Forgiveness – What It Is and What It Isn’t

Forgiveness – What It Is and What It Isn’t December 18, 2023

Forgiveness sets us free
Forgiveness sets us free


The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103: 8-12


Tis the season for gathering together with family and friends for delicious food, fun, and fellowship. Right?  Sometimes (oftentimes) we may not always be excited about that next family gathering if we were slighted, hurt, or emotionally injured by a family member’s unkindness’s or in some cases…deliberate cruelty in the past.

So the question remains how do we navigate these weeks of celebrations, parties, dinners, and other holiday gatherings with those who may not demonstrate love and kindness to one and all? I believe we need to take our cues from Scripture first and foremost by discussing the principle of true forgiveness.

We are commanded to forgive

As Christians, we are commanded to forgive our offenders. End of story. We are to model God’s ultimate forgiveness demonstrated toward us by Jesus when He went to the Cross in our place.


However, there is a difference between forgiveness and allowing another person to repeatedly abuse and mistreat us. Let’s rightly assume we have forgiven the offenses of others. What might a next step look like as we evaluate the relationship with this difficult person going forward.

What forgiveness isn’t

What forgiveness isn’t according to Nancy Leigh DeMoss in her excellent book, Choosing Forgiveness: Your Journey to Freedom. The author makes it clear what forgiveness is not by detailing these four misinterpretations. Forgiving another does not mean that –

  1. Forgiveness and feelings go hand in hand.
  2. Forgiveness means forgetting.
  3. Forgiveness requires a long, drawn-out process and cannot take place until healing is complete.
  4. Forgiveness should always make things better.

How we move forward

In each of these descriptions we can feel stuck when we have chosen to forgive but our emotions are still tender and hurting. (To forgive is to make a choice not necessarily feel differently about what occurred).  Similarly, God has given us minds that remember the good and the bad. We can forgive but we may always remember. Our choice is to not allow the painful memories to nest in our minds and settle there.

We can choose to forgive someone but if they are not interested in restoring (or working on) a healthy relationship with us, our forgiveness may be the end of the process.  Finally, offering another forgiveness as God has offered us (and continues to offer us) doesn’t mean the repercussions or pain inflicted will suddenly disappear. Healing takes time. Restoration may need to occur.

We honor God when we forgive

Still, this is the key point. God tell us to forgive others as He has forgiven us. When we forgive, we are set free from the inside out. So let’s choose wisely this season. Let’s choose forgiveness as we celebrate the birth of our blessed Savior who demonstrated what forgiveness costs.


About Michele Howe
Michele Howe is the author of 29 books for women, children, and families. She has published over 3000 articles, reviews, and curriculum. Her newest release is, Serving As Jesus Served: Practical Ways to Love Others. You can read more about the author here.

Browse Our Archives