H/T: Blessed is the Kingdom (here)
Fr. Christian Mathis
It’s evident that many people consider forgiveness and reconciliation to be synonymous. In reality, to forgive is one thing. To be reconciled is another. Today I am happy to share a few thoughts on the differences between the two.
Forgiveness can happen without the involvement of the offender, whereas reconciliation requires something from both parties. Perhaps it is helpful to use the analogy of finance. Let’s say I owe your business 100 dollars. In order to reconcile the account, I must give you 100 dollars. However, if you decide to forgive the debt, it requires nothing from me. In fact, I could be obstinate in my refusal to pay you what is legitimately owed and still be forgiven the debt out of your generosity.
Reconciliation, on the other hand, requires something from both the offender and the person offended. If a broken relationship is to be repaired there must be something beyond forgiveness. Forgiveness is certainly necessary to achieve reconciliation, but so is a healthy amount of dialogue, listening, remorse and understanding.
Forgiveness does not necessarily mean forgetting the offense. There are times when remembering a transgression is critical to one’s health and well being. An all too common example is a person who has been the victim of abuse. While it is certainly possible (though often very difficult) to forgive an abuser, it would be foolish for the victim to forget the wrong done. Remembering in this case becomes a protection against future harm.
Since it requires only a change of heart in the one from whom it is offered, extending forgiveness to those who are seemingly beyond the reach of our mercy becomes attainable. We can forgive the dead. We can forgive those we will never see again. We can forgive without ever being offered an apology. More than anything else, forgiveness allows our hearts to be set free from resentments and anger. In some cases it may lead to reconciliation. In some cases it may not. It will almost always lead to peace.