I liked this post
over at Stranger in a Strange Land.
He asks the question:
If someone makes mistakes or messes up everyday and says, “I’m sorry” after every failure, without any change in behavior, should it mean the same thing?
Scripture says we should forgive 70x7 times. But sometimes I admit, I have a lot of problems with that.
If you’re an employer or manager and your workers keep doing things over and over again, without really thinking about what they might be doing wrong and then, “I’m sorry” is all you hear for their reasoning - do you keep forgiving?
What if you’re a parent or family member and every day you hear, “I’m sorry,” for the same thing over and over again? Is there any difference?
I would submit that there is a difference, in that forgiving someone is different from holding them accountable. If you forgive someone, you are no longer harboring anger for them. But that doesn't mean there are no consequences for their actions.
For example, if an employee is stealing things, the boss may have no anger at all towards him (and so have forgiven him) but decide to fire him anyway.
Actually, if your idea of "forgiveness" is "letting them get away with it", there's no way you're going to really forgive the person. Instead, you'll end up getting more and more resentful each time they do THE SAME THING and then say "I'm sorry". I know this because I've done it.
I think it's fine, and necessary, to confront people when they've done something wrong and to hold them accountable, and at the same time, to forgive them.
The problem comes in when you have no control over the situation. I have a family member who has repeatedly borrowed money from his mother, actually mooched off of her for years, and never paid her back. It makes everyone in the family angry, but the problem is, she lets him do it. She also refuses to admit there is a problem. So what can we do? We're polite to him at family gatherings, and we don't bring up the subject. We also don't lend him money. But are we angry about it? Ohhh yeah. I guess the only thing we can really do is ask God to help us forgive him and ask God to change him. It's hard not to feel powerless and frustrated, though.