Can Forgiveness Go Too Far?

A little over two years ago, I decided that it was in my best interests to cut off a friend of mine who I have referred to in a few posts on this blog as my nemesis.  We had found ourselves in a terrible situation that spiraled completely out of control during an altercation that occurred after we were thrown out of abruptly left an acquaintance’s 4th of July barbecue.  (For the record, there is much more to the story than this.  The barbecue altercation was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.)  At the time, I never expected the two of us to talk again.  Therefore, I was surprised when a chance conversation between us surrounding my experience being scouted by a sketchy modeling agency was actually somewhat pleasant.  We have talked a few times since then and each conversation has been awkwardly cordial to the point where I realized that more than anything else, my nemesis really wants our friendship back.  I’m just not sure how to feel about that.

Lately, I have been contemplating the boundaries of forgiveness.  In the Lord’s Prayer, we regularly ask God to “forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.”  I am confident that no one wants to receive only a partial forgiveness from God.  Still, sometimes it seems impossible to offer total forgiveness–especially to someone who has great trouble acknowledging his or her own wrongdoings.  To this day, my nemesis still tries to skirt around the details that led to the end of our friendship and that bothers me.  At the same time, I am starting to realize that remaining angry about the past is keeping me from enjoying the present life that God has given me.

It is this contemplation that is the cause of my current dilemma.  My understanding of forgiveness causes me to believe that the end result is often restoration.  Right now, I am having trouble navigating the line between total forgiveness and restoration as they relate to my nemesis and other people who have seriously wronged me in the past.  After all, God restored us to our rightful place with him by forgiving our sins.  Nonetheless, sinful actions always have consequences.  Death exists as a consequence of the actions of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  I just can’t seem to find the appropriate balance between total forgiveness and the consequences that come along with sin.  As a result, I tend to vacillate between unforgiveness and being a bit too willing to let people back in my life who only mean me harm.

This post is different for me, but I am writing it because I know for a fact that a few of my close friends have the same issue.  We always want to give questionable people multiple chances to change even when evidence suggests that they are set in their ways.  Then we end up disappointed and disillusioned because of situations that could have been avoided if we had only followed our initial inclination to keep such questionable people at a distance.  Maybe we’re just naive or too idealistic.  My mind just keeps coming back to the fact that God has not given up on me in spite of my many faults.  I feel the need to extend that same courtesy to the people in my life, though it often has pretty bad results (though the situation with my nemesis was far worse than anything else I had ever experienced in my life).

In the end, all I can do is pray that God will give me the wisdom to recognize the difference between questionable people who truly deserve another chance and people who are taking advantage of my forgiveness.

 

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About Spencer

Spencer T. Clayton is a typical millennial who believed his mother when she told him that he was capable of accomplishing great things (and as a result has amassed a large amount of student loan debt). When he isn’t blogging, he is either out with friends, writing and performing music, or busy working as an Executive Pastor and Consultant while simultaneously pursuing a PhD in Public Affairs.

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