In our society, there is a great amount of emphasis placed on the need for victims to forgive their assailants or abusers. Much of the intention behind this emphasis is out of concern for victims of heinous acts by giving recognition to the fact that forgiveness requires only the action of the victim regardless of whether or not the assailant or abuser is repentant. Therefore, once a victim has been removed from the threat of his or her assailant, forgiveness enables a victim to be released from the resentments that accompany a trespass and empowers him or her to participate in the healing process on multiple levels (e.g., physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.).

On the other hand, reconciliation involves a transaction between the assailant and the victim, requiring both to participate in the restoration process. That is, reconciliation requires an assailant or abuser to recognize his or her trespass, express remorse towards his or her victim(s), voluntarily offer a means of restitution, and truly repent of such action(s). In exchange, the victim offers forgiveness or a full pardon without the requirement of restitution.

Therefore, we need to be careful not to unintentionally place too much of the responsibility for reconciliation on the shoulders of victims, nor minimize the importance of restitution in this process. Jesus teaches and requires trespassers to repent (Luke 13:1-9) and victims to forgive (Luke 17:2-4).  Even in criminal situations where a perpetrator has paid his or her debt to society, there is still a place for the assailant to voluntarily offer personal restitution to his or her victim for the destructive consequences imposed on the victim.

Dan LaValla is Director of Library Services and Development Associate for Institutional Advancement at Biblical. He is Chair of the Endowment Committee for the American Theological Library Association and is very active in his church and community, coaching youth baseball and football and has served on several community boards. See also



0 # Rodney Martin, Jr. 2012-06-20 06:46
I continue to learn. Good points. Perhaps, though, you meant not to say "In exchange" does a victim offer forgiveness. Exchange implies attachment. If one truly forgives, this breaks all attachments and one is no longer a victim.

One powerful e-book on this distinction can be found at,

Turning the other cheek includes taking full responsibility and perfect generosity in love, humility and faith. By this, one leads by example.

The perpetrator may or may not do their part, but by showing them that turning the other cheek is not an act of vulnerability, but invulnerability, one gives the perpetrator hope that they can find peace and safety. The hurdle felt by the perpetrator is the victim they hold inside, just as so many victims hold their own resentful perpetrator inside and must forgive in order to be free of that ball-and-chain.
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