Forgiveness, Repentance, and You, and Me In the best case scenario, a person who wronged you willingly moves
through four steps of repentance: he acknowledges his sin, he apologizes and asks your forgiveness, he tries to make things right, and he vows never to hurt you again. Ever had that happen? Yeah, me neither! So how does forgiveness happen when there is no admission of sin, no apology, no effort to make things right, and no promise to refrain from future injury? Is forgiveness possible when there is no possibility of repentance by the perpetrator of evil? Yes, yes it is. It does not come easily, without time or effort, but it comes. The reporter who asked a victim of the Theater Massacre in Aurora, Colorado, sitting beside her hospital bed, “Will you forgive him?”, was thoughtless and clueless. The young person’s answer was honest and insightful. She responded with deep understanding—today, no, someday, yes, so I can move on. How does forgiveness happen without repentance? It happens inside the victim. Over time, the victim moves through confusion, anger, a need for revenge, and bitterness. Moving toward forgiveness is no more a conscious act than any of these feelings. One day, though, if the victim strives for health and peace in their recovery, they discover the anger, the need for revenge dissipates, not all at once, but fades. When the victim can honestly pray for God’s best intentions in the life of the perpetrator, she moves to forgiveness. Her prayer is not, “God, I want what’s best for him, and let me tell you what I think that ought to be!” Her prayer is, “God, I can’t forget what he did to me, but I need to move on toward health, so following your loving example I ask you to continue to care for him and give him all the love he needs to move forward to health and peace in his life. I don’t know what he needs, but you do, God, and I ask you supply his every need.” The alternative to forgiveness is bitterness and illness and unhappiness for the victim. Forgiveness comes in mysterious ways. It often sneaks up on victims. Then, one day, unbidden, an
awareness of forgiveness comes and the victim is free to move toward health and happiness.