When I teach on forgiveness many people ask me this question: If I forgive do I have to restore the relationship? My answer: It depends. Part of forgiveness is being willing to restore the relationship. However, forgiveness does not equal restoration. Forgiveness plus repentance equals restoration. If the offender repents but there is no forgiveness the relationship cannot be restored. Instead a wall will be built in the relationship that can only be torn down through forgiveness. If the offended one forgives but there is no repentance, the relationship will be characterized by distrust and insecurity. Distance will be created to protect from future hurt. However, when there is forgiveness and repentance the relationship not only returns to the original state but can grow deeper. Here’s an analogy to illustrate this point:
We are like little islands that connect to others through bridges. Each bridge is different depending on the relationship. When an offense occurs, there is damage to the bridge. That damage can range from a small crack in the asphalt to a total explosion. Bridges are built from both sides. So both parties have work to do to restore the relationship. Each person can only rebuild their own side of the bridge. The offender builds his/her side through repentance and the one who was offended builds through forgiveness. If both parties rebuild their sides, restoration occurs and travel back and forth across the bridge can be enjoyed.
If only one party builds a side of the bridge, relationship will be difficult as the bridge will still have some structural damage. The bridge may still be usable but with more care and caution. It will not be as safe as it was before the breach. One may even post a checkpoint as a guard to help lessen the risk of more breaches. Boundaries may also be set to regulate when and how often the bridge can be used. However, when forgiveness and repentance has occurred, the bridge is rebuilt with more care than the original construction and the result is a stronger structure. It takes two to rebuild the bridge. So, in summary, forgiveness plus repentance equals restoration.