Forgiveness - Lesson 8

Forgiveness: Question and Answer

Questions and answers about what forgivness looks like in specific situations. 

Ron Toews
Lesson 8
Watching Now
Forgiveness: Question and Answer

Forgiveness: Question and Answer

I. What is forgiveness?

II. How do I know that God has forgiven me?

III. How do you proceed when someone places conditions on their forgiveness?

IV. What is the difference between setting a boundary and unforgiveness?

  • Ron Toews introduces the topic forgiveness, commenting on why we need to talk about it, what happens when we choose not to forgive, and when we do choose to forgive. The themes are "Justice" (what I want for others when I am wronged) and "Mercy" (what I want from others when I do them wrong. The past cannot be changed, but our present and future are set in place by our choices. Forgiveness is not about being nice; it is about not letting the past control our present and future.

  • When we decide not to forgive, our future is pretty fixed. It will narrow our possibilities and will be followed by bitterness and destruction. Ron also discusses what forgiveness is not, and when forgiveness is not relevant.

  • The more intimate the relationship, the more risk that is involved, and the more likelihood that forgiveness is going to be part of the picture. A pivotal concept is that pain and anger are not the message, just the messenger. When our lives develop cracks, the light of God is able to shine in a heal us. Ron covers the powerful example of a tennis ball. It is relatively small, but when we bounce it around the room it takes up alot of space. Likewise, when we rumninate about the past, when we reherarse the hurts, they take up bigger and bigger areas of our lives, and the past was never meant to be in charge of our lives.

  • When we are hurt, the anger rises. This is okay; anger is just the messenger that there is danger, it is an internal emotion and not the outward behavior. But what we need to do is step away from the event, calm down, and then deal with the actual event and the real issues. Painful things want to distract us, but they aren’t suppose to be in charge of your life. Rather, we should not blast off but rather manage our emotions. We walk in the same direction, day after day, and eventually we will reach our destination.

  • Once we have experienced pain, we have to get the intensity down and then come back and handler the event. Ron suggests a sample set of questions. (1) Tell the person what it was like for you. (2) Then ask the other person what the event was like for them. Remember, the behavior is the mesenger, not the message. The message is what you need to get to.

  • There are different levels of relationship, and with each comes a different level of vulnerability and risk. How you deal with forgiveness depends on which level your relationship with the other person is. A key issue in forgiveness is the level of the person's relationship and how that affects how you pursue forgiveness.

  • The process of forgiving someone follows a specific format, depending on whether they repent or not. But regardless of what the other person does, you can still forgive. But it may not mean the restoration of the relationship.

  • Questions and answers about what forgivness looks like in specific situations. 

"One of the most life-changing events in my life was a seminar I attended on forgiveness at Oasis Retreats in Canada. All of us have experienced betrayal and have had to learn forgiveness. This conference was the single most important event in my life that helped me start to learn what forgiveness is, and isn't. "There are only two things we can do with the past. We can either forgive, or we can let our past hurts control us. There is no third option. Many of us work under the false impression that if we could have justice, that would make all things okay. But justice does not bring back the child killed by a drunk driver, restore the girl who was violated, or return the ministry ripped from our hands. Whatever be your story, we all need to continue learning how to forgive." - Bill Mounce, President of BiblicalTraining

This seminar is presented by Ron Toews, a Therapist and Life Transition Coach practicing in Vancouver Canada. He has served on the Oasis Retreats team for fifteen years, helping more than a thousand Christian leaders in life and ministry transitions.

Be sure to download the Student Notes and the Chart.

Recommended Books

Forgiveness - Student Guide

Forgiveness - Student Guide

There are only two things we can do with the past. We can either forgive, or we can let our past hurts control us. There is no third option. Many of us work under the false...

Forgiveness - Student Guide

Lecture 8: Questions and Answers

Questions and answers about what forgiveness looks like in specific situations.

I. What is Forgiveness?

Q: If I’m willing to acknowledge my behavior and take responsibility for that; I see the pain that it has caused to this other person. What am I asking for when I say, please forgive me?

A: I think what you are asking is for the person to cut the pain away and release you from it as contrasted to harboring it. Whatever I have done, then in our relationship, we can continue on with that relationship without that being before us. I used the trust word earlier but that doesn’t mean all the trust has come back, but I’m aiming in that direction. Within a marriage context: I am for you and I am for us and we can move forward.

