Does not judging mean I have to tolerate abuse or evil behavior against me? The perps would like us to think so. Abusers try to pervert the whole “don’t judge” principle to their unholy advantage. So let’s get this sorted out and bring some balance here.
Judging, accountability, and our emotions are all totally independent things. Our society, and even the church, constantly gets these confused. You can forgive someone and hence not be judging them, while at the same time holding them accountable for their behavior, while at the same time still being very angry and hurt. If their behavior was criminal, you can prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law while completely forgiving them.
We should always hold abusers and criminals accountable for their behavior, for two main reasons:
- To protect others from being victimized like we were.
- So (hopefully) the person, when confronted with their sin, repents and turns to the Lord who sets them free from it, healing them from the pain in their lives that made them vulnerable to that sin and deception in the first place.
Working through our emotions over the matter is totally separate from whether we hold the other person accountable or not. If the sin against us was grievous, we may need to walk our emotions through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Get Christian counseling, inner healing, deliverance, probably all of the above, whatever help you need to work through it. It’s normal to need help to work through the emotions in a healthy way. An excellent plan is to work with both a Christian counselor and your Pastor.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending it never happened and or not holding the person accountable. It means releasing them from owing us anything for it. Because we realize they are not the evil they did to us. We can still set healthy boundaries as long as our heart is right – not to punish them but either to (1) keep ourselves safe, or (2) hold them accountable (for example, if we have an authority-to-subordinate relationship to them like parent-child or employer-employee).
Judging and forgiving are not activities centered in our emotions, but in our will. They have nothing to do with how we feel about the person who hurt us. They have everything to do with what we choose to believe about that person. They have everything to do with what we declare about that person.
So what do we declare about the person who wronged us? Are they the evil they did to us? That’s judging. Or can we declare that they are not the evil they did to us? That’s forgiveness. It really is that simple (but it’s not easy).
Mercy toward others triumphs over the judgement we deserve.
So what do you think about all this? Are you trying to sort out forgiveness versus accountability? It took me a while to sort this out in my own life, and I have to keep going back to it. We’d love to hear your story. If this resonates with you, or challenges you, please leave us a comment or shoot us an email (click the “Contact Us” button on the menu bar).