Back in September I published a post called “Here’s an abuse survivor’s plea about nouthetic ‘Biblical’ counseling.” You can see it here.
In that post, the anonymous writer gave some astute words about the demand for forgiveness that’s so common in nouthetic/”admonishing” counseling. She said she was told she needed to forgive the childhood sexual abuse perpetrated on her before she even understood what it was she was forgiving.
The Lord tells us we should forgive, yes. But in cases of great betrayal, it takes time even to understand what it was that has occurred.
One reader wrote to me about how her perspective is changing in this regard. I hoped you would be encouraged by her words, which she gave me permission to post.
In the past when my children fought, I considered the child who responded wrongly just as responsible as the child who instigated the argument.
Not that our responses should be dictated by our circumstances, and it depends on what the child did in retaliation, but I see now where I needed to really acknowledge that a wrong was done to them.
Honestly when dealing with them that way it gave me anxiety, as I felt pressure to control them in a way. As if somehow I was responsible to make them forgive.
But I am seeing how important it is to acknowledge the pain.
The other day at school a little girl was crying, so I asked her if everything was ok. She told me some kids were mean to her and then said she could never ever forgive them.
In the past, this would have caused me anxiety, as I would have felt like I needed to stress her responsibility to forgive.
But this time was different. I just told her how sorry I was and empathized in her pain. No stress. I felt peace in just those few words.
I knew that she was still grieving her hurt and needed time and that the Holy Spirit will do His work in His time.
Is forgiveness important? Yes, it’s stressed over and over in the Scriptures that we as the people of God are to have a stance of open-handedness in being willing to release the debt owed to us by others, even those who have treated us the most cruelly, as our Savior did for us.
Even in reporting criminals to the authorities, we can know that this punishment won’t somehow pay back the debt the evildoer has owes us, but that instead, a good government will punish evildoers because society needs to be kept safe.
But the Scriptures also show grief in the people of God and emphasize the compassion that we as the people of God must have for each other.
As that little girl is fully heard when describing the wrongdoing that was committed against her, as she sees justice being done, as she is accompanied through appropriate grief, as safe people show her compassion, and as she sees Jesus Christ as the God of compassion, she will be able to forgive. She will be able to open her hands to release that debt.
But we dare not truncate grief by insisting on quick once-and-done forgiveness. Life is more complicated than that, and more messy. And our God is big enough for the complicated and the messy. He is faithful even in that.
Yes, we need to forgive, that is, releasing the debt.
But don’t be afraid of grief. Don’t be afraid to show compassion when others around you are grieving.
This, friends, is part of the Christian life, being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, who loved you and gave Himself for you.
Go here to download your free Guide, How to Enjoy the Bible Again (when you’re ready) After Spiritual Abuse (without feeling guilty or getting triggered out of your mind). You’ll receive access to both print and audio versions of the Guide (audio read by me). I’m praying it will be helpful.