How does one go about the process of forgiving? That is an excellent question! It’s not easy, but few things are in life, am I right?
First and foremost forgiveness is an act of the will. We decide to forgive. In time, the feelings may line up with our decision and we “feel” like we have forgiven the offender; but that is not always the case. Remember I have said in the past that feelings are fickle? They are. Another thing to remember is that humans are fallible, frail beings, imperfect in every way. I am, and so are you. Unfortunately we, too, have hurt others, intentionally or not so intentionally. When we can acknowledge that we are also capable of hurting others intentionally or not, we can come down off the pedestal we have been standing on and recognize that we are all woefully human.
Take a moment to get quiet and think through the incident that caused pain. What happened? What were your feelings? How did you react to the incident? It is important that we can acknowledge the reality of the situation and how it affected us.
Every situation stretches us. We can learn from even the most painful events and grow as a person. Ask yourself in what way the event changed you; are you a better person because of the painful event? In what way? Do boundaries need to be put in place so that similar events don’t occur again? In a nutshell, we have a choice; we either adopt a survivor mentality or a victim mentality. Sometimes it’s a revelation to discover we have choices! Survivors acknowledge the pain, learn what they can from the event, release the pain and the person(s) who hurt them, and move on. Victims are trapped by the pain and eventually consumed by it.
Forgiveness is not, I repeat NOT, giving the transgressor(s) a pass and excusing their actions. Nor does forgiveness mean we dismiss our feelings about the incident. It hurt us plain and simple.
Do we need to keep that person(s) in our lives? Not necessarily. That is a choice we make once we have worked through the process. We have the right to set that boundary. Forgive, put the incident in the past, but sometimes we need to move on and leave those who have caused us pain in the past. It’s okay. Transgressors aren’t always on the same page as we are, and when they don’t choose to acknowledge the pain they have caused, we run the risk of continuing the cycle of pain without resolution. Being a doormat for others to wipe their feet on and continually inflict pain is not “Christlike”, contrary to what some may tell you.
The hardest person in the world to forgive is yourself. I have done things in my life, made poor decisions, that have hurt others deeply. Sometimes the “others” have been family members. Were those things intentional? No, but every decision we make, right or wrong, has consequences and impacts the lives of others. There have been days when the gravity of the hurt I have caused others, specifically family, weighed so heavily on my heart I prayed that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. No one could ever punish me as much as I punished myself. I felt unworthy of forgiveness; unworthy of God’s forgiveness. The good news is that God doesn’t feel that way; we can be forgiven of anything, save for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, we need only ask and accept God’s forgiveness.
Forgiving ourselves involves the same process as forgiving others; acknowledging the pain, processing the feelings, and learning what we can from the situation. As the transgressors we need to admit our wrongdoing to those we have hurt and ask their forgiveness. Sometimes we are forgiven and the relationship can be repaired, and sadly, other times not. I believe God changes hearts, however, and I believe even the most damaged of relationships can be repaired when God is involved on both sides of the relationship.
The final step in forgiving ourselves is accepting God’s forgiveness, and that can be a daily step-by-step walk. It’s not easy. God’s forgiveness is freely given, without strings attached, and available to whomever asks. The work is all done on our side; we must ACCEPT His forgiveness. The Bible says that once forgiven He doesn’t remember the transgression any longer. If God doesn’t why do we hang onto it? The truth of the matter is that it is a slap in the face to God not to accept His forgiveness. Ever given a gift to someone you loved and that person handed it back to you and said, “no, I’m not going to accept that, I’m not worthy of such a fine gift.” Same deal. Walking in forgiveness of self is difficult, but not impossible. See it from God’s perspective; He doesn’t remember.
The disciples asked Yeshua (Jesus) how many times to forgive another. Yeshua answered, 70 x 7. The point being it is important to forgive others……….and yourself.