The 4 Promises of Forgiveness

On Saturday, we posted The 6 A’s of Apology, which can really do wonders for conflict resolution. Today, we want to cap it off with the responsibility of the one receiving the apology — the responsibility of forgiveness.

After the last post, someone commented on Facebook and asked if we were going to talk about how to forgive a person when they’re not truly sorry. That got us thinking, and we’ve decided to do two follow up posts. Tomorrow, we’ll post a short blog on the causes of anger, and then on Wednesday, we’ll talk about staying unoffended, which will include some thoughts on forgiving someone even when they’re not so apologetic.

Have you ever screwed up and needed someone’s forgiveness? Can you remember what it felt like to have to face that person after you’d already apologized? As you approached that person, you were probably searching their face, looking for signs of genuine forgiveness. In those situations, we all really just want to be genuinely and totally let off the hook, right?

That’s what forgiveness really is. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that what they did was okay. That’s why in our last post we urged you to not let a kid say, “It’s okay” after someone apologizes to them. Forgiveness doesn’t mean the hurtful behavior or words are no longer wrong; it just means we are letting the person off the hook and moving on from it.

Forgiveness makes four basic promises, but before we get into those, we need to say this (and we’ll talk more about it in Wednesday’s post on staying unoffended): forgiving someone is often a process; it takes work.

Often, when we forgive someone, we’re not totally “over it”. In fact, just thinking about it can bring up some pretty yucky emotions, but check back with us on Wednesday because we’re going to give you some mental self-defense tips for when your mind gets mugged and negative thoughts keep firing.

There is a responsibility in forgiveness. We need to treat others the way we want to be treated. When we have hurt someone, we want a genuine assurance that we have been released from the debt, and we are required to do the same for those who have sinned against us. When we say the words, “I forgive you,” we are making four promises.

The 4 Promises of Forgiveness

Promise #1 — “I promise I will not think bad things about you.”

Ever catch yourself rehearsing a situation in your mind and getting mad all over again, even after you’ve already forgiven the person? For some weird reason, that seems to happen to me either in the shower or when I’m cleaning. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just when my mind is most vulnerable to opening wounds and revisiting offensive situations.

When that happens, its a red flag that you haven’t fully forgiven the person. Instead of fully diving into the situation and letting your anger and hurt take over, instead of thinking about what you would have and should have said and getting fired up all over again, recognize the red flag, and say out loud, “I choose to forgive So-And-So for doing Such-And-Such, and I release her completely from it.”

Then pray, and ask God to give you His eyes to see her the way He sees her. Ask Him to give you a genuine love for the person, and then speak blessing over her. “Bless So-And-So abundantly, God. Give her the desires of her heart, and cause her to prosper in everything her hand touches.”

We need to talk to our kids often about this and take their temperature after they’ve forgiven someone. If we sense that they are still offended, we have to remind them that we need to treat others the way we want to be treated. Have them think of a time when they did something wrong and ask them how they wanted to be treated. Chances are they wanted to be completely forgiven, and they have to do the same.

Promise #2 — “I promise I will not say bad things about you to other people.”

This can be tough. Often when someone hurts us, we desperately want to talk about it, and usually, we want to get other people on our side. We want to be validated, and it seems to be the most satisfying when we talk about it to someone who knows the other person. But really, what we’re doing is assassinating the other person’s character. On Wednesday, we’re going to talk more about how unforgiveness can progress to hatred (character assassination is one of the steps along the way). But for now, just know that when we forgive someone, we’ve promised not to say bad things about that person to other people.

If you need wise counsel, talk to your mom or your pastor or someone who can give you sound, objective advice, preferably someone who doesn’t know the other person.

Do not allow your kids to discuss a conflict again once it has been resolved. For example, once they’ve worked out a conflict during the day, they shouldn’t relate all the gory details to dad at the dinner table.

Promise #3 — “I promise I won’t bring it up again.”

Once we’ve forgiven someone, we can’t bring it up again in a future argument, like this: “You always do this! The last time we went through this, you did the exact same thing.”

In fact, the words “always” and “never” shouldn’t be allowed during a conflict. You have to deal with one situation at at time, and when you forgive someone, you’re promising that you’re not storing up their mistake in your conflict arsenal.

While we’re on this subject, we also need to teach our kids to be careful not to become abusers of information. When a conflict is resolved but later a new conflict arises, a child shouldn’t say, “Remember that time you broke my toy. You’ve been know to be careless with things, so you must be the one who broke this thing too.” That’s an abuse of information.

Promise #4 — I promise I will take action to demonstrate forgiveness.

This is similar to the action step in the 6 A’s of Apology, but the goal is different. In an apology, the action step communicates that in spite of having hurt or upset the other person, you really do value them. When it comes to forgiveness, the action step says that the debt is totally wiped out, and the person is freed from any condemnation.

It could be a hug, a smile, an invitation to get together again soon — whatever it is, the action step demonstrates your promise that the person is truly and totally forgiven.

Stop in tomorrow. We’re going to talk about the root causes of anger, how anger can help identify problems and how knowing the causes of anger can help you get control of it before it takes over and leaves you having to be the one to apologize.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.