Must I forgive someone who doesn’t ask for forgiveness? Dr. Guy Richard shares about the importance of reconciliation and the danger of holding on to bitterness and anger. The following is a lightly edited transcript.

One of the things I remember most about growing up is something my mom used to tell me, and she’d tell me, “Guy, it takes two to fight.” And that is true. It takes two people to disagree. It takes two people to have a fight. And likewise, it takes two to make up. It takes two to reconcile. And so in one sense, we’re looking at two people who have fought together—there’s some kind of division between two people—there needs to be two people involved. Both sides need to be involved in reconciling.

True Reconciliation

And so in answering the question about whether or not we must forgive someone who has not apologized to us, in one sense, we can answer that question by saying no, because that person, in order for real restoration or real reconciliation to happen, that apology must happen. Both sides have to want that reconciliation to happen before there can be true reconciliation. Both sides have to want reconciliation to happen before there can be true reconciliation.

The other side of that is we don’t want to harbor bitterness, and we don’t want to harbor anger, even when someone doesn’t ask for our forgiveness or doesn’t come and apologize for whatever it is they’ve done to us to offend us. And so even in those situations, when someone has offended us, we need to still forgive. In a sense, we may not have true reconciliation because both sides are not involved, have not bought into that reconciliation process, but we need to be able to let it go. We need to be let that offense go so that it doesn’t eat us up alive. That bitterness and that anger and that frustration doesn’t just consume us.

Vengeance is the Lord’s

A great example of that might be something that’s very mundane and very much a part of our lives. When we’re driving in traffic, something that I know very well here in Atlanta, when we drive in traffic and someone cuts us off, we’re liable to say a few choice words and we’re to get angry or whatever, because this person violated us. They cut us off in traffic. And yet rather than letting that go, what we oftentimes do is we allow that to stay with us and that anger can eat us up. And we carry that anger into the office and we come in and we’re in a bad mood for the rest of the day because we’ve not let that go. That person hasn’t apologized. There can’t be reconciliation in that sense, but there can be forgiveness in the sense that I let what this person has done, I let it go. I don’t let it affect the way that I live the rest of my life, I don’t let it affect the way I see even that person, I don’t let it affect the way I interact with others.

We must never hold on to the wrongs that someone has committed against us and, rather, be willing to give those over to the Lord. The Lord says that vengeance is his and he will repay. And each one of us needs to be able to give over whatever has happened in our lives to the Lord and let him make right of all wrongs in our life.