What Forgiveness Is and Is Not: Seven Rules of Forgiveness


Too often forgiveness is a burden on the wounded. Instead the imperative of accountability must be on the abuser.

When I’m told to forgive, I think about

my math tutor when I was barely twelve years old, who shouted in my face and dug his fingers in my shoulders

a grown woman who beat me for “misbehaving” at a public pool when I was seven

students who randomly assaulted me in school calling me racial slurs

the thousands of hate crimes and murders both reported and unrecorded against POC

the dozens of stories I’ve heard from patients assaulted by their most trusted people.

But I’m told to just let go. “Forgiveness is a gift.”
Is it? How is it a gift to remove this knife from my gut that never should’ve been there? Why is abuse became the abused person’s problem to solve?

Forgiveness is powerful, yes. On the other side there’s freedom. But when forgiveness is demanded of a victim in a bad power dynamic—who benefits? Abusive people and systems often act in a remorseless repetition of violence. It’s that very violence which keeps power and profit.

I have learned it is more wrong
not to be angry at injustice.
Why demand the wounded
to be level-headed, neutral, watch their tone, to grow, be resilient, be the example, take the high road?
Sometimes the high road
goes right off a cliff.

Inside anger
I hear the voice of grief
because the abused person
had their life interrupted
and never asked for an apology
—they needed honor for their dignity.

Here are some of my rules on forgiveness.
1) Forgiveness does not mean friendship.
2) Forgiveness is a daily choice that can take a lifetime.
3) No one can rush your forgiveness, ever.
4) You can be angry while forgiving.
5) Forgiveness does not negate justice.
6) If you have been abused and traumatized, then forgiveness is not a prerequisite for your recovery. To make forgiveness a burden on the abused only enables the abuser. It also mocks the abused. To skip anger is to bypass pain and therefore true recovery.
7) Do not make forgiveness an imperative burden to force a romanticized outcome of “peace,” especially on the abused and oppressed. All you’ll do is guilt trip already wounded people into a false truce.

— J.S.

My Friend Called Me a Racial Slur: Are They a Racist?

Anonymous asked a question:

If a friend of yours who showed no signs of racism ever just happened to get mad at you about something and called you a racial slur, what would you do?

Hey my friend. That’s terrible that this happened to you, and I’m sorry.

That’s also a very, very big yikes for me.

The short answer here is that your friend is most likely a racist, and it’s a good idea to drop them.

Some words are so charged, violent, and historically poisonous that they should never be spoken, certainly never from a friend you trusted, whether they were angry or not. For me, that would be a red flag, dealbreaker, and burned bridge all in one. I would have an extremely difficult time forgiving, much less trusting, this person again.

Before that sounds too harsh, here’s a story that my friend told me.

Continue reading “My Friend Called Me a Racial Slur: Are They a Racist?”

Struggling with Mother’s Day


For those struggling with Mother’s Day because of a broken relationship, here’s a one minute answer that I gave on Moody Radio for those specifically struggling with today.
— J.S.

To Love Means




To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.

— G.K. Chesterton



Begging For Retroactive Grace: When You Realize You Were The Stumbling Block

I haven’t lived a very good life.

I know that in the eyes of Christ, because I believe who he is and what he has done, that I’m forgiven for it. But that doesn’t change the horrible ideas I’ve embedded in innocent minds, the trail of destruction I left behind, the blasphemous garbage from this mouth that has thrown people off a brighter path.

I have God’s grace, but I beg Him for grace upon others I screwed up.

Continue reading “Begging For Retroactive Grace: When You Realize You Were The Stumbling Block”

Quote: Ensures


God’s decision to forgive Peter required the death of his Son; Peter’s decision to forgive those who had offended him would cost him little more than his pride. The same is true for us.

In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy. But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another. Forgiveness is the gift that ensures my freedom from a prison of bitterness and resentment.

— Andy Stanley


Quote: Unchained


Very often people are afraid to forgive because they assume that if they forgive, injustice will triumph. Yet the counterintuitive wisdom of Christ reveals that the very opposite is true. It is forgiveness alone that has the capacity to break the chains of injustice and give us the possibility of a new future — a future unchained from the past and free of bitterness.

— Brian Zahnd


Quote: Convictions


I fear that far too many followers of Christ have been sucked into the angry political polarization that characterizes our culture — a culture that has come to venerate the enraged rant as an art form. And when we do this, the name Christian is diminished to an adjective for modifying certain political positions rather than a noun for a person who is deliberately attempting to imitate Jesus Christ. This absolutely must change. We can hold all the convictions we want, as long as we can hold them in love.

— Brian Zahnd


Quote: Undeserving


“God’s decision to forgive Peter required the death of his Son; Peter’s decision to forgive those who had offended him would cost him little more than his pride. The same is true for us.

In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy. But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another. Forgiveness is the gift that ensures my freedom from a prison of bitterness and resentment.”

— Andy Stanley

Quote: Balancing


“Justice must be about much more than balancing out the wrongs of the world. It must be about making things right, about the kind of restoration that does not reverse the pain, but moves beyond it toward something new.”

— Rachel Tulloch