Why Forgiveness Should Not Always be Practiced and Why Some Christians are Manipulated Through Forgiveness

Forgiveness cam be powerful and freeing when its practiced properly. However, this blog would like to pose a question. What do you do with forgiveness when the offending party or person doesn’t believe they have done anything wrong? Forgiveness is easily warped in evangelicalism. This post explains why there are situations and circumstances where a person should not practice forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.

Mark Twain 

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”

Thomas Szasz

I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 40:8 NIV 

San Francisco Cable Car 

This post is going to look at the issue of forgiveness and show the problems with it and explain why there are some people who should not be forgiven. 


Summary of Rich Wells Post on Forgiveness

Richard Wells is involved in ministry in Soma Church Community. Soma is an EFCA church in Santa Rosa, California. According to the Soma Church webpage he wears many hats and has done multiple responsibilities at Soma. At the church blog in January of 2013 he wrote a post about forgiveness and why people should practice forgiveness. You can read that post in, “Preserving Rich Wells Post on Forgiveness From Soma Church Community in Santa Rosa, California.

In his post he claims that Christians should forgive because God has forgiven them. He then goes on to say the following. “As we forgive we are not pretending something never happened, nor should we gloss over the offense. We are not saying what happened was good or right.Our forgiveness must be unconditional, often unilateral, and is a choice we make hoping eventually for reconciliation. Forgiveness is NOT a process it is a choice (decision) we make at a point in time. The process is learning to live with the decision we made. Over time it gets easier.” Those who don’t forgive can become bitter. God forgives us so we must forgive others. In the post he also speaks about the physical attributes of un-forgiveness. He speaks about the stress, anger, and how some can develop health problems. People who are bitter are not fun to be around Rich Wells states. People who don’t forgive may feel they are punishing other people when in the end the person is hurting are themselves. 


Examples of When Forgiveness Worked

This blog has written about a number of situations over the past few years that illustrated how forgiveness works. But here is the key to many of the stories that have been written. The offending person who committed the act that deeply hurt someone owned their mistake. They accepted the consequences, were sensitive to what they did and worked to help the party they wronged. I will also say that forgiveness is not only practiced by Christians. There is a psychological component to it as well. But here are some examples where forgiveness actually worked. 

In south Florida there exists the story of Renee Napier and Eric Smallridge. Eric Smallridge killed Renee’s daughter and her best friend in a drunk driving accident. She forgave him and he reciprocated and accepted being sentenced in Florida. Eric Smallridge worked to take ownership of what he had done. Even going before high school and other audiences and speaking about the dangers of drunk driving and openly talking about his problem with alcohol. You can read more about that in, “Renee Napier and Eric Smallridge: An Incredible Story of Grace, Forgiveness and Repentance in Florida.” In Minneapolis, Minnesota you also have the story of Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel. Oshea killed her son at a party while he was intoxicated. He was dealt with by the Minnesota legal system. In prison he responded to forgiveness by owning the act and responding to what he had did. You can read more about that in, “Forgiveness & Reconciliation: The Story of Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel in Minneapolis….

Then out of Oregon you have the story of Brenda Tracy. Brenda was allegedly gang raped by several football players on the Oregon State University football team. The head of the Oregon State football team left to become the coach of the University of Nebraska. Brenda in her pain eventually met with Mike Riley who apologized about what happened and a comment he made. Mile Riley spoke with her about it and acknowledged his mistake. That helped Brenda Tracey going forward to find some peace and find some closure. You can read more about that in, “The Necessity of Finding Closure: What the Evangelical Church can Learn from a Meeting Between Brenda Tracy and Nebraska Football Coach Mike Riley.” Another example can come from Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas. Once close they had a massive falling out and Isiah Thomas allegedly spread rumors about Magic Johnson’ sexuality after being diagnosed with HIV. In time they met discussed what happened and forgave each other. You can read more about that in, “The Reconciliation of Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas is Yet Another Example for the Evangelical Church.” In all of the above situations the person who wronged or hurt the other person admitted error, apologized, and worked with the people they hurt. They had actions that backed up their words. That is what makes these situations beautiful and healthy. 


And When the Offender or Abuser Will Not Own their Mistakes and Pain? 

Here is the question that needs to be raised that Rich Wells did a very poor job of tackling. What do you do when the person who abuses or hurts others will not own their mistakes? What do you do when they move forward and don’t care about what they have done and the hubris they leave behind in their wake? This problem actually describes a number of evangelical celebrities. Mark Driscoll ran from Seattle he never really apologized for the people he hurt at Mars Hill. Should Christians forgive Mark Driscoll? In this blog’s opinion I would say no. What about C.J. Mahaney and the sex abuse that was covered up in Sovereign Grace Ministries. Mahaney covered up sex abuse as casually as a teenager flips a burger in McDonalds. Sovereign Grace bled some horriffic stories of sex abuse from Pennsylvania to Maryland to Virginia. Should people just extend grace and forgive Mahaney for what he led and did while he was at the helm of Sovereign Grace? This blog says no. What about James MacDonald from Harvest Bible Chapel? Should people just forget and ignore his abuse and his talk about wanting to allegedly plant child pornography on the computer of the CEO of Christianity Today? No in this blogs opinion people should not forgive James MacDonald because he has not admitted his error and wrong doing. This blog writes about a number of EFCA and Southern Baptist Churches. Some have committed crimes or covered up problems or abuse. Others will not simply acknowledge that they made a mistake. Should they be forgiven? Not necessarily. I will explain why in the next section. .


