day however (due to my anxiety) I wanted to let her know one more time how much I missed her and the suffering that I was going through ( it was definitely foolish and unnecessary, but I wanted her to take pity on me, pathetic I know) but I went and told her, and she said that she thinks it’s best that we do not see each other again. I couldn’t control myself and went to the restroom sobbing. I then asked her, sobbing, “so you never want to see me again?” Then she got very angry at me, grabbed my face yelling at me,”Samuel, exes aren’t supposed to be together!” she then slapped my leg and began sobbing saying that she doesn’t want me in her house any more, she wants no more weight on her back. Her mother went to talk to her, and then her mother came to talk to me apologizing for what happened and she said that it is better for us not to be friends right now and let the dust settle. Her mother then proceeded to pray for me. Kauana then walked with me to the exit of her ranch and asked me for forgiveness for what she has done, and I asked for forgiveness as well for losing control of my emotions. We then hugged and she thanked me for coming. The next day I texted her wishing a goodnight for her and her family. She didn’t look at the messages, I then sent her an audio message once again apologizing for my anxiety, for bothering her, telling her that I wanted to open up to her about my feelings, that I wish her success, that I truly forgive her as well, and I begged her to not erase me from her life, that I really want to stay friends, see how she is doing in life. I then sent her a message telling her that I want to reconcile as friends and begged her to not let the anxiety that ended our romance end our friendship. However she ignored the messages. In despair I tried calling and she would not answer, so I called her home to talk to her mother asking if I could talk to Kauana, but then her mother said that it’s best if we do not speak for a while and let the dust settle. Sobbing I asked her if Kauana was angry at at me, and she said no she wasn’t, she said that Kauana was upset with herself for the way she reacted to me.
I truly now see the error of my ways, that my anxiety and insecurity took control of me, I now want to work to fix them, I am going to go to a psychologist and to a pastor. And I wish to never commit these same errors with her again, for I have truly learned.
We haven’t communicated in 17 days(she has however liked two posts of mine on Facebook, and she did end up looking at those messages and audio that I have sent, but did not reply, she also wished my brother a happy birthday on Facebook) I was advised to leave her at peace, let the dust settle and wait for her to message me. But my biggest fear is that she will never speak to me again that our friendship is gone. I know that for God nothing is impossible, Jesus has shown me the errors of my ways, I learned hat I have emotional issues and I need professional and spiritual help. I never want to suffocate Kauana again, I want her friendship back. So my prayer request is that Kauana and I may be friends again that we reconcile and be full of love for each other. And if it be of God’s plan that we may go back to be in a romantic relationship. What is your input? I sincerely repent, and desire reconciliation, I am giver her much space, she hasn’t blocked me, but she never responded to my sincere apologies
Thank you for listening and God bless you!
Samuel, thank you for commenting. I think you are on the right track, and you know what to do. You are hurting and just want so badly to keep that connection between yourself and Kauana. Here’s the thing, if you love yourself and you love Kauana, you will give both of you time and space to live your lives separately from one another. If Kauana was right for you and vice versa, it wouldn’t be this way. You are wise to get help for yourself to learn the important skills of tolerating pain and regulating emotions. These skills will set you up to have a healthier relationship in the future. The healthier you are, the healthier your future relationships will be. I recommend, in addition to some counseling, that you read the book Boundaries in Dating. It will help you figure out what went wrong, what you can learn from it to become a stronger person, and what to do in your next relationship to make it the best ever.
In the meantime, the way you can show love to Kauana is by letting her go. Every time you try to contact her, you are showing her disrespect and dishonor, and I truly believe that is not who you are or what you really want to be doing. I know this is probably hard to hear, but you are strong inside of yourself. You just need to find all that strength and energy and love and redirect it toward getting healthy and pursuing other interests. You have a whole life ahead of you. Someday look you’ll back on this and be thankful for all the ways God used this to help you become the person He created you to be. (((Hugs)))
Thank you so much for answering me! I am giving her space, I am not contacting her, like I said I haven’t for 17 days, but I did accidentally send her a thumbs up emoji through facebook messenger, I apologized and said it was an accident, I did not mean to disturb her. She ignored me however, but did not block me. But I was also advised that it is okay for me to pray for reconciliation, for God can heal any broken relationship. But I am going to focus my efforts on fixing myself, unfortunately I do not really love myself, this relationship and my errors made me feel worse about myself, I beg God for forgiveness, but I feel terrible about myself, my anxiety and neediness ruined my relationship, I cry myself to sleep at times, I am seeking medical help, and I am talking to a pastor, but I am still confused, and depressed. Please pray for me I beg of you, I have never been so depressed and remorseful in my life, I find it difficult to work and to concentrate, please pray for me because the agony is sever, I want to be a better and stronger person because I did genuinely learn from my mistakes, thank You so much for the kind advice, God bless you! Pray for God’s will and for him to heal me and give me victory! I never want to go through this again, I want to push away no one.
