What a priest said when he was told that my girl friend believes Christ instructs us to forgive and welcome people who have wronged us into our home, but until they seek forgiveness, I will simply move on and ignore them. Am I wrong on this?

(At the center of what this priest says is his counsel is that “forgiveness is something that Christ does call us to offer unconditionally, but reconciliation is a two-way street.”)

Question: My girlfriend believes that Christ instructs us to be unconditionally forgiving and expects me to forgive and forget and to welcome people who have wronged us into our home. She says that we cannot judge them. I responded that if they genuinely seek forgiveness, I will certainly do that. They have never sought forgiveness and have never even apologized. I hold no grudge or burning hatred and hope they see the error of their ways. But until they seek forgiveness, I plan to just move on and ignore them. I explained that Christ is not unconditionally forgiving to those who do not come to Him in a contrite manner seeking forgiveness. Am I wrong on this?

Answer (by Fr. Donato) There seems to be a confusion here between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is something that Christ does call us to offer unconditionally, but reconciliation is a two-way street. The other person has to accept the forgiveness. Accepting forgiveness means a purpose of amendment, just like it does in the confessional. What if they refuse to change their behavior or apologize? You still offer forgiveness, but reconciliation does not take place. That means you are loving and it remains true you cannot judge them, but it might be the case the relationship is permanently changed. Be gracious and kind, but depending on what wrong they did to you, you have to decide what that looks like. Did they rob your house? Then without repentance, one should probably not lead them into temptation by letting them back in. Did they say something mean? Then maybe turn the other cheek. It will look different in each circumstance."
(This was posted at https://stjosephscharlton.com/ask-the-priest )

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Some people are just too proud to apologize. It is a weakness for them. They may or may not be aware of it.

Some of the best instances of reconciliation I have had in relationships with people who have wronged me was when I forgave them without them seeking forgiveness.

Forget? Not if it means being stupid. Don’t leave your wallet sitting out when you know you are in the presence of a thief, for example.

True forgiveness requires an open heart. The example you provide in forgiving someone who has done you wrong even if they haven’t apologized or made ammends can be life changing for the person on the receiving end of your forgiveness. Not all the time, but it does happen. I have seen it.

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