Forgiven, but still in prison

By Dave Henning / February 22, 2023

“You can be forgiven but still be in prison. . . .  True freedom is not just in receiving forgiveness, but in allowing that grace to flow through us to others. . . .  This is what unforgiveness does to us.  It puts us in a prison of our own making.  But God wants to set us free.”- Rich Villodas

As Rich Villodas moves on in Chapter 8 of Good and Beautiful and Kind, he talks about four aspects of forgiveness we must wrestle with as we journey toward forgiveness.

 1.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.  Through the act of forgiving, Rich stresses, you extricate yourself from the cycle of revenge.  But it’s not realistic to expect yourself to live with a sudden case of amnesia.

 2.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean there are no consequences.  The choices we make come with very real consequences.  Hence, an act of divine forgiveness may or may not remove the impact of our misguided actions.  So, forgiveness doesn’t negate justice, and vice versa.

 3.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean you no longer feel the pain of grieving.  Forgiveness doesn’t work like a medicine that heals past pain.  Nor inoculates you from feeling new waves of pain.  In fact, Rich observes, we often experience forgiveness and grief at the same time.  That means the wound was deep.

4.  Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation with another person.  Times exist when deep wounds nullify full  restoration of relationship.   As a result, we grieve the losses that come our way.

However, Pastor Villodas cautions, resist calls for immediate forgiveness.  And that holds true regardless of whether someone requests it or not.  Or if the offender uses manipulative ways to demand it.  So, when someone coerces your forgiveness, you wind up saying with your mouth what your heart must still process.

Finally, when done in haste sans careful reflection, forgiveness can intensify the rift and resentment we hold toward others.  Because that forces us to concurrently carry the wound as well as the unprocessed bestowal of grace.

Today’s question: When do you observe forgiven, but still in prison?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Reactionary acts of forgiveness”

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Dave Henning

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