Samuel, you are loved completely by your heavenly Father. He will never leave you or abandon you. His love is perfect and forever. You are precious to Him. He is enough for each one of us. We think having another person to love us will fill that empty hole in our hearts, but it isn’t so. People will always let us down – even ones we are meant to be with. But Christ promises to be faithful and to always do what is in our best interest.
I recommend that you listen to some of Patrick Doyle’s Youtube videos. I think they will encourage you. Try these:
Dealing with Hopelessness
Dealing with Anxiety
the Committee that Lives in Your Head
Where do You Get Your Value
Emotional and Mental Peace
God Bless you and Thank you so very much for this.
I came across your blog after many years of struggling with unreconciliation relations with family. I want to thank you because this spoke to my heart and gave me so much confirmation. It has giving me a sense of direction of the path I need to take. The Path of Boundaries, God bless you!
Yes! Boundaries are critical to healthy relationships.
Thank you for a well written article. A whole year of conflict with my sister has left my family exhausted by the chaos, divided in loyalties, and hurt beyond words. We had been praying for reconciliation, but recently felt that it was wrong-headed, and have had to surrender the relationship – and its outcome – to God. It has been a difficult task to keep aligning my heart to forgiveness when I’ve been slandered, threatened, and verbally abused. With God’s help, I’ll continue to trust His wisdom. Pray for me (us)?
Forgiveness is a process. God sees, knows, and understands. Be gentle with yourself. You are loved.
.Great teachings and thoughts
I’m going to challenge you on one statement that I think you learned from growing up in a very misogynistic culture. You say (frequently) that “I am a slow learner.”
Are you really a slow learner?
I don’t see any indications of a learning disability in you. You don’t seem to have a cognitive impairment. You moved with impressive quickness to remove yourself and your children from a toxic environment once your realized what was going on in your home. From that, I suspect you are an above average speed learner. The difference is that you were taught a load of poisonous crap for years. You’re not slow at unlearning that; you have a lot of crap to sort through.
This was a very timely message. My siblings and I have been walking the forgiveness path, with varying degrees of success, for most of our lives. Our dad was absentee at best, and abusive the rest of the time. He passed away this morning after having Alzheimer’s for several years. I forgave him years ago but his family couldn’t understand why I didn’t try to have a relationship with him. Reconciliation wasn’t possible because my dad’s heart was not convicted. Thank you for a great reminder. I’m going to go hug my kids, for no particular reason. 🙂
I am sorry for your loss – your deep, life-long loss as well as your fresh loss of any hope that things could ever be different. 🙁
I am so tired of being hurt, of asking God why did this person who I loved, trusted, believed in and shared my heart with become someone I didn’t even know, an offender I trying to push through to wholeness, but I understand it is totally God , it is through Him I can have the strength to overcome. Thank you and Blessings to someone who is a peace maker.
First off some of this article is not biblical the bible clearly state that we should confess our sins one to another. And if God didnt want us to say or ask what we did wrong he wouldnt have never asked us to confess our sins one to another. Yeah how do i know if i did something wrong if no one brings it to my attention instead of speaking in riddles and codes they need to come out and say it so i and whoever may need to repent. Because if you ask me theres unitentionally sin and theres unknowingly sin and what if that person was a child who knew no right from wrong at the time. Now what when a child acts up that loving mother or father will chastise that child for doing wrong but the father or mother just dont up and chastise a child they tell that child why and the reason for the chastisement they bring that to the childs attention of what they did wrong. God love me and everybody else he know the matter of the hearts and if ive done wrong God will reprove me but in his word he say its better to not to know than to know the things we ought to do but dont do it its sin. Those who know whats right and yet to do it will be whipped with a many stripes. So my point is this if i dont know the law of God as a child and i break one of the laws written therein then my chastisment will not be so severe than the person who knows the law and break it.
So if you ask me yeah we all want to know what weve done wrong bring it to our attention this helps with the repentance process. How can a person know they were wrong unless someone bring it to their attention. And how could that person repent without knowing the facts of what they did was wrong especially if they were a child at the time.
This goes for the adults to. We can say something and we dont mean or intent to hurt anybody. Yes if ive sin please point it out so that my soul may be delivered out of hell so that i may repent. Example the guy who took my child hood from me by sexually molesting me might have not known that he hurt me because he doesnt realize what heve done until i go to him and say hey you hurt me by having sex with me at such a young age and he will be like hey i didnt know but guess what we have some insane people walking around who do the same thing but expect different results.
If i can stress this further i would but im growing tired now so this is it.
I was writing about situations where only one party is interested in talking things through and owning the responsibility for their stuff. In a normal, healthy relationship, there is mutual confession of sin and repentance. We can go to the other person and say, “When you did this _____, it hurt.” And the other person will respond with love and care. But in an abusive situation, the other person can’t admit to sin or confess it. They are not being taught by the Holy Spirit. So Patrick Doyle’s point is that when a person is humble, they are open to hearing the Holy Spirit and recognizing what they’ve done that is wrong.
Let me put it another way. If I say something sarcastic to you, and you point it out to me and tell me it hurt, I need to be convicted by the Holy Spirit that speaking sarcastically is wrong and harmful to you. Your pointing it out may or may not convict me. But if I’m a Christian, the Holy Spirit will show me that I’ve hurt you, and if I am His child, and I want to show love, I will admit that I’ve done that and repent of it.
I hope that makes sense! 🙂
It’s very one sided in my family and I believe most adults don’t need to be taught right from wrong.
In my experience, they know full well they were rude to me but figured I deserved it and only cared about how things affected them. Showing no consideration for me.
They justify all of their actions and don’t take any responsibility. They pushed me to go no contact but actually they gave me the boot and this time I didn’t go crawling back for more abuse.
I’m still confused still about when you really don’t know what you did. I have a situation where I noticed a distance from a person in my life so I just asked why and she at first lied and said things were fine in person but then later sent a text saying she couldn’t trust me so she was moving on but that she forgave me. Basically didn’t need my friendship. I asked why and told her I was confused. And Her response was I guess we can agree to disagree??? You stated this was not of the Holy Spirit on my part? I really honestly do not know what I did. This person is much younger than me and I when she came into my life I took her under my wing and loved her the best I knew how. Saying that she couldn’t trust me is a lie. She not an easy person to love but I have made sure I loved her with Grace. So am I wrong?
I don’t know the details, but it sounds like you’ve done what you could. If she no longer wants to be in relationship with you, you can let her go.
My abuser often likes to quote the Bible at me and tell me I have to forgive. I know that as a Christian, I should forgive, and so this confuses me. However, the other day I found a small victory!
This time he quoted Luke 17: “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
So clearly I must forgive him every time he says he is sorry, right?
Not so fast. It clearly says, “if your brother sins, REBUKE him.” A “rebuke,” which is not the same thing as a punishment, is appropriate when someone sins against you. Putting up boundaries between you and another is one way to “rebuke” someone who hurts you.
Then it says, “and IF he repents, forgive him.” Jesus’ command to forgive is conditional on the person repenting. As Natalie said, repenting is not as simple as saying sorry. It’s a sincere change in direction prompted by conviction in the Holy Spirit.
This makes sense because God does not forgive us unconditionally. His unconditional grace for sinners is only imparted through Jesus’ death on the cross, and we cannot have that grace unless we first repent and believe. Only then can our relationship with God be restored.
The verses you quoted speak to our forgiving someone who is repentant. The parable in Matthew 18 about the unforgiving slave illustrates what forgiveness actually is from a practical stand point. It’s a “letting go” of the wrong done. Not so that justice will never be served, but so that TRUE justice can take place. Only God knows what real justice looks like in any given situation. But He promises to avenge every wrong done – either on the perpetrator (unrepentant) or on His Son, Jesus Christ (for those who repent).
