No, to forgive another person does not mean that you, as the forgiver, believe that this other person can or will change. To forgive is to offer compassion and the acknowledgement of the person’s humanity, regardless of the outcome of this belief. This is one important reason why we have to distinguish forgiving and reconciling. You can offer this compassion and recognition of the other’s humanity without reconciling if the other remains a danger to you.
Forgiveness seems to be a problem for people who have been traumatized. I say this because upon forgiving, the person may mistakenly assume that the relationship needs to be restored. Do you agree?
I do not agree primarily because to forgive is very different from reconciling with an abusive person. Reconciliation is not a moral virtue. Instead, it is a negotiation strategy of two or more people coming together again in mutual trust. You can forgive (being good, even from a distance, to those who are not good to you) and still not reconcile. As you say, when a person “mistakenly assumes” that the relationship needs to be restored, this is an error that needs to be corrected for the protection of the abused person.
I am back with my boyfriend after several months of being apart. I am apprehensive, not trusting much, because of his past hurts. Have I reconciled, I mean truly reconciled, if I cannot trust yet?
Being together does not necessarily mean that you are reconciled. Reconciliation includes trust, but trust is earned back inch-by-inch. Does your boyfriend show you signs that he has remorse (sadness for what he did)? Does he show repentance (saying he is sorry)? Does he engage in recompense (behaviorally trying to make up for what he did and behaviorally showing he is trustworthy)? Keep these three issues in mind (remorse, repentance, and recompense) as a way to build your trust so that you can achieve a true reconciliation.
In your book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, you state that one purpose of forgiving is being open to reconciling with the other person. I am assuming that you mean a receptivity to reconcile rather than an actual reconciliation as part of forgiving. Is this correct?
Yes, that is correct. As people forgive, they usually are open to reconciliation if and only if the other, who has been deeply hurtful, has changed. So, the receptivity is more of an internal response at first, a waiting to see how the other changes.
Why do you think that people just assume that you can be part of their life again once you forgive them? To be honest, this kind of assumption annoys me.
I think people assume that they can be part of your life again, once you forgive them, because they are equating forgiving with reconciling. As you probably know, one can forgive and not reconcile, especially when the offending other person refuses to change unjust and hurtful behavior.