A couple weeks after the revelation of Ann's affair I was on the phone with none other than her affair partner. I don't remember how we ended up on the phone together. Did I call? Doesn't matter now.
In the conversation he asked for my forgiveness. In truth I felt confused. What does forgiveness mean here? In actuality I felt like I had to say I did. I was a christian for crying out loud! What else could I say? Out of my denial and guilt I mumbled a weak, 'yes'.
It was really a lie. He didn't know what he was really asking and I didn't know what I was really agreeing to. The sad thing is this scenario is all too common.
Today if someone asked me for forgiveness I might say, "Tell me more about the particulars for which you seek forgiveness." Or I might ask, "Are you curious at all about what this is like for me? Are you willing to hear it?" I would also feel the freedom to say, "No, I'm not there? Please ask again down the road."
Shallow forgiveness isn't really forgiveness as I found out. Eventually, I was able to forgive Ann's affair partner. It came here and there in pieces. For a while I wanted to kill him.
But like us he had two small children. I eventually decided that those kids deserved a father and they didn't need one whose head had been smashed in by a flashlight with 4 D batteries inside.
Lewis Smedes wrote two terrific books on forgiveness. The one I'll draw on most for this section is The Art of Forgiveness.
In looking at forgiveness there are many myths about what it is and isn't. For several posts we'll take a look at what forgiveness does not mean.
1. Forgiving does not mean that we tolerate the wrong someone did to us. A victim of an affair may feel like forgiving the offending spouse is akin to saying something like, 'I don't mind if you have another affair on me.'
In reality that isn't what forgiveness means. Forgiveness doesn't mean that one can't get angry at the offender. Emotions will linger after forgiveness and that is fine.
One function of anger is to say, "I'm not ok with what you did to me and I won't tolerate it being done again." The anger is one way of helping set boundaries of saying I won't tolerate that behavior in the future.
When expressing this anger it's good to keep in mind Proverbs 17:10,
A quiet rebuke to a person of good sense does more than a whack on the head of a fool.
Anger does not equal yelling and screaming and calling the other person names. Anger expressed well is what we're after here.
Forgiveness then is not an invitation to be hurt over and over and over again.