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Does Forgiveness Mean You Put Yourself at Risk Again?

man and woman sitting on couch looking at each other while female therapist watches

Forgiving someone who has done you wrong is healing. It is a positive step toward fixing a broken relationship and feeling better about yourself. However, forgiveness does not mean you give the other person free reign to do the same wrong things over again. When you forgive someone, you must still be on your guard to keep yourself safe.

An Example of Forgiveness in a Marriage

Gary’s wife had a gambling problem. She racked up too many gambling debts and caused great damage to their financial situation. Gary was angry for a time, but he realized that he still loved his wife, despite her faults. He forgave her, and for a couple years their marriage improved and they were a relatively happy couple. Then, his wife began gambling again.

How should Gary react?

He could get angry and leave his wife. And he considered that, but he didn’t like that choice because he knew he would miss her. He could pay her debts, forgive her, and hope it didn’t happen again. However, after a few times of doing that, Gary could be in financial ruin and he would feel like she was using him. Gary went to counseling and learned about boundaries. He forgave his wife for her second gambling escapade, but he also informed her that if she didn’t get help to stop her gambling problems, he would not pay for her expenses. She would have to get a job to pay for them on her own.

Boundaries come with consequences.

Setting boundaries might feel like playing hardball, but really they are a respectful way to protect yourself from harm and to let other people know that they are doing something harmful. Forgiving someone does not turn you into a doormat to be walked all over. You always have a responsibility to keep yourself safe. You have the power to respect others without letting their actions harm you. If you are struggling with forgiveness issues or boundary issues, please consider talking to a counselor. Contact us to make an appointment or find out more about individual counseling.