There are Many People Who Should Not be Forgiven

When people are going to forgive people or churches who have not owned their mistakes what they are doing is empowering an abuser. They are actually contributing to the problem of spiritual abuse. Rich Wells post has some serious problems in my view. When a person has been raped, a child sexually abused, a family torn apart by a corrupt church or a person’s life has been derailed by a false accusation forgiving such people can only increase anger and pain. Why? Because people are letting them go. Some of these issues being talked about scar a person for life. There are females and men who are raped or abused who never recover. There are families harmed and even extended relatives affected by these problems. People are going to live with these situations for the rest of their life. To “forgive” them is not freeing them, its further enslaving them in the end. Rich Wells post shows how bastardized the process is and how its warped. People are walking into a slaughter in that they are doing what they are taught and only become more hurt in the end. Hopefully this post will give some people something to think about and consider. Forgiveness is one of the most warped things in evangelical Christianity. When a person has been hurt and the offender does not admit and carries on like all is well, forgiveness should not be granted. 

6 thoughts on “Why Forgiveness Should Not Always be Practiced and Why Some Christians are Manipulated Through Forgiveness

  1. In fact, true love for the perpetrator will take necessary steps so they stop perpetrating. “Forgive”, from the Latin “perdonare”. The “donare” part gets translated “give”. Sadly, the “per” part gets transliterated (carried through via sound), and so loses its meaning. The Latin prefix “per” has the sense of “altogether”, “completely”, “thoroughly”. We see it in “perambulate”, which means to walk all the way around, or in “perfect”, which means to make complete. If we’d translated it, rather than transliterating it, we’d have “super-give”.

    The most loving thing anyone can possibly do for a sexual perpetrator is to take all necessary steps to stop them from ever perpetrating again. Or as Dan Allender once put it: “Sometimes the numbers of forgiveness are 9-1-1” To truly forgive a perpetrator of abuse, we will turn them over to those powerful enough to make them stop perpetrating that abuse–for the good of their own soul, as well as to protect future victims. This is precisely what Willow Creek Community Church and Willow Creek Association/Global Leadership Network have absolutely refused to do. Their actions to continue to protect Bill Hybels, completely apart from the harm to his current and future ongoing victims, are profoundly hateful towards Hybels–the very opposite of forgiveness.


  2. This touches on some interesting questions on the nature of forgiveness, and the extent to whether forgiveness is always transactional or whether it can be one-sided. Also, people look at forgiveness through different prisms, so someone talking about forgiveness in psychotherapeutic terms may frame things very differently than someone talking about forgiveness in Christian faith terms.

    Since I am viewing forgiveness in Christian faith terms, for me the basis of forgiveness is that we are to forgive as God has forgiven us in Christ. For Christians, our forgiveness of others should be modeled on our faith understanding of the forgiveness that we ourselves have received. In that sense, I can offer Christian forgiveness even when the other person hasn’t apologized or acknowledged what they have done, because I know that my own forgiveness isn’t based on anything I have done to earn it, but rather because of God’s grace through Christ. What I mean here is that I can in some sense “release the claim” I feel like I have on the other person because of their actions, extending unmerited grace just as God extended unmerited grace to me. Doing so can actually help us heal, even if it is not matched by the offending party, because it helps us to stop clinging to some of the the hurt and to the bitterness that can tear us apart inside.

    However, and this is a big “however,” forgiveness doesn’t mean that I completely ignore the consequences of what has happened, especially if the other person hasn’t acknowledged their actions. It may still be necessary to separate from that person, to step away from the relationship, to set up protections against future abuse, or even to continue to pursue legal or civil action where the actions were criminal in nature or materially damaging. It is important to recognize that forgiveness doesn’t simply mean “pretend it never happened.” Sometimes people cannot forgive because they think forgiveness requires pretending things didn’t happen, or simply ignoring the offense and faking things to make it seem like all is OK, and burying and concealing the hurt that resulted. But that is not what forgiveness means, and having an attitude of forgiveness does not mean having to do any of those things. Forgiveness does not require denying the facts of what actually happened. People who cannot offer forgiveness because they believe this is what forgiveness means are completely misunderstanding the nature of forgiveness. So too are people who tell others that they must do those things in order for forgiveness to be genuine.

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  3. Manipulators gonna manipulate, Eagle.

    When a person has been raped, a child sexually abused, a family torn apart by a corrupt church or a person’s life has been derailed by a false accusation forgiving such people can only increase anger and pain. Why? Because people are letting them go.

    With pious doublepluswarmfeelies for the Forgiving Christians who WEREN’T the victim.

    I keep saying this over and over at Wartburg Watch regarding the standard comment of “They Have Their Reward; God will Judge Them on the Last Day”. These F’ers must be seen to visibly lose. They must be seen to NOT get away with it. Otherwise, all we’re doing is sitting quietly with folded hands mouthing Pious Platitudes.

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