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Forgiveness After Betrayal (Part 2)

This is part two talking through the topic of forgiveness. One of our team members has done an amazing job laying out this topic, and we wanted to be sure we shared it in its entirety. In part one you heard her speak to the concept of forgiveness and a map to navigating it. In part 2 she will expand on the scripture to support the process of forgiveness and the gift it is for us as believers. Please understand that this topic is deep and wide. We are attempting to highlight some of the various struggles with forgiveness. Our forgiveness journeys don’t look alike. Consider this an invitation from the Lord to consider what He might have for you in this part of your story.

I’ve often heard a woman say she is unable to complete the forgiveness process because he keeps hurting her. She doesn’t want to even start the forgiveness process until she’s sure he’s not going to hurt her in that way again. Can you relate? Let’s look a little closer at Matthew 18 where Jesus talks about forgiving not 7 times, but 7×70 times. As a child, I remember trying to calculate exactly how many times I’d have to forgive someone before I could stop. But after experiencing betrayal, I came to think about it in two different ways.

First, I realized that EVEN IF my husband hurt me again, I would need to choose to forgive again, he hurt me in the same way or in a different way. (This would also apply to any of the other “players” in my betrayal story.) Secondly, I realized that this concept applied to triggers. So let’s say that I chose to forgive “the other woman.” Is it a one and done thing? Unfortunately, no. Because when I would experience a trigger that would remind me of her, I’d get angry and hurt all over again, and would have to choose AGAIN to either forgive or not. This happening was how I got really good at living a life of forgiveness. I began to understand that it is not an event, but a lifestyle. And a lifestyle of forgiveness leads to a life of freedom and peace.

Forgiveness equals Freedom and Peace

There are many barriers to forgiving those that have caused excruciating pain in our lives. Unfortunately, unforgiveness harms us. “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die” (Marianne Williamson). We may want to hurt others by not forgiving them, but in the end, it hurts us. Staying angry, expecting them to understand how deeply they hurt us and to be broken over their sin against us, and waiting on an apology or recompense will only make our pain worse in the end. Fortunately, “others” are not in charge of your forgiveness. You don’t have to wait to forgive until after a person has taken responsibility for their harmful behaviors, apologized to you, and/or made amends of some kind. You don’t have to feel forgiving in order to do it. And just because you don’t feel immediately different after you make the choice to forgive, doesn’t mean that it didn’t “work.”

One of the things we talk a lot about at Hope Redefined is how your healing is not dependent on your husband’s healing or on your marriage healing. Just like restoration is available for you even if you don’t reconcile, forgiveness is also something available to you regardless of what happens with others. And forgiveness is part of His restoration in you!

Forgiveness toward anyone does not indicate forgetting, and it does not imply reconciliation.

It is 100% between you and the Lord. For some, the topic of forgiveness can feel like a mountain that you are unwilling to climb. Or perhaps you are wrestling through exactly what forgiveness requires of you. Forgiveness toward anyone does not indicate forgetting, and it does not imply reconciliation. In other words, each person is free (and as Christians, commanded) to forgive in light of Jesus’ finished work on the cross (His perfect, “paid in full” sacrifice). However, we are not commanded to reconcile at any cost. Right now, I want you to think about those individuals who have sinned against you, who have hurt you, violated you, accused you, or judged you. Then think of those you have sinned against. Include yourself. Now consider this verse and what it is affirming about Jesus…“…having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). There are decrees or judgments that you hold against others who have sinned against you. There are decrees or judgments that you hold against yourself. There are decrees or judgments held against you for your sins against God and others. In the same way, that Jesus canceled the decrees against you, He requires that you cancel the decrees that you hold against others and against yourself. No double standard allowed! The suffering that Jesus accepted and endured was the payment for these decrees and His blood canceled your Certificate of Debt. So, Jesus is saying to you (with His own blood), “here is My payment for sin, will you receive it and be released?”

When it comes to forgiveness, the question is not “can you forgive” but it’s “will you forgive?” The question of “can you” has already been settled. Jesus paid for that on the cross. You have to come into agreement with what He’s already done. The bigger question for you today is “will you” forgive? Depth of forgiveness requires a supernatural grace, but that’s exactly what our Savior provided through His suffering, death and resurrection. Will you receive His payment for all that you have done and for all that was done to you? Listing the sins, judgments, and offenses on your “Certificate of Debt” helps you grasp the weight of the debt you are canceling. It’s like itemizing the debt so you can fully understand what you are surrendering to Jesus. If you throw a “blanket” of forgiveness over your debt without calculating what you are truly forgiving and letting go of, then you might be superficially trying to avoid the pain so you can get on with life. But when you fully accept that your debt and the debt others owe you has been paid in full, then you will not be tempted to take up those offenses again when the enemy tries to accuse you, or if the people that you have forgiven continue to hurt you in the future. It’s important to ask Jesus to absorb and heal your pain even as you nail every offense to His cross.

FORGIVENESS is your part. 

REBUILDING TRUST is your husband’s part. 

HEALING is God’s part.

When it comes to recovery from sexual betrayal, remember: FORGIVENESS is your part. REBUILDING TRUST is your husband’s part. HEALING is God’s part.

If you are working through (and/or struggling with) forgiveness, here are some things to consider and perhaps to process with a trusted friend, coach or counselor:

  • What were you taught about forgiveness in your formative years (from your family of origin, your church or spiritual mentors, and/or from others)? Some things may have been overtly taught to you (spoken, for example), and some things may have been more covertly taught (maybe you observed forgiveness…or lack of forgiveness…in another relationship). How are these things impacting your forgiveness journey?
  • What have you been taught about forgiveness from your pastors, church leadership, spiritual mentors or other influential people in your adult life? How are these things impacting your forgiveness journey?
  • If you haven’t stepped into forgiveness, what’s stopping you? Is there something you’re afraid of? Worried about? Consider completing the sentence, “If I forgive, then_______________.”
  • Take some time today to study these passages that talk about forgiveness (maybe read even more for context):  Colossians 2:13-15; Ephesians 4:31-32; Mark 11:25; 1 John 1:9; Matthew 18:21-22; Luke 6:37; Ephesians 1:7; Isaiah 1:18; Daniel 9:9; Acts 3:19; Matthew 26:28; Romans 12:20; Matthew 5:23-24; Micah 7:18-19; John 8:7; 1 John 2:12; Colossians 1:14; Luke 23:24.
  • Paid in Full, Crown of ThornsAre you willing to receive Jesus’ “paid in full” payment for the sins committed against you, for the sins you committed against others, and for the sins you committed against yourself?

If you could use additional support and care as you work through forgiveness or any other area of healing from sexual betrayal trauma, please know that the Hope Redefined team and community is available to you. You can get in touch with us here support@hoperedefined.org.