Forgiveness: Part 2 – Practical Application

Forgiveness: What It Is, What It Isn’t and How to Do It

In order to learn how to apply forgiveness, it is critical to differentiate types of forgiveness from reconciliation and between errors and offences.

Differentiating between Forgiveness and Reconciliation

There are two types of forgiveness: Vertical and Horizontal. Vertical forgiveness is God extending forgiveness to humans because of Christ. Colossians 1:12-14,“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Horizontal forgiveness is what one human being extends to another human being. This is also called interpersonal forgiveness. God takes this type of forgiveness seriously. Matthew 6:14-15, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” 1 John 4:20, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

Reconciliation is the process whereby two people take steps to rebuild a relationship that has been hurt. The purpose of reconciliation is restoration and reconnection. Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”

Forgiveness with Reconciliation
Forgiveness (what one person extends to another) together with reconciliation (two people working together to rebuild a relationship) is a high calling and worthy. However, in some circumstances reconciliation is not always possible. In these cases, we must recognize that forgiveness can occur without reconciliation. God asks us to be responsible for our part and to not be a hindrance to the healing process. Romans 12:18, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”

Confusing or merging forgiveness and reconciliation can hinder the whole healing process.

Differentiating between “errors” and “offenses.”

Below are several categories of issues that can cause tension and hurt in relationships. This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive; it is simply meant to help identify some differences between types of hurts in relationships. The range of errors and offenses:

Mistakes – We all make mistakes. We forget things, break things, spill things, and so on. You need to be prepared for mistakes in yourself and in others; they are unavoidable in life.

Irritants – We all have them. Habits, quirks, personality traits, and idiosyncrasies that one person does (usually unconsciously) that irritates another. From making sounds while chewing to snoring, irritants can lead to anger, harsh words, and arguments.

Poor Choices – From occasionally not getting home on time to making a purchase that ended up costing you more that you bargained for, we all make poor choices sometimes. However, if poor choices are a repeated pattern and are severe enough, they may actually become offenses (see below).

Hurtful Omissions – While we all forget things sometimes (mistakes), forgetting an anniversary or not following through on things you agreed to be responsible for can lead to significant hurts in your relationships.

Hurtful Words and Actions – Yelling, harsh criticism, put-downs, and so on can lead to periods of feeling disconnected with others. If this becomes a pattern, you may need help in learning how to deal with it.

Major Sin/Major Harm – Major offenses include adultery, addiction, abandonment, abuse (sexual, physical, emotional), etc. These offenses strike at the very core of relationships violating trust, boundaries, emotional closeness, and spiritual connection.

While the differences between types of errors and offenses can certainly be cloudy, the main difference is that errors call for forbearance while offenses are dealt with through forgiveness.

Colossians 3:13, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

Ephesians 4:1-3, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

When offenses in your relationships aren’t dealt with appropriately, minor matters (a. b. & c above) can become triggers for larger arguments.

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