"What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls?—or a polluted soul, towards their purification?"

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Friday, June 4, 2010

"I've Forgiven Them In My Heart"

I want to write about a statement that really, really bothers me. "I've forgiven 'so and so' in my heart."

I have heard this sentiment over and over for many years. I understand what it means. Usually, it means, "I say I forgive them, but I never really want to tell them I forgive them."

Is this true, biblical forgiveness? Does Jesus ever tell us that we can "forgive someone in our heart" then never tell them that we've forgiven them?


Now, I'll grant that there are times that we need to give forgiveness and that full reconciliation is not going to happen. I get that. That's not what I'm even talking about.

I'm talking about John Churchgoer who doesn't want to be a man and face the person who has wronged him and say, "I forgive you." He doesn't want to accept the apology or repentance of the person who is offering it. He doesn't want to look that person in the eye ever again, as is required by Scripture. He just wants an "out".

So he says, "I forgive him in my heart."

Where did this horrible phrase ever come from? Is this an American church thing? It needs to be preached against. It needs to be spoken out against. It needs to be stricken from our vocabulary.

Forgiveness needs to be real and honest. It doesn't need to be silent. It's either real or not. It's either genuine and seeking toward reconciliation or it's not.


  1. "I've forgiven him in my heart" is one of many expressions Christians use to make themselves feel better.

    Another one is "I'll be praying for you..." when in fact they really have no intention of praying for you.

    Lukewarm Christianity finds lukewarm ways to express itself. And, no, I'm not judging from some self-righteous pedestal... I've been there myself plenty of times.

  2. I've done the same too, David. And you're right about the "I'll be praying for you" thing.

    I just wonder where the phrase, "I've forgiven them in my heart" thing came from. It's thrown around so much, I think it's become part of the Christian vernacular. It's part of the belief system of many Christians that we think it's acceptable.