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Why ‘Forgiveness Is a Gift You Give Yourself’ Is a Dangerous Myth

3. Forgiveness is entirely your choice.

Dr. Robert Enright, one of the foremost authorities on forgiveness, emphasizes this in his book Forgiveness iI a Choice.

Even in churches, forgiveness is made more appealing by pitching it as a choice. Which means not forgiving is an equally valid choice, particularly if it doesn’t meet our needs and expectations.

Biblical forgiveness is required.

We are repeatedly commanded by Jesus to “forgive as we’ve been forgiven.” Our forgiveness of others is to be a natural outworking of God’s forgiveness of us. It is never presented as an option. In the parable of the unmerciful servant, the man who was forgiven by God and who then refused to forgive another’s much lesser debts was thrown into prison until he could repay.

4. Forgiveness is a gift that will lift you up and advance your career.

Many purveyors of forgiveness promise success and advancement.

One pastor writes in his new book on forgiveness, “Reading this book may be the most important step you can take right now toward … professional advancement.”

Biblical forgiveness humbles the forgiver. 

The act of forgiving an offender requires and fosters humility. The parable of the unmerciful servant makes it clear that whatever debts others owe us, we have been cleared of far greater debts by God. The goal of forgiveness is not professional advancement or exultation, but identification with and compassion for the guilty: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

5. Forgiveness is a gift that frees you from obligation to the offender.

Secular forgiveness brings freedom by releasing the victim from all obligation to the offender. Dr. Phil urges his followers to forgive as a means of reaching “emotional closure.” But he advises us to find “the easiest thing you can do to resolve your pain.”

When the focus is on self-healing, the hurt person is often advised to end their relationship with the offender.

Biblical forgiveness frees you to love the offender. 

Forgiveness does indeed free us: It frees us from our self-focus. It frees us from hate; it opens our hearts with empathy; it frees us to love even the enemy. Forgiveness frees and strengthens us to bring us close to the offender. (It’s important to recognize, however, that some people are so dangerous and destructive that separation is necessary.)

6. Forgiveness is primarily about making you happier and healthier.

Many pastors, authors and psychologists maintain that forgiveness is primarily about our happiness and health, citing the hundreds of studies demonstrating the benefits of forgiveness to mental, physical and spiritual health.

Biblical forgiveness is concerned with the well-being of all people, particularly the guilty and needy. 

Forgiveness is far more than a means of personal happiness and health. God is concerned with the well-being of the whole world.

Believers, who have experienced God’s own forgiveness, are to be concerned with the welfare of others as well, especially those who are most in need of forgiveness and sent out then into the world as agents of reconciliation wherever there is brokenness and pain.