So when we “forgive” an unrepentant person, we are not letting them off the hook. We are giving them over to God for His justice to take place in their lives. It’s a transaction between us and God. “Lord, I give this man to You. You do with him as You see fit. He is an unrepentant abusive individual. Do Your thing – whatever it is, but may justice be served.” Then you set a boundary to protect yourself from that person. Sometimes that means leaving. Of course they will accuse you of “not forgiving.” But that’s just par for the course, right? You can respectfully say, “Between God and myself – I forgive you. I will not take vengeance on you. I’m letting God take care of that, and He will, if you don’t repent. But just because I forgive you doesn’t mean we are reconciled. I’m praying for you, and I hope you will repent so we can be reconciled and have a relationship. Until then, I can’t be with you.” Just an example – but I hope it helps a little. 🙂
Very good reply!
I heard Hal Lindsey speak on this subject, and he said forthrightly, “Reconciliation is not possible until the barriers to relationship have been removed.” For those who may be are interested, I have a post on my blog on this subject entitled, “The Truth About Reconciliation.” It can be found here: http://www.hurtbylove.com/the-truth-about-reconciliation/
I am not trying to hog the spotlight here; I just thought additional information on this important subject might be helpful.
All the best,
I’m glad you linked, Cindy!
Several years ago my mom stopped talking to me. Not the first time she has done that.I begged her to tell me why but I never got an answer. Several months later she phoned and the first thing she said was “I don’t like your behavior”. I was taken aback to say the least. She then told me what she wasnt happy about. The incidents happened almost a year before and at the time I explained why I made the decisions. I stand by them today. She wouldn’t accept it. For the next several years I got abusive letters from my dad and a few of my siblings. I told them over and over again that I was sorry I hurt them but they wouldn’t accept it. In your column you have stated that this wasn’t the Holy Spirit inspired. Even before I knew what was wrong I apologised if I upset them and got no response. Was I wrong in all this? At Christmas with the help of my husband I went to see them. My dad laughed at me and made a couple of snide remarks. My mom dismissed how upset I was. She feels that even though she knows what she did was wrong and the incidents really were nothing (apparently they had more complaints about me that they didn’t tell me) this is the way she is, she is sorry, what can she say to make it better and she is not responsible for what my siblings wrote to me. My husband and I walked away agreeing between the two of us to keep our distance. I have kept in contact with my parents but only to ask how they are but no real conversations. I poured out my heart to them; telling them how I feel but they laughed and as per usual since I was little told me I was crazy. I always adored my dad and had a good relationship with my mom aware of their week nested but overlooking them. Reading your article had confused me in thinking I am wrong. I always believed that if I apologized for hurting someone even if I didn’t genuinely know what it was and that person was still upset then it was there problem not mine. I’m not a mean person. It bothers me to the point of anxiety if I upset someone. Could you clarify what you mean from your article and I look forward to the next one on this topic because this interest me a great deal. I care deeply about people and when I do I find out I’ve been manipulated by them and they turn their back on me thinking it’s ok. It’s happened severl times to the point I don’t trust people. I’ve always been an introvert so it has affected me deeply but I’m stronger now because my husband and children are awesome. Sorry for such a long post.
I am sorry this article was confusing. Whenever we sin against someone, we should go to them, confess our sin, and ask for forgiveness. Usually this begins the process of reconciliation with the other person, but not always. The other person may choose not to forgive. They may choose to end the relationship or to hold a grudge or to believe lies. What they choose to do is between them and God. But if we have done our part in love and humility, we are free to move on.
Reconciliation is the restoration of a broken relationship, and it requires both parties. It sounds like you have done what you could to make things right, but your family members, for whatever reason, have chosen to discard your relationship with them. It is hard to say good bye to relationships that have been important to us in the past, and there is grieving process. It hurts. Let yourself feel that pain – and even feel the anger associated with the feeling of powerlessness over not being able to fix it. You may feel anger at the injustice involved. Eventually you will get past the pain and the anger to a place of acceptance and healing. When you say you don’t trust manipulative people, that is good. We shouldn’t trust everyone. Manipulative people have the potential to destroy us if we let them. That isn’t God’s desire for you or for them.
