An email arrived with the following question . . .
Q: Is there a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation? What do you do after a person has repeatedly mistreated you, lied, back stabbed, and spread malicious rumors about you? As a Christian do you have the right to avoid them in a friendly manner? What is the best way to handle this situation? Do you really have to help them in any capacity; such as financially?
A: The short answer is no. Forgiveness does not mean you have to continue having a relationship with someone who continues to hurt you and abuse you. Forgiveness starts in your heart. It’s a change in your attitude toward God that leads to a change in your attitude toward others. Forgiveness is first and foremost between you and God. We need to forgive for two reasons:
1) Because God says so.
2) Because we need to.
Neither of those reasons have anything to do with the person who hurt you. They may not even know you have forgiven them. There are certain "toxic" people that we need to put out of our lives because they are no good for us. They drag us down spiritually. Sometimes those "toxic" people are in close relationship with us. In such cases, we have to learn to be friendly and kind but find a way to live "around" them so to speak, the same way you drive around a pothole in the road. Some people are spiritual potholes for us and we need to avoid them.
You can forgive someone without establishing a close relationship with them again. Forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things because forgiveness depends only on you, but reconciliation depends partly on you and partly on what the other person does. Since we can't control what others do, I tell people that we can always forgive even when reconciliation isn't possible or even wise.
(On July 1, Harvest House released my newest book, The Healing Power of Forgiveness.)
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