Another common misperception implicit in the phrase “forgive and forget” is the notion that if we forgive we are in effect saying that the offense against us is of no consequence. Quite the contrary. Forgiveness is never a magic wand that turns something evil into something good.
Dr. David Stoops (Forgiving the Unforgivable) comments on that common misperception: “I think our concerns with condoning an evil act through forgiveness comes from our inner sense of fairness and justice. It seems like we are letting the other person off the hook too easily if we forgive them. Part of us cries out for the other person to pay somehow for what they did.”
Forgiveness also is not our ticket to sin freely. Paul addresses this in Romans 6: 1-2: “What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means. We died to sin, how can we live in sin any longer?”
Dr. Stoops notes that the words “by no means” are a triple negative in Greek. St. Paul states his point as strongly as possible. Just as God’s forgiveness doesn’t condone the sin we committed, our forgiveness doesn’t condone the wrong done to us.
What forgiveness does allow, Dr. Stoops notes, is for us to cancel the debt owed us by the offender, which most likely can’t be paid anyway. This frees us from expecting restitution from the offender.