Holden Village Staff Experience August, 2003

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Forgiving does not mean reunion

Too many times we have this fantasy: Someone wrongs another, then apologizes and is forgiven.  The relationship is then automatically restored to the point before the wrong took place, with the persons in it being even closer than before.  It's a common belief that this fantasy represents the natural course that forgiveness follows.  It does not.  In fact, such a fantasy can prevent us from forgiving, if we have good reasons for not seeking reunion with the one who has wronged us.


Forgiving happens inside the mind and heart the person who does it. 

All of the steps of forgiveness can happen without giving the matter of restoring the relationship more than a second thought.  Though we welcome the person who hurt us back inside the orbit of people we try to care about, we do not necessarily welcome him back into our special circle of friends and family.  We can be friendly and in community with him, and thus be reconciled with him, but reunion is something else.


Forgiving is not about reunion. 

Some people believe that forgiving and reunion go hand in hand, but this is not true.  Forgiveness removes our anger, hate and desire for vengeance, but to restore a relationship, there must be repentance and restitution on the part of the other.  (If I have stolen your pen, I can't just ask for forgiveness to reunite with you.  I have to give your pen back!)  A person can truly forgive and refuse to be reunited.  Reunion can happen only if the person who has wronged us is honestly sorry, and only if we can trust that person not to wrong us again.   Once we have forgiven, we are not expected to go back to where we were before the rupture took place.


Forgiving does not obligate us to go back. 

Reunion is sometimes impossible: the person we have forgiven may not want a reunion, may have moved away, may be dead.  Reunion is sometimes harmful.  The person we have forgiven may not be good for us. 


Being forgiven does not qualify a person to be a friend, spouse or partner.  And if he does not qualify, we are better off to walk away and heal ourselves alone.


Reunion may be such a threat that it prevents a wounded person from forgiving.  We must understand that forgiving is not an obligation to return to abusive situations.  The surest way to convince some people not to forgive is to tell them that if they forgive, they must go back to the person who wounded them.


If we have forgiven, we have removed one obstacle to reunion that of our own bitterness.  Whether the relationship heals depends pretty much on the forgiven person.

Other links to Forgiveness pages will appear here.

Other links to Forgiveness pages will appear here.