God and Sexual Assault

What is Forgiveness?

It is not reconciliation.

First of all, forgiveness is not reconciliation. Because reconciliation requires both parties to admit their wrongdoing and restore the relationship, and you cannot do this if one party is unwilling.

So, just because you are willing, and you forgive, it does not mean reconciliation will happen within the relationship. If people are still making toxic and abusive choices toward you, reconciliation may not be possible. However, it is not needed for forgiveness to take place.

Forgiveness can be tricky because as Christians we are called to forgive as Christ forgives us, but sometimes we need to heal for it to happen first. I know not everyone would agree with this statement because forgiveness is a choice. I fully believe forgiveness is a choice, but there are things which complicate this choice being made.

For example, if you endured significant trauma early on in your childhood, and you were in a toxic, abusive family, you most likely did not develop the skills others have when they mature to understand forgiveness, and make the choice.

If you endured significant trauma at a young enough age, you possibly dissociated it, and intrinsically believe it was your fault because all children have an egocentric outlook to them until they mature. Which in turn, which makes it hard for forgiveness once you’re old enough to make that choice because it’s incredibly hard to determine what was your fault and what wasn’t and what needs to be forgiven.

For example, I endured significant trauma before I was barely one year old and had not developed needed skills. I had parts of me that were fragmented, because my brain was protecting me from the trauma just so I could stay alive.

I had to heal some of this very early trauma and develop skills which were not allowed to develop when I was growing up. I needed this healing before I could come to the place of forgiveness. So, sometimes healing does need to come before forgiveness – even though forgiveness is a choice.

Again, early trauma can make this difficult to realize Jesus paid the debt for such evil. Difficult to understand Jesus death on the cross covered everything by every person ever committed.

When we harm someone we owe them a debt we cannot pay, and when someone harms us they owe us a debt they cannot pay. All of which is covered by Jesus death on the cross. Jesus paid not just for my sins, but for the sins done against me. Same with you. Once I had healed enough and developed enough basic life skills to understand this, then I became able to forgive.

I realized this past year I had forgiven those who had harmed me, and I had no idea it had happened until we had a revival at my church. Several years ago, I prayed for God to help me forgive, and I made that choice, but the forgiveness did not happen in my heart overnight.

It happened little by little as I continued to heal, and I realized I had forgiven when I realized I no longer wish for those who have hurt me to pay for what they did to me. I still have hurt and sadness and grief from their choices, but I don’t hold them accountable which means I have forgiven them because I’ve transferred the sin they cannot pay and allowed Jesus to pay it.

I encourage you, as you seek forgiveness, to trust God with your feelings and know He will guide you and it’s probably not going happen overnight, but it can happen.

Take it to Him – He understands.


© 2022 Susan M. Clabaugh. All Rights Reserved.

2 comments on “What is Forgiveness?

  1. Linda M Ellis

    SOOO, SOOO true!!! Love this / NEEDED this!!!

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