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Romans 12:2
Encouragement to fulfill God's purpose through Practical Life Application and Navigation

Bone or Olive Branch?


Some of my favorite blogs are born from simple conversations with my husband, and this post stemmed from exactly that!

Last week, Lindon and I were discussing forgiveness. This particular conversation was about individuals who operate with an ulterior motive by presenting a false sense of goodwill and feigning forgiveness.

Are there really such people out there? Unfortunately, yes. Many of them. We must also, sadly, confess to being two of them as well. In the past.

We’ve learned much through our journey.

For instance, it’s important to recognize the difference between someone throwing you a bone, masking their bitterness and anger, and someone offering a genuine olive branch, unpretentious and sincere.

And, these entirely different approaches to forgiveness require completely different responses.

Why would someone go through the trouble of pretending to forgive? Who would bother?

Someone who has something to gain, that’s who.

If someone entices you with a bone, there’s a reason they want you around; a purpose your participation in their life will serve. They’re getting something out of it. In fact, they are going into it with the intention of benefiting, whether you do or not.

To be fair, their motive itself may well stem from a sincere desire to ‘do what is right’. Perhaps they are ‘benefitting’ by feeling more obedient to God’s Word when extending forgiveness. Or maybe, they are attempting to avoid guilt or regret of some sort. Regardless, it’s imperative to realize that even in light of a seemingly ‘decent motive’, they may not have YOUR best interests at heart.       

In contrast, an olive branch is a purely benevolent gesture. A kind offering with no expectation of forgiveness or compassion in return. The giver benefits simply because they have offered the receiver genuine forgiveness. No strings. No obligation. No pressure.

This distinction begs the question, “Why does it matter?” If someone is extending forgiveness, is the motivation really important? We believe it is.

Disingenuous motivation is a fertile breeding ground for failure.  

As the receiver, you are at risk for being manipulated, used, abused, disappointed and hurt.

As the giver, you would be extending false hope and dishonoring the trust extended to you.

With Bone vs. Olive Branch, the motivation is almost always directly related to the outcome. When someone is behaving with selfish ambition, sooner or later the jig is going to be up. Maintaining a façade permanently is next to impossible and eventually true colors will burst through.

What to do?

If you are the receiver and recognize the signs of being thrown a bone, accept it with grace, but encourage honest conversation, relationship building and healthy forward motion. If this is not possible, remember there are situations where walking away, whether just for a season or permanently, is not only acceptable, but wholly warranted.

If you are the giver, challenge yourself to refrain from the temptation to throw people bones. Roll up your sleeves and do the work necessary to embrace and extend true forgiveness. If this presents a challenge, pray, seek wise counsel and develop an Action Plan to help you progressively work towards a positive end result; one which will stand the test of time. But again, remember, there are circumstances where walking away is the right thing to do.

Do you remember the story of Paul and Barnabas? They had a heated, ‘sharp’ disagreement, so much so that they decided to separate ministries. Reference Acts 15:36-40 for the story…

The purpose of our blog is not to encourage divisiveness or promote separation, yet to instill an acute sense of awareness for real circumstances that real people face. Awareness is power, and using this power for the benefit of ALL parties involved, whatever the end result may be, is what Christianity and love is all about.

Do you need help sorting through a forgiveness issue? A Christian Life Coach can help. Contact us at lifecoaching@actionplanministries.com. We’d love to hear from you.










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2 Responses to Bone or Olive Branch?

  1. Carrie Daws says:

    This is good! Have you heard of the Apology Languages? Like the Love Languages, different people speak different ones, which can muddy the waters slightly when trying to determine if a person is genuine or not. This caused quite a bit of problems between me and another in my past until I read the book and realized what was going on.

    • Sherry says:

      Actually, now that you mention it, I DID read it quite a while ago. Dr. Chapman is such a gifted authority on languages! 🙂 I will pull it down and re-read, but it’ll be in line behind Crossing’s Redemption, which I am currently enjoying!!!

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