The metaphor we use to express why we forgive is a form of advertising. It promotes a certain way of seeing things which leads people to either accept or reject the ideas being communicated. With forgiveness, not only do we judge its relevance based upon this metaphor, we also happen to judge God's character along the way.

By using one-sided and once-only metaphors—like cancelling, pardoning, or letting go—to describe forgiveness, we suggest God doesn't care about how we've been mistreated.

This happens because acknowledgment of our emotional wounding and our need for healing is missing from the metaphors currently being used. God's focus is therefore placed upon us being merciful, rather than upon him our healing our hurt. He becomes a doctor who refuses to give us medical attention until we forgive the person who caused our wounds.

By shifting the metaphor we use to talk about forgiveness to untangling a knot we discover an image of forgiving that enables us to clearly communicate what Christians already believe—that God cares about the victimised. As we forgive we untangle ourselves from the knots of our mistreatment. You'll need to read Lament Forgive to find out how.

ForgivenessSteve Hall

When we forgive someone who has hurt us, it is rare for us to nail it all with a single I forgive you. This shouldn't really surprise us. When we are physically wounded, it may take hours of surgery, days of rest, or many months of physiotherapy to heal us.

Why do we think healing our emotional wounds will be any different?

Part of the issue is that the current metaphors we use to talk about forgiveness—cancelling, pardoning, or letting go—are all once-only images. They communicate that forgiving once will be enough, however, more often than not this does not match our experience. Only after many rounds of forgiveness will we find ourselves able to talk about our mistreatment without those all too familiar pangs of pain rushing to the surface. 

In Lament Forgive I propose we start using untangling a knot as a new, two-sided, and process-orientated metaphor for forgiveness. It's an image which enables us to talk about forgiving as a journey that takes time and often repetition but ultimately ends in healing.

ForgivenessSteve Hall

What surprised me most when I started forgiving wasn't how hard it was or that it made a difference to my relationships, it was that afterwards I experienced a tangible freedom to be my true self.

I was set free as I set others free by forgiving them.

This is not just my experience. I've heard many Christians express how when you set free the person who harmed you through forgiveness, you inadvertently set yourself free too.

Which begs the question: why are all our metaphors of forgiveness so one-sided, when the reality is that both forgiven and forgiver benefit?

Our current metaphors—cancelling, pardoning, or letting go— focus exclusively on the freedom of the person being forgiven. We fail to communicate that anything good will happen to us, except as an after-thought that doesn't fit within any of these metaphors.

In Lament Forgive I propose we start using untangling a knot as a new, two-sided metaphor for forgiveness. It's an image that immediately communicates how forgiving others can free us from the consequences of another's sin as much as—perhaps even more than—it frees the person we're forgiving.

ForgivenessSteve Hall