II. How Do I Know God Has Forgiven Me?

Q: Within the context of asking forgiveness from God; I am experiencing the consequences and rightfully so, but how do I know that God has forgiven me?

A: I think you need to go to the Bible. The other side of that is how I accept that and my emotions aren’t going to be there. They may be there but not likely. So, I’m forgiven. Do I feel forgiven? What I did was pretty bad. On one hand, we stay with the truth that is there. Does the emotion catch up; yes, I think it does. Anyone who is asking this kind of question has had the experience where you say what you say to God, asking forgiven and feel forgiven and you feel a relief come over you. But I’m not sure this happens all the time. I don’t mean the person isn’t forgiven, but do the emotions catch us? We have those emotions because that is how God made us. That is part of the picture.

III. How Do You Proceed When Someone Places Conditions on Their Forgiveness?

Q: If there is a person you want to ask forgiveness from but the person doesn’t accept that. He says that I need to do several things before they accept my forgiveness; so what do I do?

A: Part of the picture; is about restitution. I think when it starts to go there, I would probably see if we could get somebody else to help us with it; to help, you get a third party to see what it is. There are motives and all kinds of other pieces associated with this. And when the two of you are in the middle of it, it can be very difficult to get a clear picture.

Q: If the person refuses to forgive you; you do what you do and then say that you have done all I can do and I need to move on. Is that a way of handling it?

A: Yes, I think you are correct because in the front of the biblical side; it is not about having other people in charge of us. It also may be useful to have somebody else sort of briefly look at that. It is about not being bound and tied by that. People make choices for lots of different reasons and at the same time life moves forward. If a person makes that kind of choice not to forgive; we can still live with an attitude of conciliation. We don’t necessarily have to slam the door. We have done what we could do and if the opportunity comes, I’m open up to revisiting it, but I’m not going to continue throwing myself against a wall.

IV. What is the Difference Between Setting a Boundary and Unforgiveness?

Q: So the difference between forgiveness and boundaries are emotions? It is the idea of doing away with the pain. The idea of boundaries is good because it is clear but it is when the pain gets in the way and we move to an emotional response. The cutting away of pain now becomes the definition of forgiveness? The pain doesn’t determine the future.

A: When there is no repentance for the behavior, then I think it is appropriate to set a boundary to stop from being re-violated. That doesn’t mean a person doesn’t have to be a hundred percent cut off. But it is about what level of relationship I can be involved with. And I think forgiveness includes no longer having our life and our direction in life being tied to those events. So, emotions are a part of it but it is not all about emotions. In terms of deciding directions and it is also about giving up the idea of setting the balance right.

A: I haven’t spoken a lot about justice and I know that I haven’t. The justice piece is part of the picture; the challenge with this is to know how much is enough. In the community that I live in with the stories in the media where various kinds of things are going on; there are hard things that are happening and going on. There are life threatening or life taking things; lifelong injuries whatever they are. There are really hard things that we live within our community. So, what is the right justice for? How much of this equals that and then your fine and in some of these scenarios, there isn’t the right kind of justice. It’s not enough. Why? Because we have lost what we have lost and nothing replaces it. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be justice or consequences or anything like that. There was an article within the community I live in. It was in our community newspaper and I don’t know if I have all the facts, but the story goes something like this: A person was walking alongside of the road and they were hit by a car. The driver would have known that they had hit a person. The driver hit the person and just kept going. The person that was hit was lying in the dig and was found later. The person lived but they didn’t recover; they weren’t able to walk and so it was life changing. What is recorded in the paper was the person who was injured with their life changed said that they had forgiven the person who hit them. And then they could go on with their life. I don’t know what the justice system did, but the person was caught and put through the justice system. But what is the justice system ever going to do to get that person back to where they were? So, it is never enough. On one hand, there needs to be justice but the justice doesn’t move in the area of the forgiveness side. I certain support the justice side of things, but what is enough? I don’t know what you have in your community but the community I live in has a victim offender kind of program where they get people together who are appropriate for that. They put someone who has committed a crime with a lot of help alongside that person and the person who has been offended. And they work through some of that. This is for the person who can move on in life. So forgiveness needs to be part of this.

Q: You never can get back what you have lost ever again and so even if there was justice, it cannot recover what was lost.