It is wonderful that you have a supportive husband and children. Pour all that love inside of you – into those relationships, and God will care for your hurting heart.
If you did something right, and your parents were hurt by it, and tried to manipulate you – which is what this sounds like – you don’t have anything to feel sorry about. You did not need to apologize, which is why you made a general apology, “I’m sorry that you were hurt”, rather than the specific, “Please forgive me for doing….I was wrong”
Go ahead and wait for God to do whatever He will do, while you get on with following Him.
Natalie is totally on point, Jesus on the cross said “Father forgive them…” and though some in the crowd were reconciled to Him later, having been convicted of their sin, many were not.
We are all so human, aren’t we? I’ve apologized for handling things wrongly only to find I was never forgiven (or in one case, maybe over a decade later–a complicated case). I’ve realized that some people simply DO NOT LIKE ME, and so any offense becomes a lifelong one, a reason to not talk to someone who was never cool enough anyway. (Again, this is not saying to not do what we can.)
It’s hard when parents are the most childish ones in a situation, isn’t it? I am walking that road myself right now, and as a result I am scaling back contact.
You say, “It bothers me to the point of anxiety if I upset someone.” This used to be me, 100%, and God has really shaken things up 🙂 so that is no longer the case.
A biblical response, I think, is neither groveling nor pridefully saying “I didn’t do anything wrong.” (As the blog author mentioned, we should be repenting regularly.) It is being *able to LIVE with* the current brokenness. I remember apologizing to someone in a dorm too early in the morning because I was upset that she was upset. I couldn’t let it rest until later.
People are where they are, and when they are not ready for reconciliation there is nothing we can do. I hope that you will also come to peace with how things are, while praying for future change.
This is a very broad subject, and I am looking forward to listening to some of these. But I am realizing that when people either never initiate contact EVER, or when they maintain their right to say what they want, when they want, with impunity, they do not want a relationship or reconciling. For me to continue to ache for it is only hurting me and sometimes it’s time to give them what they want. Distance.
The anxiety you are experiencing is not from God, who gives peace (though He convicts). You may want to share some of this with a trusted counselor (a source of shame in fundamentalist circles–but I am overcoming it and have already been helped by it) or mentor (but the mentor MUST understand that there are complexities beyond “just love them”).
Thank you for posting this. I’ve been listening to Patrick Doyle’s interviews along with other ministries ‘that get it’ and like you have realized I’ve been a slow learner but only because I was always giving the abuser(s) the benefit of the doubt. I still fall into that trap and am ‘very slowly’ gaining strength to feel whole again.
It’s painful to acknowledge that as I gain strength my abuser(s) are okay with this because they are waiting for “me” to leave so they can carry on with their lives without me or at least point the finger at me for leaving.
One day you will get to the place where you are okay with that. I think I’m almost there, and it is an incredible, freeing feeling. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. 🙂
After the conversation I had yesterday (that left me in complete despair) this was a badly needed breath of fresh truth. Think you wrote this one just for me.
Thank you so much for this. I have had people tell me I need to forgive my offender and no matter how much I say I have it doesn’t seem to be the answer they were looking for. Now I see that they were pushing for reconciliation of the forgive-and-forget kind. My offender told me I was playing the victim when I kindly but firmly tried to explain the hurts he had done. I saw that as a relationship breaker and my husband supported me.(it was a family member on my side) He still has not repented just felt lonely and “sorry” about our separation. I had to give it to God this past Christmas as the holiday made the separation painful on my side. I want to be reconciled but only in the safety of God convicting them of the sins they have committed. It sounds harsh to some people but until he feels internally what he has done further relationship would just turn into his playing the nice guy until I accepted him into my life again and once he felt secure the nasty treatment would begin all over again as it has all the time I have tried to forgive and reconcile many time in the past.
Stand strong, Colleen, in the insanity around you. You are doing the right thing.
I’m going to comment when it involves our husbands. I pray that all those who truly suffer at the hands of an abuser don’t feel invalidated. But…for anyone who is unsure and somewhere in a vague place, this is for you.
I’m reading The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura Schlessenger and my eyes have been humbly opened. I honestly thought my husband was cruel and emotionally abusive ~ I was almost sure of it. I say almost because there was always this vague feeling of doubt. With the exception of narcissist or sociopath, most men are simple creatures. And if this book doesn’t help most marriages recover from the brink, all will not be lost. Perhaps it will aid in the health of a future relationship.
