Different Types of Forgiveness

GE DIGITAL CAMERASo…it should go without saying I am not a theologian and this post is not the Biblical view of forgiveness.

This is the Charise view.

Let me say this about the Christian view of Forgiveness: It is hard and weird and confusing.

From my point of view, forgiveness comes in five varieties:

Forgive and Forget: This is the kind that whatever the offense, you are so ready to move on, so ready to get to the next part, the forgiveness is nearly effortless. Or you’ve just reached a place where it doesn’t even feel like forgiveness is necessary anymore. The hard part is over.  This is the kind I had with my daughter after she came out of the mental illness known as adolescence. Of course I forgive you…let’s get ice cream. 

Forgive and Remember: This is the kind that you totally get that it’s time to forgive. That the person is sorry or you have expressed your regret. But it doesn’t mean you’re going to recreate the circumstances that allowed the injury to occur the first time. I had this with a friend who raged at me, twice. She screamed, yelled, said horrible things and then “felt better and let’s go shopping.” Hm. No. I get that’s a trait you’re working on, but I’m not into friendships that turn verbally abusive. Remember the injury as a lesson, not as a grudge.

Forgive and God Bless: This is the kind where you don’t really get to forgive or be forgiven. But you have prayed and let go of the pain in your heart and wish every happiness for the person. There is a piece in the 12 step programs about making amends “when it won’t cause harm.” Not every grievance is best served being resolved in person. This is the kind I have for an old boyfriend that I didn’t handle things…well. But calling him now would not go well either. But God bless him. I have another friend who stopped being my friend. The void created was awful. It nearly broke my heart to lose her friendship. But I had to let that pain go and I wish her every good thing. God bless her.

Forgive and Help: This is the kind where I am so mad about something in our world that is so wrong. Racism. Child abuse. Addiction. But I can’t get bogged down in my anger. I need to let that go and get on with the part of helping. This was the most powerful for me during my first trip to New Orleans. It was a year after Katrina and the city was still a wreck. It was shocking. It was infuriating. It was the first time I was ashamed to be an American. I’m not naive, I know we’re not perfect. But what the heck was going on down there?! The conference I was attending designated one day for us to be able to volunteer in a community project. It was just one day and I really just did some yard work (with one eye out for snakes). But it was a lesson in moving past outrage to positive action.

View from my back door.


Forgive and Get Out of the Way: I recently was taught a version of forgiveness that resonated so deeply, the echoes are still pinging around inside my soul. This kind requires a few agreements: 1) That God’s justice is perfect 2) That his justice may not look the way you think it should.  If you can accept those premises, then this kind of forgiveness is where you  state your case to God and then step out of his way. Let him sort it out. Put all your evidence on the table, trust in a just God, and leave the court room. Justice may not happen this side of heaven, but it is not your business anymore. It is God’s.


How about you? How does forgiveness “work” for you? Did I miss a variety?