Today on More2Life, we explored what authentic forgives does (and doesn’t) require. Here are three tips to help you make forgiving others less complicated.
1. There is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.
St. Augustine said that we’ve forgiven someone when we’ve surrendered our natural desire for revenge. Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending it never happened or letting the person go scot free. It means surrendering your desire to hurt the other person or have them hurt for having hurt you.
Reconciliation, on the other hand, (again, according to Augustine) is the “tranquility that results from right order.” In other words, in order to reconcile with someone, they have to be willing to work with you to heal the wounds, right the wrongs, or solve the problems caused by their actions. Because not everyone is willing to do that, it is possible to forgive someone but still not be reconciled to them.
2. There are 3 Parts to an effective apology
If a person is truly sorry (as opposed to just going through the motions) their apology will reflect the fact that they feel how much they hurt you, own the responsibility for what they’ve done (instead of blaming you or making excuses), and want to make restitution. If you are struggling to forgive someone, there is a good chance one of these three ingredients is missing. Full reconciliation will require you to insist that the missing elements be addressed.
To completely reconcile with someone, you need to be able to trust that–barring some genuinely unusual circumstances–they won’t commit the same offense again. Research shows that a trustworthy person has proven that they have 4 qualities. The ability to do what they say they are going to do. The integrity that either enables them to avoid giving offense in the first place and/or easily and quickly accept correction when they commit an offense in spite of themselves. The benevolence that shows that they are committed to working for your good even when it is inconvenient for them to do so. And the consistency that proves to you that they can be counted on to demonstrate these qualities across many different areas of your life and relationship. Someone who does not display these qualities cannot be trusted to be safe and so you cannot completely reconcile with them until they have developed their skills in these areas.
In short, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. But reconciliation is a project that requires the active cooperation of the wound-er and the wounded. Knowing the difference can make all the difference.
For more tips on achieving authentic forgiveness and reconciliation, check out God Help Me, These People Are Driving Me Nuts! Making Peace with Difficult People or tune in to More2Life radio each weekday at 10am E/9am C on a Catholic radio station near you or SiriusXM Channel 130.