Caveat “If your husband is physically abusive, or if he degrades and is cruel to you as a rule, then this post is not applicable. Most husbands, however, are not physically abusive nor willfully cruel. Most husbands are generally decent guys.” [email protected] So, “as a rule” and “willfully” are important.
The author is Dr. Laura Slessinger who is devoutly Jewish. So far as a Christian Catholic, the only conflict or difference is that alcoholism and adultery are deal breakers. No always so for us.
So, for anyone who reads your wise words, and isn’t sure where their relationship falls, it is my prayer that they give it a try before making any rash judgments or decisions about their marriages.
God bless you and I am praying for you and that God may restore what has been lost. I pray that my words do no harm. It’s one of those times when you know you must get the word out, but it’s also risky.
I read her book many years ago. It’s a good book for “normal” marriages, but yes, it can harm women with a destructive spouse. Bending over backwards to “care for and feed” an abusive man (or woman) often worsens the situation. It’s like throwing gasoline on a fire.
Wow! Eye opening and heart and mind opening…thank you. Peace and God’s love be with each of us/all of us. Julie
The statement about idolizing people hit home for me. In some sense it is easy to say I don’t do that. I was never one to do things to get people’s approval and I didn’t mind being different — couldn’t mind it because I always was. But at the same time I am a very loyal person and I don’t give up on relationships. I can’t say that other than in my marriage relationship I’ve felt I’ve been in a bad relationship that I didn’t want to give up on. But I am seeing now that in one relationship (not my husband) if I was forced to give up that relationship in exchange for God’s approval, it might be hard. I really value the approval and the love of this person. But I know that God is the only one that will never let me down and that truly wants the best for me. Everyone else is weak and has faults.
Thanks so much for the reminder that I am not my husband’s Holy Spirit. It saddens me greatly when I see him repeatedly refuse to try and work on our relationship or even acknowledge that he has played any role in the problems. Several resources lately, including your website, are pushing me to see that he seems to have a problem with being open to learning and growing and that saddens me terribly because that’s not what I want for him. It’s so hard not to beg “Won’t you read this? Or listen to this? It sheds light on our challenges and maybe could help us build a true marriage.” But I’ve been getting better. I never thought that I could really have peace knowing that he no longer loves me and thinks his decision to marry me was a mistake, but amazingly I am starting to get some sense of peace. It is really true that only God can give that peace.
I will check out the video but I am also looking forward to your next article in this series.
It is a long and painful process to come to a place of acceptance. Give yourself time. God can give that peace – and He will. Sometimes it takes a while, and it can be up and down, too. He is with you through it all, though. I’ve been meditating on Psalm 31 these past two weeks. Do check out the videos; it helps to hear this over and over again.
Thank you for these wonderfully God inspired words.
I have been trying to make a Christian friend see why I’m not wrong by refusing to reconcile with a toxic relative, to no avail. I soon began to think that I may be guilty of not showing forgiveness.
So, I prayed to God for guidance and was led to this article.
Regardless to my efforts to show this sibling love and have peace with her, I was constantly rewarded with hate, disrespect. and all forms of evil motivated by deep seated jealousy, until after almost four decades I severed ties and walked away. It has been over a year that I visited her or even tried to communicate with her.
She has never repented, never changed except to get me back in her life so she can hurt me all over again.
This article encouraged me to continue to set boundaries, pray for her, but accept that we will never be able to reconcile until she accepts her wrongful actions, become truly remorseful and change her ways.
She offers me gifts and invites me to dinner because she is to prideful to apology. I ignore these insincere offers because she has done the same thing since we became adults. I have been told that I should accept these offers to show I forgive her. I refuse to be manipulated and this article has inspired me greatly.
Everyone in the family supports her wrong doings, covers them up and say I should do the same, since I’m the Christian.
When and if she changes I will be willing to reconcile with her but, the chances of her changing are slim to none.
You’re doing the right thing. It’s disconcerting to feel like the “bad guy” when all you wanted was a close relationship for years. But you’re not the bad guy. You’re just taking responsibility for yourself by protecting your emotional and spiritual health.