Forgiveness [REVISITED] Part 3 – What Forgiveness “IS” and “IS NOT”

Hope, Healing & Freedom Podcast


We are continuing today to talk about our series on forgiveness.  Just a recap in our last we talked about hindrances on forgiveness.  Like not feeling like forgiving is a hindrance.  Another is feeling like if you grant someone forgiveness there aren’t consequences for the offender.  That’s not true.  Or believing that if you forgive that you have to trust the person the same as before. We also talked about the model in scripture in Matthew 18:21-22 about the number of times do we need to forgive.  The principle is that  forgiveness needs to happen over and over.  Its ongoing and there’s no end.  To quote Jesus he said 77 times. I’m not sure any of us are counting the times we’ve forgiven but the principle is that forgiveness needs to happen over and over. 

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that the offender is not held responsible for their actions.

Betrayal and broken trust are serious offenses but what about abuse? Surely you don’t mean that I should have to forgive the abuser the one who violated me? An abuser can be forgiven, whether they ask for forgiveness or not but it doesn’t mean that the abuser shouldn’t face the consequences of their actions.  What might those consequences be?  Well, it could be jail time, it could be a significant change in your relationship with the offender.  It may mean not being in relationship with that person at all.

If a person is not safe to be with then you may need to develop a boundary for your safety and for the safety of others.  We are going to talk about Boundaries in another podcast.  For now, let’s focus on some of the other hindrances of forgiving.  

Granting forgiveness to the offender doesn’t mean that you have to be in relationship with them.

Let’s say that your Dad, or other family member is abusive.  It could be physical abuse, mental abuse, spiritual abuse, sexual abuse or emotional abuse or all of the above.  You experienced the abuse as a child and now you’re faced with the reality that you need to forgive.  You can decide to forgive the abuser, for the events of the past but you do not have to remain in the same relationship with them.  Am I advocating cutting off relationship?  Well, I would first suggest drawing a boundary in that relationship.  You might draw a boundary that you’ll not visit that person in their home alone but only if others are around.  Maybe you only meet with that person in a public place where other  people.  Where are you safe from the abuse?  Where are your loved ones safe?  If you have a boundary that they ignore then change the boundary to one that they can’t and sometimes that means cutting off the relationship. 

Let me give a personal example:  

I had a family member that was extremely verbally abusive and was a rage-aholic.  For years I had not seen that behavior manifested and I’d hoped and believed that they had changed.  I had forgiven them for the past. (my heart wasn’t yet healed from the past abuse- I didn’t know about RTF yet) Slowly trust was rebuilt.  One day while at their home the abuse and rage started up again. You might say that person got “triggered”. I was by myself in the home with this person.  I decided to leave. Thankfully I had my own vehicle.  When I arrived to my home I was an emotional basket case. I had been verbally assaulted.  False accusations had been made about me.  Hurtful things had been said about my husband, about me and about our children. After much prayer and consideration my husband and I decided on a boundary.  I would never visit this person by myself again.  I would only visit them if my husband was with me.  The abuser never acted out as long as my husband was around. We also decided that we would not allow our children to visit this family member without us being present. We agreed that if ever the abuser did act out, or if I felt unsafe, that we would leave with no questions asked.   We never told the family member about our boundary we just lived it.  It was very unfortunate in one way because it put great limitations on being able to visit that family member and the others that lived with them as frequently. But I had to do what was needed for my safety and the safety and well-being of our children.  So, forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that you stay in the same relationship or that you can’t choose to draw boundaries. 

As I look through the lens of RTF Integrated Approach to ministry I can see the generational family pattern.  There are several other family members that have this same kind of abusive behavior.  None of them, to my knowledge, have ever acknowledged the abusive behavior, or asked for forgiveness for it.  I have chosen to live my life differently and not participate with the enemy in this way.  Choosing to forgive seventy – seven times. 


When you’re forgiving there are different parts of forgiveness.  Forgiving the person for the event that caused you hurt or pain. And then getting healing for the wound or hurt that was a consequence of that pain.  We call those Soul Spirit Hurts. Your heart must be healed from the pain of the traumatic event for the forgiveness to be complete. 

Let’s talk about another significant event that you might relate to.  Maybe you didn’t have an abusive person in your life but maybe you relate to having a best friend betray your trust by sharing something that you told them in confidence with someone else.  Your secret is now known by others.  You find out about the betrayal from someone else.  What do you do?  What has it cost you?  What are the consequences of the betrayal?  Well, of course it depends on what information was shared but at the very least is knowing that this friend, your BFF, can’t be trusted to not share information with others.  Even when you choose to forgive them it doesn’t mean that your relationship will necessarily be the same.  Wisdom would say that you’d better think twice before sharing something personal with them again.  So, You forgive the person (whether they asked for it or not) but your relationship changes.  You get healing for the hurt so that the forgiveness can be complete but there still are consequences in the relationship. 

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that the offender shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions.

Where there is betrayal and trust is broken, trust must be re-established. Trust is earned.

Unforgiveness limits you!

