Forgiveness VS Reconciliation

“I don’t think I have forgiven my ex-husband yet.”

Can you hear the echo in your own head about something similar? People always like to have a definite answer about many questions, this is one of the most frequently asked one. As a therapist, one of the most frequently answered answer I have is

“I am not the Holy Spirit. So, I don’t know. However, I do know that often times people think that they have not yet forgiven someone simply because the relationships are not reconciled.”


Are forgiveness and reconciliation the same thing? I don’t believe so. The follow chart is a simple diagram I use often in my sessions (adapted by the Biblical Counseling Library):

Forgiveness Reconciliation
Can take place with only one person Requires at least two persons.
Is directed one-way Is reciprocal… occurring two-ways
Is a decision to release the offender Is the effort to rejoin the offender
Involves a change in thinking about the offender Involves a change in behavior by the offender
Is a free gift to the one who has broken trust Is a restored relationship built on restored trust
Is extended even if it is never, ever earned Is offered to the offender often when trust was built over time
Is unconditional, regardless of a lack of repentance Is conditional based on repentance


Let me give you an example.

If a pedophile has molested my child, it will be extremely painful to forgive him. However, when I forgive him, I am NOT saying that what he did was acceptable. I am saying that I allow God to be the ultimate judge to hold his sin accountable (Forgiveness). Nevertheless, I am neither going to hire him to be my babysitter, nor allowing him to be with my child alone (Reconciliation).

Let’s have another example.

If my business partner took all of my money and ran away, it will be extremely difficult to forgive her. However, when I forgive her, I am saying that God’s righteous and just punishment is far better than my standard of judgment. I forgive her because I trust God, not because she is awesome or she is repentant. However, it would be foolish of me to be asking her to manage my personal finances from now on or to give her my passwords of my bank account (Reconciliation).

See if this timeline clarifies or confuses you. Future tense, I recognize that the Judgment Day is REAL! It is not a fantasy story. Just like many other fulfilled prophesies in the Bible (remember the prophesy about a Savior being born of a virgin?), His best, most just judgment will happen some day! It is a legitimate incident yet to be fulfilled. Simply because He recalls my sins no more as far as the East is from the West, does not mean that God has the inability to recall the sins or that the sins were no big deals! As a matter of fact, if the wrath of God was not a big deal and if sin were something that He could simply “shake it off”, my Savior did not need to die. What has been fulfilled is that Christ has laid down his life an example of His forgiveness for me in the past. Now, I am not judging him, I need to make a choice to release the offender to the Most High God.

Am I confusing you more? Well, maybe you should read this to see if you and I are on the same page of what forgiveness means.