Forgiveness is not relieving the person of responsibility.

A person shouldn’t be “off the hook” from his or her responsibilities just because you choose to forgive. For example, a wife may be forgiven for placing the family in financial ruin with debt, but she should still be responsible for making payments. A former husband may be forgiven for destroying his marriage with an affair, but he should be paying child support. Forgiveness doesn’t eradicate responsibility. It’s not unloving to hold someone accountable. It’s often the most loving thing you can do because it could lead to repentance. 

Forgiveness is often not a one time event. Those who are closest to us may hurt us repeatedly, requiring us to learn how to forgive multiple times. 

The best way to take a step toward forgiveness is to admit that you need to forgive. Be honest with the Lord, no matter how angry you are. Ask him to reveal any distorted or unhealthy thinking you may have about forgiveness. God is more than willing to teach you how to surrender every hurt and rejection to him so that it produces wholeness. If you desire forgiveness for your sins the Bible states that you need to forgive (Matthew 6:14-15). And that often begins with discovering the difference between what forgiveness is, and what it is not.

Laura Petherbridge serves couples and single adults with topics on spiritual growth, relationships, stepfamilies, co-parenting, and divorce recovery. She is an international speaker and author of, When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorceand The Smart Stepmom, co-authored with stepfamily expert Ron Deal and endorsed by Gary Chapman (Five Love Languages). Laura has spoken at the Billy Graham Training Center The Cove in Ashville, the Hearts at Home conferences, and on Focus on the Family and many other TV and radio broadcasts in many countries. Laura is a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series, which has equipped more than 12,000 churches worldwide. She has taught on divorce recovery at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, and functioned as a Stephen’s Ministry instructor.  Laura and her husband of 26 years, Steve, reside in Florida. She can be reached at and

Publication date: July 19, 2012