I had a parent figure in my life who hurt me deeply. This hurt intensified when I became a mother because the choices this figure had made that influenced my childhood made less and less sense to me as an adult. The pain I felt affected the openness I had with this person, and at some point caused me to greatly reduce the time I spent with them. It was hard to avoid this person because in many ways they HAD to be in my life. However, I learnt a lot in this period I held a grudge.
- Forgiveness is so important in order to move forward as a whole person.
- The other person might never, ever, completely understand their offense and its effect on you.
- Their apology might never feel enough.
- The more you relive the offense, the more it tarnishes your present, and takes away from it.
- Empathy is an important process to offering grace and forgiveness.
Basically, at some point everyone in walking the path of pain, betrayal, offenses, and trauma caused by another person will have to come face to face with the concept of forgiveness.
So, What is forgiveness?
Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to
release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has
harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.
Forgiveness involves two people: the person doing the forgiving and the person being forgiven. These two parties are affected and connected by a singular event yet can be disconnected by what happens after the event. Before proceeding it is important to be aware of areas of distraction many people fall into while considering forgiveness.
- They forget that they have hurt someone in the past and will likely hurt someone in the future, even as they walk with the best of intentions.
- They compare their offense with others around them to justify it.
- They try to justify keeping a grudge because, on some personal ranking system, they believe one sin is greater than another.
The above way of thinking gives temporal relieve but it does little to push forward healthy progress between the offended and the offender. Now, let’s talk to the person forgiving and the person forgiven.
TO THE ONE FORGIVING
You are strong: Forgiveness does not make you a coward because it is the most natural state to want vengeance when offended. This is why forgiveness is still seen by many as a marvel, more so when the offence is most traumatic. Hence, it is important to see forgiveness as a thing of strength as you consider it.
It’s takes personal conviction: Forgiveness might not bring you the closure that comes from the offender apologizing or lauding your efforts. Others might not praise you either. The latter and former mean your motivation has to be deeply personal and reflective of your convictions. You might never have a chance to face the one who offended you, or they might be so broken they remain cold and uncaring even after your pain.
So Why Forgive?
Medical Reasons: Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age. Source: John Hopkins Medicine. Basically, unforgiveness will slowly poison your system. The sad part is while you are killing yourself, the one who offended you might be exceling.
Personal Freedom: Pain is the result of mistreatment, hurt, and heartbreak. That pain can cause us to keep reliving the scenario over and over again, keeping us forever stuck in that moment. This is nothing but bondage. Forgiveness is about giving you the power to accept the situation for what it is or was, letting go, moving past anger and pain, and moving into a better and healthier place. Note, it doesn’t mean forgetting what happened (remembering pain can be beneficial to making better future choices), erasing the past, becoming best friends with the perpetrator, or not seeking justice for the perpetrator.
How To Forgive
Active Process: The first step is knowing that forgiveness is an active process. It is not simply saying the words but it’s a conscious decision to let go. Some people are naturally more forgiving than others, but everyone can train themselves to be more forgiving and act in healthier ways.
Facing our responsibility: Sometimes it is not our fault in anyway, but other times we honestly have to face our partial responsibility in the offense. Facing this allows us to swing the whip a little slower, or even drop it altogether.
Empathy: Putting yourself in the other persons shoes helps with forgiveness. For example, you have a friend with a parent that is severely critical. One day she says something cruel to you. Forgiveness comes easier when you try to imagine living with her parent and how you would turn out. This plays out on even the harshest offense if you practice it selflessly.
Take control: Reliving pain and the event that caused the pain gives the past and perpetrator control of the present and future. You deserve to have a freer life TODAY and TOMORROW. Forgiveness closes the door on the perpetrator, releases your mind from the torment, and sparks alive the you that deserves today.
Make a commitment to do this: Everything we do in life starts from a choice, which has its foundation in our will. The will is a powerful instrument. Once we decide to do something there is an invisible power that is triggered to align our actions, mind, and emotions to follow. This process might take time so be kind to yourself as you start. You are already on the right path with the “will to do.”
Pray: Some pains are so deep and traumatic that appealing to God’s strength is needed. The good news is that He wants us to forgive, so asking Him for the power to do so means our prayer is sure to be answered. Colossians 3:13 – Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. The latter does not list which offenses are to forgiven.
Professional Help: Some trauma or pain in the soul go so deep professional help is needed to face it, dissect it, and release it. Reach out to a professional counselor HERE.
TO THE ONE FORGIVEN
Recognize Limits: Accept that you are human, and you will and have made a mistake. Examine the expectations and standards you hold for yourself and be objective.
Accept Forgiveness: Accept the grace of forgiveness and forgive yourself. Intrinsically you are valuable and worthy of forgiveness. Chronic self-condemnation and blame might make you feel bad in the moment; long-term, it’s linked to a host of mental and physical ailments including depression, cardiovascular problems, and immune dysfunction. Accept God’s and the person’s forgiveness and live with care.
Give: Show gratitude, offer an apology, and if possible, make restitution.
I became much freer after I forgave. What helped me was the humble realization that I have a lot of faults too and I do appreciate being forgiven. I also realized that most people are doing the best they can with what they are. Each of us is a product of our past experiences (good and bad) and are reacting and interacting with each other from that standpoint.
This is not to excuse offenses but to help each of us strive to show grace and mercy to one other. We can try not to put the expectations of the divine on a fellow human being. If we constantly offend, the best gift we can give ourselves and the people around us is active change for the better, and self-improvement.
ALVN has a great film on how one lady faced her need to forgive. Her method and reflection might help someone else. The film is called F-WORD. Watch HERE.