the hard work of forgiveness [part two]

Written by J. K. McGuire

J. a wife, mother and Christ-follower attempting to find the sacred in the ordinary.

October 4, 2011

forgiveness at the front door

“The only thing that takes more work, tears and sweat than division is reconciliation.” – Shane Claiborne

You are not sure where to begin.  You’ve forgiven another person’s words, actions and misdeeds, but you can not decide if you want them in your life anymore. There are so many parts of being together that you find life-draining, overwhelming. You have done the hard work before God of letting the debt of revenge and justice go. You have given the need to be heard and understood into the hands of the One who sees all and forgives all. But now you have to make a choice: will you or won’t you be reconciled one to another. Will you work with that offending/offended person to promote peace for you both?

“Forgiveness takes one; reconciliation takes two.” – Cloud and Townsend

While forgiveness is a process between me and God; reconciliation is the expression of forgiveness between two people. This is hard work. You are making an intentional decision to shake hands, make it right and work towards a hope-filled future or you are choosing to walk away and let it be. Nothing is more excruciating then reconciliation.  Nothing is more dangerous than walking into a room with someone who has harmed you and allowing them to be heard, while speaking your truth to them in turn.

It requires a lot of patience, active listening skills and the ability to be wrong or possibly hurt again.

I have a previous friendship that hangs in that world of being estranged. When she walked out my front door three years ago I prayed that we would be able to continue to be friends. I understood that it would take a lot of work on both our parts. I spoke some difficult things into her life, but my intention was not to harm her. For me it was never about being right or rubbing her nose in filth. My heart yearned for her restoration and healing. I was praying we could be more than surface friends. She walked out that door, got in her car and did not talk to me again. I did not have the opportunity to speak to her face, “I am sorry you were hurt.” She never offered those words in return. I never had the chance to hug her again or hear her laughter. It didn’t matter how many times I called, how many messages I sent or what I said. She did not want to hear it. She turned her face from me, from us.

It would have been bearable if our conflict had been between just as, as grown women. But as is often the case a swirling of gossip and lies, half-truths and angry silence turned a difficult conflict into a deep fracturing of lives.

While I have forgiven before God the actions of those who harmed and crushed the heart I had brought before them, it would take a drastic change of heart for us all to have  that ideal of reconciliation. It would take a humble willingness to promote peace. It would take a setting aside of egos to admit that we were all wrong.

“We do not open ourselves up to the other party until we have seen that she has truly owned her part of the problem. So many times Scripture talks about keeping boundaries with someone until she owns what she has done and produces ‘fruit in keeping with repentance’ (Matt. 3:8). True repentance is much more than saying ‘I’m sorry’; it is changing direction.” – Cloud and Townsend

It would be amazing to sit with someone you have harmed or has harmed you and be able to speak truth to one another in love. It would bring God glory to allow forgiveness to come from both sides of a conflict so that revenge, bitterness, and anger are no longer present. But this does NOT always happen.

What I have learned is that when it feels hopeless and overwhelming the only place to take the swirling vortex of hurt is before the throne of God. He is the only one that tests and knows all hearts, He is the only one that does desire reconciliation and above all else love… and ultimately He is the only one we can trust with all of us. He can redeem what has been broken for the good of all involved, if we let Him.

Be reconciled to God and allow Him to show you what is next.

“For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people. He is the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5 NLT



  1. Anonymous

    Thank you for this. You’ve brought such clarity here to an area that I think is confusing to so many of us. I’ve struggled with the concept of forgiveness when the other party either can’t or is unable to own his/her part of the conflict. Separating the issues of forgiveness and reconciliation is really helpful here.

    • Jezamama

      I am glad you found this helpful Nancy. I get them confused sometimes. Putting more pressure where there does not need to be, focusing in the wrong directions. Sometimes we have to let it go.
      Thank you.

  2. Eileen

    Some very good thoughts.  “True repentance is much more than saying ‘I’m sorry’; it is changing direction.”  Love this quote, so true!

    • Jezamama

      I love that part of the quote too. It’s from Dr. Cloud’s book “Boundaries.” I highly recommend it.

  3. Tiff

    Wow. I needed this today.

  4. Pittcrew1

    love that you share what you learn as you live it out – not just speaking from “knowledge” but experience 🙂

    • Jezamama

      Well you know me…

  5. Jennifer@GDWJ

    I really like this: “allow him to show you what is next.” He is showing, I’m certain of it, but I’m often too busy looking at the mess, so I fail to lift my head and see His face.

    • Jezamama

      “But you, O LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts my head high.” Psalm 3:3… there is a song based on this verse. I love it. “Lifter of my head” is a theme phrase for me right now. May you remember who it is that lifts your head… 😉

  6. Anonymous

    Your quote from Townsend and separating out forgiveness from reconciliation was very helpful and just what I needed to read.  Thank you, Jessica.  I have read Boundaries before, but I may need to reread it.



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the hard work of forgiveness [part two]

by J. K. McGuire time to read: 4 min