As long as you hold onto unforgiveness the person who hurt you has control over you.  Think about it this way.  I want you to think about 3 people in your life that have hurt you.  Maybe it’s your parents, a boss, a sibling, a friend, or a spiritual authority or Maybe it’s your spouse.  Now picture yourself with a bungee cord.  (It’s that stretchy rope that has a hook on each end.) You’ll actually need 3 bungee cords. Hook one end to yourself and the other end to each of the other people you thought about. You’ve got 3 bungee cords and you’re hooked to those 3 people.  Now try to move forward or side to side.  There is resistance. You’re hooked.  You’re limited in your movement.  You can only go so far before you’re unable to move without restraint.  That’s what holding onto unforgiveness does.  It hooks you to the person(s) and keeps you from living your life freely.  When you decide to forgive you are unhooking yourself from that person.  You are taking away the control that they have had over your life.  That is powerful! 

Forgiveness releases a negative spiritual bond between you and the offender. When you release yourself from them you free yourself from their negative control.  You choosing forgiveness frees you. 

A quote by Marianne Williamson is powerful quote 

“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.” 

Holding onto unforgiveness limits everyone. The wall that you build around your heart thinking that it is protecting you is actually harming you.  Choosing to forgive frees you and puts the offender in God’s hands. He’s off your hook and now on God’s.  Our Father God protects and vindicates His children and you’re one of His children. Trust Him to work in the other person’s life. 

Eventually, as your heart is healed, you will cease feeling resentment towards the offender.  

Let me share one more story about forgiveness:

Many years ago my husband was on staff at a church.  It was a two-fer.  Do you know what that is? Well in the church world you hire the man for a specific role and you get the wife for free.  Together we were over the youth, nursery, children’s church and young adults. One day the senior Pastor called my husband in for a meeting.  He told him he was fired. There was no previous warning.  No reasons were given.  He told him that he would get up on Sunday and read this letter from the pulpit.  We were to leave the church and not come back.  Needless to say there was a lot of anger, disappointment, confusion, shock, and a myriad of other emotions.  This was our livelihood, our friends, our kids friends, our community.  We were not even allowed to talk to the teenagers and young adults that we’d been so connected to.  The most confusing thing was that we were not given any reasons why.  Well, we read a modified version of the letter and we left.  We did what they asked us to do even though we felt it was grossly unfair and unwarranted. 

When something like that happens there are just no words to describe it.  How do you go on?  What do you do?  How can you reconcile the situation?  We began looking for another church to attend.  Wouldn’t you know that to get to the church we found we had to drive by the other church every Sunday morning. In fact, the church was even on my side of the car! Every Sunday Holy Spirit was talking to me.  Are you going to forgive?  It was not immediate but over the course of time I forgave.  It wasn’t a onetime forgiving.  As memories surfaced, as emotions arose I had to forgive again.  Eventually I got to the place where I could bless the Pastor and the church and pray for it to flourish.  

Eighteen years after we were fired I was attending a leaders gathering in our city.  At the registration desk as I was checking in I noticed THE Pastor’s name on the roster.  It was THE PASTOR that had fired us.  I had not seen him in 18 years.  We hadn’t moved away. Our paths had just not crossed.  So, I went back to my car to do a heart check.  As I sat there I pondered the condition of my heart.  Me and Jesus had a little talk and I returned to the auditorium.  My heart was okay.  I had forgiven him years ago even though he had never asked for it. 

In the meeting room the chairs were set up in the round.  I sat down and directly across from me was THAT PASTOR.  During the proceedings the moderator was asking us to do different things.  The focus of the meeting was about unity.  At one point I looked up to see THE PASTOR coming across the room towards me.  He sat down in the empty chair next to me.  My heart was beating out of my chest.  He said, “Cindi, I need to apologize to you and ask for forgiveness for what I did to you and your husband all those years ago.”  I was stunned.  I was speechless.  All I could do was weep rather uncontrollably.  I managed to say, through my tears, I forgive you.  Later that same day he stood in the room filled with leaders and publicly apologized.  I realized that day that I had been free for years. I had unhooked the bungee cord of unforgiveness many years prior.  The pain of that event had not marked my life in such a way that it kept me from doing what God wanted.  I had thrived.  I also think that he had been carrying around the burden of his actions for those 18 years.  My decision to forgive him each Sunday as we drove by his church freed me to live fully and not be controlled by my pain. 

Forgiveness is a choice we make.  It’s not based on feelings. Forgiveness frees you.  Getting your heart healed completes the forgiveness.

Won’t you pray with me? 


Father God, Thank you for making have making a way for me to be forgiven.  I have been fully and completely forgiven of everything that I have ever done against you or against others. Thank you for your mercy. I ask you, Lord, to help me totally and completely forgive those who have offended or hurt me. Bring to my awareness anyone that I am holding onto unforgiveness.  Lord, give me what I need to forgive them. Heal my heart of the hurt.  I want to be totally free from anything that is holding me back from experiencing all that you have for me.  


I choose to walk in forgiveness everyday.

RTF Featured on The Shawn Bolz Show

On the second half of this week’s episode (May 20th 2024) of “The Shawn Bolz Show”  RTF directors, Lee and Cindi Whitman, were the guests. Watch for powerful insight and two special listener offers on products to help bring hope, healing, and freedom.