Forgiveness Survey: eight questions to ask yourself

April 23, 2007 at 4:44 am 7 comments

The tragedy at Virginia Tech, along with discussions with students who lost friends in the shooting, has made me consider closely the issue of forgiveness. While processing my thoughts regarding questions like “Can you forgive someone who’s not sorry and never will be?” I came across a resource online that I found very helpful. It’s a website dedicated to this very issue: forgiveness. Click here to go to it. Pastor Doug Showalter is the one who developed the site. He also provides an answer to the very question asked above.

One of the resources he provides is a survey to help people process their views about forgiveness. Rev. Showalter approaches the issue from a Christian perspective. Here is the survey, along with the answers that he gives.


Strongly Agree….Agree….Agree & Disagree….Disagree….Strongly Disagree

Once you’ve completed [the survey, scroll down] to see my responses. You may well disagree with me. But, perhaps, my answers will stimulate your thinking.

  1. A Christian should always try to forgive and forget.
  2. A Christian should forgive even if the person who hurt them does not repent.
  3. A Christian should always be willing to be reunited with the person he/she forgives, as if the injury never happened.
  4. A Christian should try to forgive others quickly and completely.
  5. A Christian should abandon all ill will toward the person they forgive.
  6. A Christian should never hate those who wrong them.
  7. Over time, a Christian’s forgiveness of another will usually come about by itself.
  8. To forgive completely, a Christian should try to make everything go back to the way it was before the injury.


1. A Christian should always try to forgive and forget.


I feel it is important, for the sake of healing, to remember a serious injury. It is important to be clear as to the exact nature of our injury and who was responsible. Trying to pretend an injury didn’t happen or that it didn’t really matter to us, when it did, is only denying our true feelings. By remembering, we face the injury, and can eventually decide we want to forgive.

If we try not to remember, then we only bury the effect of the injury on us, such that we cannot truly resolve it and forgive the one who did it. In that way, the injury is not healed. Rather, it is like an infected wound which is closed prematurely.

I also believe it is important to remember, so we can learn from our injuries, and try to protect ourselves and others from being injured in the same way again. Consider this example:

A friend has been drinking. Foolishly we get into the car with him, and he has an accident in which we are hurt. We eventually forgive our friend for his share of the responsibility in the accident. Another day comes when our friend is drinking again. He insists that we get in the car with him. Remembering our past injury, we refuse. But because we have not forgotten, our friend insists that we have not truly forgiven at all. In fact, we have forgiven. But, we have also learned from our painful past experience, and choose not to repeat it.

This whole question may be a moot one. I say that because, very likely, it’s not even humanly possible to forget a serious injury. One can try to repress a memory, but that’s not healthy. “Forgive and forget” is an Old English proverb which dates back at least to the 14thcentury. But as a general rule, I don’t think it is good advice.

After the healing of forgiveness has taken place, we can remember that our injury did occur. After all, it is a part of our personal history. But in remembering, all the painful feelings we once associated with that memory do not come rushing back at us. The injury is truly left in the past. It no longer defines or has a grip on our lives in the present.

Here’s an exception: Suppose one has forgiven an injury and experienced reconciliation with the injurer–a process of two distinct stages. In such situations, it is not helpful to repeatedly bring our remembrance of the injury into the relationship. Discretion and a willingness to let the past be the past are called for, for the sake of the relationship–call this a type of “forgetting” if you will.


2. A Christian should forgive even if the person who hurt them does not repent.


In our anger or pain, we may feel that we should withhold our forgiveness, until our injurer repents. But consider this question from another angle. Making our forgiveness dependent on another’s repentance is not very helpful. It sets us up to be a victim, not just once, but twice! By making our forgiveness so dependent, we hand considerable power over our lives, to the one who injured us!

Hanging on to a grudge is like keeping a dinosaur in our living room. It’s a painful creature from the dead past which we choose to keep alive in the present. The truth is, it really is within our power to choose otherwise, and particularly with God’s help!


3. A Christian should always be willing to be reunited with the person he/she forgives, as if the injury had never happened.


