I've been working on a huge project for school on forgiveness. This has been a very interesting project for me since I struggle with forgiving people because I want them to know what they did and be punished or apologize (or both... I know. I know. It's vindictive. I'm working on it!). The first section of the project was a biblical survey of forgiveness (i.e. what the bible says about forgiveness). I was not surprised about the findings here. We are commanded by God to forgive others, and if we don't we are being ungrateful for God's forgiveness of us (Parable of the ungrateful servant in Matthew 18). Once again. Not surprised by this. Convicted? yes. Surprised? no.
What I was surprised by was the Psychological aspect of this topic. The second aspect of this paper was to look at the academic literature concerning the psychology of forgiveness. Secular psychologists as well as Christians agree that forgiving people who hurt you frees you to live a happy and healthy life. Phsyical, emotional, and mental health studies show that when you are more willing to forgive you are healthier in each of these three areas. People who forgive have lower stress levels, and lower levels of depression. I was very intrigued by these studies. Forgiving others allows us to have healthy relationships, lives, and minds. It is amazing how holding a grudge really only hurts us, not that person. Holding a grudge interferes with ALL of our relationships and our relationship with God. I know that this doesn't necessarily make forgiving any easier, but that is where God's grace comes into play. No matter how hard it is, it is obviously the best choice.
So, that's what i'm thinking about right now. What do you think? Do you think forgiveness is mandatory in all situations? Is there a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation? Should forgiveness and reconciliation always go hand in hand?