Now what? The deed is done. You have either been wronged or wronged someone else. Perhaps this is a life changing injustice or maybe a small matter that will fade quickly away. All create pain. All need forgiveness.
North American Indian lore tells of wars between tribes coming to an end with a ceremonial burying of the hatchet. Burying this implement of war signified that fighting had ceased, all was forgiven, and the matter was left to rot in the ground forgotten. Whether this is historically accurate or not, it paints the picture of what forgiveness should look like in daily living.
Forgiveness is a lot easier said than done. How do we do forgiveness. Regardless of your faith, life is not healthy with injustice weighing it down. Yes, it is as easing as giving this to God…the following step could give you an idea of what this looks like. The holy Bible teaches us to be forgiven forgivers. It is neither easy nor optional. Also, forgiveness is spiritual, not merely intillectual assent. It is both learnable and teachable. This is a skill for all people and particularly for the Christian.
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Following are 12 comments on how to live in forgiveness. These do not excuse abusive behavior or injustice But offer a way for us to live without the weight of unforgiveness crushing us.
1. Commit to the process of forgiveness personally
Before you attempt to start this journey, know what it is. Be a craftsman of forgivness. Learn how and grow in your skills. Forgiving doesn’t mean that approve, accept responsibly for or deny what happened to you. ESPECIALLY IF ABUSE, ADDICTION OR OTHER HARM IS PRESENT.
Forgiveness is making the intentional and conscious choice to release yourself from the burden, pain, and stress of holding on to a wrong, God doesn’t withhold forgiveness and neither should we. Forgiveness is the healing of yourself by God through Faith. Jesus held NOTHING back for your forgiveness. It is at the heart of our saving relationship with Christ. He forgives while knowing we are going to mess up. Forgiveness allows the possibility to keep the relationship right, even when faced with wrong.
2. accept that forgiveness in not pain free
Pain stinks but it can be effective teacher. Hurts can run deep, even if at first glance they don’t seem to make a big impact. It’s important to give yourself permission to accept the inevitable pain while working to get rid of it. It is real, it isn’t fair, and it it only for a season. It is physical, . Notice where you feel it in your body and ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” perhaps you need sleep, or to get up and go. However, the real healing is spiritual.
3. Be Specific: Know exactly what needs to be forgiven.
Whether you’ve hurt yourself or have been hurt by another, allow yourself to be honest and simply name the feelings that are there. They might include guilt, grief, shame, sorrow, confusion, or anger. As you consider the act of forgiveness, any of these feelings can arise. Create time and space to forgive this specific thing and not let it get lost in free floating, vague, anger and anxiety. Being specific keeps healing from getting lost in the crowd and leaving you fealing overwhelmed.
4. Find healthy ways to express the pain.
The pain is going to leak out. Keeping hurt feelings bottled up only causes additional stress to your mind and body. Watch for habits that change to overdoing or underdoing. Healthy habits inlude, sharing how you’re feeling to a trusted person, writing about it in a journal, dedicated prayer, worship or talking about itwith a mental health professionsl. Sharing with a small group, especially in a church setting helps you expand your perspective. Ultimately, faith is born and grows as you work through the process of forgiveness in positive ways.
5. Detach, Find a positive to this experience
An event that is very wrong can still have a positive side. Take your focus off of feeling like a victim and look for it. This hurt is not who you are but how you feel. Look for the possibility of positive outcomes-strength, maturity etc. Your life can take a different trajectory altogher as a result of this process. You are not taking away the guilt by finding a benefit for yourself in the journey of healing. Recognize the pain, take a stand that this isn’t who you are and replace the hurt with positive spiritual habits. Live in the present moment and let faith grow through this .
6. Do something small to move forward every day
Whether you are forgiving yourself or another person, taking action can help to facilitate healing and make you feel more empowered. It’s best to start with smaller misdeeds to get into practice and feel what’s possible. Writing a letter or having an uncomfortable conversation can be difficult and even scary, but often a sense of empowerment emerges. Show self-compassionate action by listening to yourself and doing something that supports you. Little things done daily keep you from becoming stuck and being overwhelmed.
7. You are not alone in this
When you’ve been hurt, it’s common to feel like you’re the only one who has ever been wronged in this way. Remembering you are not alone in experiencing this kind of pain can help to loosen the grip of your resentment. Keep your faith and surround yourself with people of faith. Distance yourself from negative places, people and habits.
8. Forgiveness takes time , no short cuts
Forgiveness isn’t a quick-fix. It’s a process. Be patient with yourself. With small offenses, forgiveness can happen pretty quickly, but with the larger ones, it can take years. Be kind to yourself, take the time, be patient rather than settling for vbs immediate or unhealthy habits.
9. No one wins the blame game.
Misery Does NOT love company. If blaming would fix anything,, we wouldn’t have any problems. Blame does not heal,it k. Faith Casts it away, Blame clings to it with the lie that you can do it yourself.
10. Pray for yourself and others
Intentionally and with mindfulness pray for healing and forgiveness for yourself and for others, including THE other. . Forgiveness is a spiritual skill. You and God can do this. There is nothing more healing than serving another from a hear that Jesus has filled.
11. Find purpose in your pain
How will this time strengthen you. What positive things will come from working through this forgiveness. As you practice working with the pain that’s there, you grow key strengths of self-compassion, courage, and empathy that inevitably make you stronger in every way. As psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
12. Maintain your healing.
It takes faith and discipline to keep the historical from returning as hysterical. You have removed this pain’s power. An old saying says, “when you bury a mad dog, don’t leave his tail sticking up”. Beware of reminders that let it sneak back in.This matter is forgiven and given to God. It needs to stay buried. Your best revenge is having a peace filled and positive life.
Let it go. Keep it gone. You don’t need it any more. Let it rot in the ground. Done. Live your life now.
Some further resources:
Embodying Forgiveness, by L. Gregory Jones
Think like a Monk, by Jay Shetty
Celebration of Discipline, by Richard J. Foster
Forgive what you Can’t Forget, by Lysa TerKeurst
Forgive for Good, by Fred Luskin
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Please add your comments and resources in a comment!
(C) 2022 All Rights Reserved by Alan van Hooser, “The Thoughtful Pastor”