In my view, forgiving takes one person. In forgiving, the forgiver opens the way, in him/herself, for the possibility of reconciliation with the injurer to take place.

Reconciliation takes two people–the forgiver and the injurer. For true reconciliation to take place, the injurer must usually accept responsibility for the injury and desire reconciliation. Reconciliation is foremost a matter of the heart: two people accept and relate to each other again in a spirit of peace, without malice.

I see being reunited as a step beyond reconciliation, which some, but not all, reconciled persons will chose to take. In being reunited, two people are both reconciled and willing to continue the closeness of their relationship, much as it was before it was broken by the injury.

Two examples which point up the difference: I can be reconciled with my friend who injured me. However, I may also choose not to be as involved with that person again; we are cordial when we happen to meet. I can be reconciled with my ex-spouse, but choose not to re-enter marriage or a close relationship with my ex-spouse again.


4. A Christian should try to forgive others quickly and completely.


I see true forgiveness as a process of inner healing. Thus, it cannot be rushed. We should be gentle with ourselves, and give ourselves time to deal with our injury in realistic and constructive ways–face it, analyze it, look for ways to rebuild any self-esteem which the injury took from us.

I feel it is important that we eventually come to the point where we make a conscious decision that we truly want to forgive the one who injured us–or, negatively, that we no longer want to carry our ill will.

Having made that decision, we then seek to walk with God, as long as it takes–years, if necessary–to receive fully God’s divine gift of forgiveness, which brings inner healing. Our journey with God will usually include prayer, self-reflection, sharing our journey with others, and our strong desire to be freed from reliving the nightmares of our past injury.

One day, we likely will realize that we have received God’s gift. We make the following discoveries: We no longer bear ill will against the one who injured us. Our lives are no longer defined by our injury. We are set free from the strong feelings of pain originally associated with our injury. In short, we have forgiven!


5. A Christian should abandon all ill will toward the person they forgive.


To me, this is part of the definition of what forgiveness is. When we discover that our ill will is gone, then we know that we have truly forgiven. I would add, however, that there can be different levels of pain and ill will within us. We can sincerely believe that we have forgiven, because we have found an inner spirit of peace. But then, sometime later, we can discover other levels within ourselves–concerning the person who hurt us–which also need healing. This does not negate our original forgiving, but shows us that there is more to be done within us.


6. A Christian should never hate those who wrong them.


Of course, Jesus taught us that we should love other people, even our enemies! That is the ideal for Christians to strive for. The reality of life is that when we are seriously injured, we may well have feelings of hatred toward the person who hurt us. Rather than try to repress those negative feelings or wallow in guilt because of them, I think it is better to admit their existence. Then we can strive to resolve them and move beyond them, in realistic and constructive ways, through forgiveness.


7. Over time, a Christian’s forgiveness of another will usually come about by itself.


I believe that forgiveness requires an initial decision that one wants to forgive. Without our wanting to forgive–whether verbally expressed or not–I don’t believe our forgiving happens. The journey of Christian forgiving begins as a choice. It ends as a gift of God’s grace.


8. To forgive completely, a Christian should try to make everything go back to the way it was before the injury.


Even if this were possible, which it is not, it may not always be desirable. A woman may forgive a boyfriend for physically abusing her–assuming the abuse has stopped and she is safe. However, she may also choose not to be reunited with him. [See above, my response to Question 3.]

No one, not even God, can turn back the clock. What we can do–with God’s help, of course–is seek to forgive, so that our present and our future can be redeemed from the bondage and pain of the past.


Entry filed under: Advice, Bible, Cho Seung-Hui, Christianity, Counseling, Forgiveness, Relationships, Suffering, Survey, Virginia Tech.

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tony  |  April 23, 2007 at 5:37 am

    What is Forgiveness ?

    Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred. It does not pardon sins and make them real. It sees there was no sin. And in this view are all your sins forgiven. What is sin except a false idea about God’s Son? Forgiveness merely sees its falsity, and therefore lets it go. What then is free to take its place is
    now the Will of God.

