Here's an excerpt from my book Deep Blue Ocean, from the chapter entitled"Forgive and Forget" Is Bogus:
Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending that what happened wasn’t so bad. It doesn’t mean acting like it never happened, either, in the sense that you should then immediately put yourself back in a position to have that done to you again. From what I’ve seen and experienced, it seems like what forgiveness really entails is adjusting your reality to include what just happened, and then choosing to continue being who you’ve decided to be. It seems, though, in many situations, what churches call forgiveness is actually just choosing to pretend that bad things won’t happen again.
Let me illustrate. Suppose you discover that your child was shown pornographic pictures by their camp counselor, who happens to attend your church. You are horrified and outraged and you confront the person. He or she at first tries to wiggle out of it, but finally confess, breaking down and crying. He or she begs your forgiveness, saying he/she is asking God for help and going to counseling and he/she will never do anything like that again.
Clearly, for you to say, “I forgive you, so my kid can go camping again with you next weekend and I will let this be our little secret so you don’t have to be humiliated” is not an option. That would not be forgiveness, it would be terrible parenting!
Or how about this: A young woman is sexually assaulted on her way home from work. Her attacker is arrested and put in jail, and he writes to the young woman, begging forgiveness and saying he is going to get help and he will never do anything like that again. Should she then decide that when he gets out of jail, she will date him? Since after all, she forgave him!
That might sound ludicrous, and it is, but it is exactly what many churches tell people to do in situations that are similar. If someone’s father or mother or spouse is the one who did something cruel or abusive or immoral or all three, and the victim goes to their pastor asking for help, what happens? “Oh, let’s have a counseling session, and talk about why that was wrong, and pray about it, and then you have to forgive, and go back home and live with the person, and I’m sure everything will be fine now, because we prayed and you chose to forgive.”
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you pretend it never happened! You can absolutely forgive someone and still say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t trust you now, and that will affect our relationship in this way (fill in the blank).”
If someone steals from you, forgiveness doesn’t mean you hire him to work in your accounting department.
If someone cheats on you, forgiveness doesn’t mean that you let her be gone at all hours without telling you what she is doing.
If someone molests you, abuses you, and/or treats you cruelly, forgiveness doesn’t mean that you live with that person.
Forgiveness is choosing to let go of the hurt and rage that naturally arises from injustice so that you can continue moving forward in your life.