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Is forgiveness and reconciliation the same thing? What needs to happen for forgiveness to occur? What needs to happen for reconciliation to take place?

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5 Answers 5

Some definitions of "forgiveness" from the web:

  • the act of excusing a mistake or offense
  • stop blaming or grant forgiveness; "I forgave him his infidelity"; "She cannot forgive him for forgetting her birthday"
  • absolve from payment; "I forgive you your debt"
  • To pardon, to waive any negative feeling or desire for punishment; To accord forgiveness

Definitions of "reconciliation"

  • The restoration of friendly relations
  • A process that encourages opposing groups to talk to each other again after an argument and settle their differences

Forgiveness can be extended by one person even if the other person does not choose to forgive. Reconciliation can only happen if both parties act. We are required to forgive offences, and do our best to reconcile, but if the other party decides not to reconcile, it will not happen.

The Bible acknowledges this and we are instructed: Rom 12:18 NIV If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

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I think you did a great job of answering the question. –  a_hardin Sep 12 '11 at 21:21

Reconciliation is a process which involves several distinct phases, not necessarily in this order:

  1. Conviction
  2. Repentance
  3. Confession
  4. Forgiveness
  5. Restitution

So, in my view, forgiveness is a part of an overall process of reconciliation.

1 John 1:8-10

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

In general terms, first we experience the conviction of the Holy Spirit, which leads us to repentance. With a repentant heart we confess our sins one to another (or to a priest or minister, if that's your persuasion). We then receive forgiveness and instruction on how to make restitution, as appropriate to the wrong doing (if our confessor is doing his job).

With God in regards to sin, forgiveness is dependent on true repentance (and, if you are Catholic or similar, confession to a priest).

Between people, specifically as regards interpersonal relationships, it is possible to forgive but never be reconciled with the other person - if the other person does not repent, there may be no reconciliation. It is also possible to make restitution with or without forgiveness and never be reconciled because of personal hurts.

It seems to me that until there's actual interpersonal reconciliation, and the whole process has occurred, that sin still remains for one or other party or both. Though wounds are covered with a band-aid - they still remain unhealed, eventually to get infected and fester.

Allowance should be made for when reconciliation is not possible, such as when one party has died.

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Forgiveness is a stage of reconciliation.

To explain this, let's think of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) organized in part by Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Reconciliation is a process that can only begin with knowing the need for truth. 1 John 1 says "if we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."

The TRC invited people guilty of crimes in the apartheid era to come forward. Some did.

Reconciliation then proceeds with the one who hopes for reconciliation speaking the truth. Carrying on with 1 John: "But if we confess our sin..." People who appeared at TRC tribunals described their crimes with as much detail as they could, often in the presence of their victims or the survivors.

The next step is forgiveness. 1 John: "...God who is faithful and just forgives our sin..." At the TRC, the crimes described were forgiven. The South African government actually forgave the crimes confessed, and waived the right to prosecute them. But they did not forgive crimes that remained concealed.

The final step is a return to wholeness: 1 John: "... and frees us from all unrighteousness." This last one can be very difficult. The lives of murdered people cannot be restored. The personal equanimity of rape victims is extremely hard to restore. The sense of guilt carried by perpetrators is likely to be lifelong. Sometimes freedom from unrighteousness calls for restitution and other forms of penance.

Summary: forgiveness is a vital part of reconciliation, but not the only part.

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And repentance would be another (the other?) part. –  Lawrence Dol Sep 1 '11 at 4:38

What is the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation?

Forgiveness is something of which you have control, something you may or may not choose to do. To forgive is not dependent upon anyone else, but forgiving rests sole on the person who was wronged. Forgiveness is free and need not be asked to impart forgiveness upon the person who has wronged.Forgiveness is a prerequisite for reconciliation, but reconciliation will not necessarily take place.

In reconciliation, forgiveness took place, for whithout forgiveness, there can be no reconciliation. In reconciliation, it is the choice and work of the two persons.

In reconciliation, there is evidence that forgiveness took place. In forgiveness, on the act of one alone, reconciliation is not guarante Forgiveness is a choice.

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Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. Though I don't disagree with your answer, do you have any sources or verses in mind that you could quote. Please edit those in if you do. –  fredsbend Nov 15 '14 at 21:14

Forgiveness comes before reconciliation, that is you should forgive a person and being agreed upon that forgiveness, before reconciliation can come into being. If there is no forgiveness, how can a person reconcile with the other person?

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

Welcome to Christianity.SE :) .. while this looks like the start of a good answer, please take the site tour so you can see what expect of askers and answerers on this site. –  warren Jul 2 '14 at 17:20
Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. Yes, please do add more to this. You can edit this post to make it better. I hope you do. I also hope you post again soon. –  fredsbend Jul 2 '14 at 18:11

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