It is easy to get caught up in wanting to pay back people for things they have done. It seems to be big on people’s lists these days. Retribution, posting comments online, writing anonymous letters or letting words fly from your own lips are all indications of a hurting heart. We know that hurt people hurt people.

So what about forgiveness? It is a wonderful and healthy thing and it is something many of us have prayed in the "The Lord’s Prayer.' Yet forgiveness can easily be misunderstood.

1. True forgiveness is not pretending something did not take place. I know of someone who had to take physical abuse every time their spouse had some alcohol in their system. Though forgiveness was asked for, it did not erase what was done.

2. Forgiveness does not restore a relationship. Some relationships can withstand horrible things, while others cannot. No one is called to forgive someone who has betrayed them and then set themselves up for betrayal again and again. Healthy boundaries are needed.

King Saul chased David with one goal -- to kill David. But at certain points he asked for forgiveness and begged David for forgiveness. Did David forgive Saul? Maybe. But he certainly maintained a respect for Saul’s royal status and also kept running from him. Jesus told his followers to be “cautious as snakes and as gentle as doves." That’s great advice: Open your heart again, but be wise about it.

3. Forgiveness does not mean completely forgetting the hurt. People often recite the old adage, “forgive and forget.” We should not make forgetting a test of our forgiving.

4. Forgiveness does not require someone to ask for forgiveness. Sometimes a person who wronged you will come and ask for forgiveness but most times not. If they do, you can talk about what happened, make your peace and negotiate wise boundaries and decided where the relationship needs to go. This may not happen as most times those who hurt us tend to run off or sometimes they do not see their wrong and even refuse to admit it if it is brought up.

Sometimes the person you need to forgive has died.

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In his teaching against retaliation, the Apostle Paul writes in the Bible, “Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody” (Romans 12:8). You are not responsible for what others do, but you can choose to “live in peace.”

You simply may need to let go of the offense you are carrying and the grudge you are holding. You may need to simply refuse to focus on it or give it anymore power. It is up to you to choose to release the hurt, hate and any vengeful feelings you are holding onto. Live in peace, setting yourself free.

“Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you.” (Colossians 3:13)

If you have ever wronged someone, then you know the need to be forgiven. If you have ever asked God to forgive you, then you know His great mercy.

We are to forgive others just as we have been forgiven and let go of any vengeance, even if being vengeful may seem to be the norm.

Bernie Federmann is senior pastor at Lompoc Foursquare Church and chaplain with Lompoc police and fire departments. He can be reached through