    An unforgiving thought is one which makes a judgement that it will not raise to doubt, although it is not true. The mind is closed, and will not be released. The thought protects projection, tightening its chains, so that distortions are more veiled and more obscure; less easily accessible to doubt, and further kept from reason. What can come between a fixed projection and the aim that it has chosen as its needed goal?

    An unforgiving thought does many things. In frantic action it pursues its goal, twisting and overturning what it sees as interfering with its chosen path. Distortion is its purpose and the means by which it would accomplish it as well. It sets about its furious attempts to smash reality, without concern for anything that would appear to pose a contradiction to its point of view.

    Forgiveness, on the other hand, is still, and quietly does nothing. It offends no aspect of reality, nor seeks to twist it to appearance that it likes. It merely looks and waits and judges not. He who would not forgive must judge, for he must justify his failure to forgive. But he who would forgive himself must learn to welcome truth exactly as it

    Do nothing, then, and let forgiveness show you what to do through Him Who is your Guide, your Savior and Defender, strong in hope, and certain of your ultimate success. He has forgiven you already, for such is His function, given Him by God. Now must you share His function, and forgive whom He has saved, whose sinlessness He sees, and whom He honors as the Son of God.

  • 2. Sarah Ozella Kendrick  |  April 28, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    I would like to know how we can forgive someone that does not ask us to, Christ forgives us AFTER WE ASK.
    the bible tells us to pray and ask the Lord to forgive us..Are we better than God or his son Christ.

  • 3. Sarah Ozella Kendrick  |  April 28, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    I sent a comment, about us being able to forgive someone who hurts us,the Father nor his Son Jesus forgives us unless we ask, I think it is wrong to say that you forgave some one, are we better than God, would he tell us to do something that he does not do ?

  • […] Click here for a previous article on forgiveness. […]

  • 5. act910  |  April 29, 2007 at 3:02 am

    I do appreciate the question, Sarah, and think it is a difficult one to answer. Here is my best attempt at a response to the question “are we better than God?” in regard to our need to ask him for forgiveness. I believe Scripture teaches that we don’t forgive sin like God forgives sin. Our forgiveness is of a different nature than His. Even if we do forgive someone, AND the person is sincerely sorry, that person is still accountable to God for his or her actions. We cannot forgive the debt the person owes to God for his or her offense against us. This truth points to the fact that sin is ultimately against God, and secondarily against us. God created us, and any offense against His creation is an offense against Him and must be forgiven by Him. That’s why a person can be truly forgiven by God even when we still refuse to forgive that person’s offense against us. God’s forgiveness actually removes the guilt and the punishment of the offense.

    If our forgiveness is conditioned on our willingness to forgive others, as Jesus’ commentary on the Lord’s Prayer suggests, then we must be able to forgive those who aren’t sorry. God wouldn’t require us to do something we’ll never be able to do.

    Here is a thorough look at whether or not we can forgive those who are not sorry by Pastor Doug Showalter:

    He appended this comment at a later date:

    “I would add this 7th, and I believe very telling, point to my argument that it is NOT unbiblical to forgive those who are unrepentant.

    7. Immediately after giving “The Lord’s Prayer” in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says in Matthew 6:14-15:

    “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

    Consider the logic of the situation. Suppose it were true, as some people say, that a Christian must WITHHOLD forgiveness until the person who hurt them repents. In that case, according to the above passage, the Christian him/herself would remain unforgiven by God.

    In other words, if Christians must withhold forgiveness until repentance comes, then the salvation of individual Christians ultimately depends, not upon themselves, but upon the people who hurt them, and whether or not those people repent or not.

    In my understanding, such a scenario is a great distortion of the Christian faith. In Christian teaching, each of us is ultimately responsible for ourselves before God. Therefore, the view that forgiveness must be withheld until repentance is forthcoming, cannot be right–because it leads to that distortion.

    As the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 2:12-13:

    “Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

    We, and not some other person, are responsible for our own salvation before God.”

  • 6. empowered thinking  |  May 26, 2020 at 9:04 pm

    empowered thinking

    Forgiveness Survey: eight questions to ask yourself | Living on Purpose

  • 7. Dating Women  |  March 13, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    Dating Women

    Forgiveness Survey: eight questions to ask yourself | Living on Purpose


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