The Breaking Nature of True Forgiveness


I’ve been listening to Jars of Clay’s song “Reckless Forgiver” lately, and it’s got me thinking.

I kind of hate forgiveness. Specifically, I hate needing it. To need forgiveness means that I have done something wrong. And when I have done something wrong, I would rather earn redemption than receive forgiveness.

I would almost always rather face the consequences for my actions than accept forgiveness.

Because forgiveness is unmerited. There are no strings attached. No expectations.

There still may be consequences based on the actions committed, but the when the wronged party truly forgives the offender, they forfeit claim to any personal retribution, which puts the offender in a tricky position. It forces the offender to either abandon their pride and accept the forgiveness, or refuse forgiveness and put consequences on themselves.

In the first situation, the response is uncomfortable because it requires us to set aside our pride. Why would someone who needs forgiveness experience pride? Because they want to believe that they can still make the situation right, that they can fix things on their own.

In the second, it is uncomfortable because it forces the offender to attempt something that is simply impossible. No matter how hard we try, no one can wind the clock back and undo the offense. The best they can hope for is to be offended in the same way by the person they offended so that somehow things will be “even”. But even then, things will never be better; they will simply be equally bad.

And so to be forgiven is to be broken. To accept that there is nothing we can do to make a situation right is hard thing to do, a very foreign thing to do. And in the wake of this brokenness, how should we act? Humbled, and hopefully wise enough to avoid making the same mistake in the future.