The following post is written simply from my observations of my own relationships and of those around me:
Relationships have power.
When they're nurtured, they have the power to encourage and heal. When they reach a deep level of authentic intimacy, they produce wide measures of grace and mercy. They offer opportunities for growth and creativity.
However, when relationships are not nurtured and remain stagnant, they have the power to produce frustration and bitterness. Without authentic intimacy, they remain on a surface level in which people feel the pressure to play a role, often hiding behind a mask. I've observed that when relationships never move beyond this phase, the participants usually end up depressed and in despair.
What's really interesting to me is the dynamic in a relationship in which one person is transparent and the other is not. Friction occurs to the point that eventually one will walk away from the heat. Sometimes it's a quiet, but definite choosing to walk. Other times it's a defiant, anger-filled stomp. Either way, damage is done. And two things must happen for the two to find their way back into the relationship: forgiveness and reconciliation.
Forgiveness is quite possible without ever entering into the relationship again. It's similar to the way God relates to us. He forgave us when Jesus paid our penalty. But just because He's forgiven us doesn't mean we all enter into relationship with Him. He can love us all day long, every day without us ever realizing it. When we do recognize His love for us, we have the opportunity to enter relationship with Him. To do that, we have to be reconciled to Him. For reconciliation to occur, we have to admit and own our sin. We can't make excuses for our sin, smooth it over with false humility, or sweep it under the rug. We must be honest in our confession. It is then that He can cultivate intimacy with us.
I think human relationships are supposed to mirror intimate relationship with God. Yet, so often we fail to nurture them or fear being authentic, and we wind up burning more bridges to relationships than we ever thought possible. And since intimate relationship takes transparency and authenticity on the part of both people, it's true that forgiveness is possible, but reconciliation may not be.