Conflict is inevitable, but forgiveness is required and reconciliation is possible. Forgiveness is something that occurs within us. We often mistake forgiveness for a transaction that necessitates the explicit involvement of two or more entities. However, while that can happen, forgiveness is, first and foremost, a personal, inward process. Where reconciliation requires forgiveness, forgiveness doesn’t necessarily require reconciliation.

It’s frightening how easily we can lose our sense of self in the hurt of what forgiveness can fix. The stubbornness, the false sense of justice, and the immense anger can harden hearts by planting seeds of bitterness. What keeps us from forgiveness is often what obstructs our pathway. Expectations that we place on others can blur our vision of where we truly are in the entirety of the situation. We don’t see it from the other’s point of view because we inflate ourselves and our sight. We so easily justify ourselves and place the blame on the other, which is a false depiction of reality.

Forgiveness demands time, but it doesn’t demand the where or the when. Beware of holding onto something, for it is like a bitter taste that never leaves the mouth no matter how sweet of something you try to taste is. It masks the truth of what is there with a sour disposition. Be weary of a weary heart. Be open to what you’re feeling and be aware of it, for what pierces and moves the heart is what will move you. It is important to not let our hearts get hard and bitter because that moves our heart to a reckless course of action. The softening, which often takes greater courage, is what moves us to gentleness and grace that we would seek in return.

Everyone should have a chance at grace, and perhaps the expectation of receiving it should be preceded with an offering of grace.

Maybe there is someone who wronged you. Whether you see them now or never, consider asking yourself:

1. Does what I gain in forgiving outweigh what I lose in forgiving? If it’s pride and need for convenience, then perhaps it’s best to work toward losing those for the gain of what forgiveness gives. If it is the softening power of humility and the redeeming aspect of freedom that you gain, perhaps it is worth a try.

2. Why is it important that I forgive? It’s easy to brush forgiveness off to the side, to not feel responsible, yet you are still responsible for yourself and your emotions.

3. Is your heart hard? Sometimes the callous makes it harder to feel, so it’s important we pause to think if we have we lost our softness.

4. Is not forgiving someone affecting the relationships I have with others? If so, invite them into the process. It’s ok to ask for help. Spare them the details, but let them know that you’re struggling in that area so you can avoid possible fractures in your other relationships.

5. Is forgiveness worth fighting for? Step away from the idle ways. If forgiveness is being avoided because it’s the hard thing to do, ask yourself if it’s still the right thing to do.

Then, you have the option for reconciliation. This calls for us to bear one another’s burdens, though there is the danger of it beginning to seep into your skin, causing that hindrance to become your own. The end goal of reconciliation is restoration. Reconciliation returns us to a place prior to hurt and tears. However, dare we say that reconciliation is not only a return to what once was, but a turn toward something greater? Like all things, practice makes perfect. The practice of forgiveness allows for the lengthy process and pursuit of reconciliation. But, should all things and all relationships be reconciled?

If reconciliation points to a return and turn, then reconciliation should only happen if those two positions are taking place. If forgiveness is occurring, but change isn’t happening, then reconciliation of a continually harming relationship should be delicately navigated. This is where we see an instance of forgiveness being possible without the necessity of reconciliation. A kind of restoration happens within yourself through forgiveness, but it is different than the restoration of a relationship to another.

The topic of forgiveness is essential to humanity. The message of reconciliation is crucial to understand. We must hold onto the truth that in any human relationship, emotions will be changed, for better or for worse, and it is the role of forgiveness to start the root of a good seed. Water it with time, shine it with gentleness, and it might blossom into a flowering perspective on yourself and on others.