I’ve been reading Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, and I really like it. There was one part that really helped me, on page 140. It’s titled, “Forgive the Aggressor.” It says: “Nothing clarifies boundaries more than forgiveness. To forgive someone means to let him off the hook, or to cancel the debt he owes you. When you refuse to forgive someone, you still want something from that person. It keeps you tied to him forever.
“Refusing to forgive a family member is one of the main reasons people are stuck for years, unable to separate from their dysfunctional families. They still want something from them. It is much better to receive grace from God, who has something to give, and to forgive those who have no money to pay their debt with. This ends your suffering, because it ends the wish for repayment that is never forthcoming, and that makes your heart sick, because there’s no hope.
What Does It Mean To Forgive?“If you do not forgive, you are demanding something your offender does not choose to give. Even if it is only a confession of what he did, this ties him to you and ruins boundaries. Let the dysfunctional family you came from go. Cut it loose, and you will be free.”
The reason I think this is so interesting is because, with a lot of clergy, there’s tons of talk about forgiveness, and they think that that’s going to keep families together. But, in this book, it’s suggesting that forgiveness is a really important step in learning to set boundaries.
Once you think, this person is not capable of giving me what I need. I’m going to forgive them and wipe the slate clean, and not expect anything else from them. Then it enables you to set a boundary, and know that: If I’m not going to expect anything else from him, that he’s not capable of giving, or he’s not choosing to give, then I don’t really want to talk to him anymore or we need to separate or whatever it may be.