Forgiveness vs reconciliation
I came across this this morning. You may be aware that South Carolina’s governor had been playing the bad boy and was found out. His wife just came out with a public statement, and despite the pain and anger she must be going through, it is refreshingly morally clear.
She’s definitely not a doormat. And she doesn’t seem to be the “I’ll stand by my man because it’s good career calculus” type (I’ll refrain from citing an example…).
Its abundantly clear that she first of all has a God perspective. And she has a handle on a very significant distinction that so many don’t get: forgiveness is not reconciliation.
Forgiveness in mandatory, because we are neither competent nor called to judge the secrets of men’s hearts in this life. But reconciliation is conditioned on repentance and the willingness to work at rebuilding trust, upon which sincere relationship is built.
God rightly demands that we forgive others if we want to remain in His good graces. Otherwise, we set ourselves up as God, judging others. But He also warns us against casting pearls before swine. In other words, be free of judgment and bitterness, but be careful whom you trust. God cares about His temple, which is us, and He wants it protected from defilement.
The only way to accomplish this is to separate forgiveness from reconciliation. Those who fail to do so run a dual risk. They can either withhold forgiveness because they fear the inappropriate reconciliation they think it will necessarily lead to, or they go ahead with the forgiveness and reconciliation. In the first case they harbor unforgiveness, and in the second they become unequally yoked in an abusive relationship. Either of these lead to spiritual disaster.
But if we forgive from the heart and then judge reconciliation as a separate issue, we keep our hearts free from both bad internal and external influences. And that is the very “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” kind of wisdom the Lord has enjoined us to practice.
Ms. Sanford sounds like a Proverbs 31 woman to me, with godly integrity. Kudos. Here’s her statement:
Columbia, S.C. – July 2, 2009- The last week has been very painful for me, my family and for the people of South Carolina. However, throughout this terrible ordeal, the incredible outpouring of kindness, support, and prayer I’ve received from countless friends and folks I have never even met has been truly uplifting. I appreciate that more than I can say. Please know that my sons and I are doing fine, given the circumstances. We are surrounded by friends and family, and we will make it through this. I believe it is how we respond to the challenges we face in life, and what we learn from them, that is most telling about who we truly are.
There is no question that Mark’s behavior is inexcusable. Actions have consequences and he will be dealing with those consequences for a long while. Trust has been broken and will need to be rebuilt. Mark will need to earn back that trust, first and foremost with his family, and also with the people of South Carolina.
The real issue now is one of forgiveness. I am willing to forgive Mark for his actions. We have been deeply disappointed in and even angry at Mark. The Bible says, “In your anger do not sin.” (Psalm 4:4) In this situation, this speaks to the essence of forgiveness and the critical need to channel one’s energy into positive steps that uphold the dignity of marriage and the family, and lead to reconciliation over time. My forgiveness is essential for us both to move on with our lives, with peace, in whatever direction that may take us.
Desmond Tutu said “forgiveness is the grace by which you enable the other person to get up, and get up with dignity, to begin anew.” Forgiveness opens the door for Mark to begin to work privately, humbly and respectfully toward reconciliation with me. However, to achieve true reconciliation will take time, involve repentance, and will not be easy.
Add to your social media: