This website gives a really good definition of forgiveness. It defines forgiveness as: a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.
There are a lot of things that forgiveness is, and things that forgiveness is not. The list below is in no way an exhaustive list, but it is a good start.
i. Forgiveness is:
1. Choosing to forgive is tough and not a one time decision, but it is the best thing that can be done.
2. Forgiveness benefits the victim not necessarily the abuser, while un-forgiveness hurts the victim, not the abuser.
3. Forgiveness is a mental decision. We choose to forgive and then eventually our emotions will follow. We decide in our mind not to hold on the resentment and healing will follow.
4. Forgiveness is a process, not a one time event. We have to choose to forgive again and again when the offense comes back into our minds and the fear, guilt, shame, etc. threaten to overwhelm us.
5. Forgiveness is based on our attitude, not on other’s actions. We choose to either stay stuck and angry, or focus on God’s goodness to us and forgive. We can choose to forgive even if they never ask for forgiveness.
6. Forgiveness helps to bring peace of mind and release anger.
ii. Forgiveness is NOT:
1. Forgiveness is NOT letting the offender of the hook! They are still accountable for their actions!
2. Forgiveness is NOT letting the offense occur again. We do NOT have to tolerate abuse and continue to expose ourselves or our families to it!
3. Forgiveness is NOT to be equated with reconciliation. We can forgive while still cutting ourselves off from an abusive relationship.
4. Forgiveness is NOT forgetting! We can choose not to think or dwell on the bad things, but the memories will always be there even if they are tucked into a “back corner” in your mind. We should choose to focus on God’s goodness to us through our trials, and not on the pain we experienced.