When I was small, forgiveness was an uncomplicated thing. Someone would wrong me and they would apologize, and I would say, “I forgive you,” and then we would be completely reconciled and move on. That was all of forgiveness right there.
I brought this simplistic understanding of forgiveness into my adult life. If I forgave someone, it meant that we were completely reconciled. I no longer had any bitter feelings towards them, and they were welcome back into my life in exactly the way they were before. I did alright with this understanding for quite some time, because it works pretty well for healthy relationships. For example, when my husband and I hurt each other, we apologize, ask for forgiveness, grant it, and reconciliation is quick because we have a foundation of love and trust.
But then I encountered hurt on another level in a very damaging relationship. I was interacting with a person who consistently belittled me and bullied me. I told this person how I felt (a huge accomplishment for me, because I tend towards passive-aggressiveness). The person apologized, I forgave them, and tried to treat them like nothing had ever happened. They continued to treat me exactly as they had before, maybe even worse. I said something again, they apologized again, I forgave them again. This happened over and over and over.Read More