Holden Village Staff Experience August, 2003

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We don't have to put up with it

Smedes suggests that the following assumptions about forgiving and tolerance are nonnegotiable:

  • Some things are intolerable in and of themselves no matter how many people put up with them. 
  • Intolerable things are forgivable.
  • Forgiving an intolerable wrong does not make it tolerable.
  • Forgiving an intolerable thing does not mean we intend to put up with it.

How often do we forgive?  As often as we need to.  When people ask how often they should forgive, what they usually want to know is how much abuse they need to put up with.  They are not really asking about forgiving.  They are asking about tolerating, and they need to understand that forgiving and tolerating are two very different things.


Forgiving is not an obligation.  It is an opportunity to do something good for ourselves after someone has done something bad to us.


Forgiving is not about letting people get away with something.  It does not mean that we tolerate what that person is doing to hurt us; does not turn us into mush.


Forgiving is not about staying with people who are hurting us.  It is not about tolerating abuse.  We need to set limits - but not on forgiving.  It is abuse we need to set limits on.  Only when we get away from abuse can we even think about forgiving.


"What Jesus said about forgiving seventy times seven had nothing to do with putting up with things until the seventy times eighth offense.  Jesus was telling us not to make forgiving a matter of numbers.  He was talking about healing our memories of a wound that someone's wrong etched in our cemented past.  Once we have stopped the abuse, we can forgive however many times that it may take us to finish our healing."  (p. 161)