When to Overlook A Fault: 12 Questions

David Murray over at HeadHeartHand Blog wrote a helpful article addressing when Christians should overlook a faults and when they should confront them.

“When you have been sinned against you have two options: to either lovingly cover or lovingly confront.” (Jim Newcomer)

But how do we know the right option?

Yes, some offenses require repentance before granting forgiveness, but there are other offenses that must be overlooked if we are to survive in any relationship (1 Peter 4:8; Prov. 10:12; 12:16; 19:11). But when to do what?

Here are some questions to ask to help us decide if we are to “cover” or “overlook” an offense.

1. What is my tendency? If I tend to default to confrontation, have I pushed myself harder to cover? If my tendency is to cover, have I sufficiently considered the need to confront?

2. Am I just trying to avoid confrontation? If my motive is primarily to avoid unwanted confrontation, then covering may simply be the easy option, not the right one.

3. Am I just trying to avoid addressing problems on my side? I may be motivated to cover rather than confront, if confronting would mean addressing faults on my side too.

4. How important is this? If the offense is small enough, we may overlook?

5. How clear is this? If my grievance is more about personal preferences and cultural norms than clear moral right and wrong, then overlooking is the right choice.

6. Does the person show a pattern of this kind of behavior? If it’s just a one-off and out-of-character, then it is easier to cover than if this has become a regular habit.

7. Will overlooking the fault hurt or damage the other person? Am I doing the person more harm than good by failing to help them address moral failings.

8. Have other people been hurt or damaged? If it’s just me, then covering is more likely to be an option than if others have also been offended.

9. Does this have the potential to spread? If the offending attitude, words, or actions, might make others do similar things, then confronting rather than covering is the answer.

10. What else is going on in this person’s world? Are there stress factors which may mitigate the fault? A related question is “What’s going on in my world?” Am I under stress and overreacting to minor issues, or, alternatively, avoiding issues because I’m too stressed?

11. Are there bigger faults to confront first? Sometimes tackling a small issue can result in a person refusing to hear us on far bigger issues.

12. Was it intentional? If the person committed the offense deliberatly and with full knowledge of doing wrong, then confronting is required, not covering.

You’ll find great teaching on forgiveness in the following list of my favorite books on the subject, the first two being outstanding.

Top Books On Forgiveness

Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns

From Forgiven To Forgiving by Jay Adams

The Freedom And Power of Forgiveness by John Macarthur

Macarthur disagrees with Adams slightly in the area of conditional forgiveness.

Help, I Can’t Forgive! By Jim Newcomer

This is a brief but comprehensive booklet.

Revolutionary Forgiveness by Eric E Wright

I disagree with Wright’s view of forgiving the unrepentant, but still much helpful material in the book. Multiple anecdotes help to “earth” the problem in everyday life.

Embodying Forgiveness.

The most academic and demanding of the books in the list.

The New Freedom of Forgiveness by David Ausburger. Read through the filter of the first two books in this list.

Top Online Articles on Forgiveness

Christians Should be Forgiving People by R.C. Sproul | Ligonier Ministries Blog

Defining & Forgiveness| the Cripplegate

5 Things Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean

Forgiveness | Don’t Stop Believing

Should Christians Always Forgive? Conditional Forgiveness or Unconditional? | A Brick in the Valley

Is Forgiveness Always Right and Required? – Justin Taylor

The Sorry State of the Apology | Her.meneutics | Christianitytoday.com

Four Lies That Keep Us from Jesus by Joe Thorn – Spiritual Growth

5 Problems with Unconditional Forgiveness | A Brick in the Valley

Quotes On Conditional Forgiveness

Forgive me « Don’t Stop Believing

The Heart of Forgiveness | Challies Dot Com

What To Do When You Sin Against Someone – Mark D. Roberts


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