In my post What Is Forgiveness, the difference between emotional forgiveness and decisional forgiveness was addressed. Now, we move on to how to forgive others.
As mentioned in the previous post, forgiveness is not dependent upon the offending party giving you an apology or whether they “deserve” to be forgiven. Forgiveness is taking control of the fallout from the offense by releasing the offender from the debt they owe.
Why would you want to do that!?!
Because unforgiveness is cancer to your soul and spirit, it slowly destroys your joy as resentment takes root and blossoms into bitterness. The offender may not deserve to be forgiven, but you deserve to forgive.
How do you do that?
Step One – decide how you want to be forgiven. “...forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” (New Living Translation, 1996/2015, Luke 11:4, emphasis mine).
As... the tiny two-letter word that changed my world!
I want to be forgiven quickly and completely. Therefore, I must choose to forgive others quickly and completely. It is an uncompromising act of my will.
Step Two – stop ruminating. Stop rehearsing the offense, i.e., talking about it to feed your righteous indignation and thinking about it all the ways in which you have been hurt. Ruminating fertilizes the seeds of resentment and stirs negative emotions in a uniquely powerful way. When your emotions are triggered, remind yourself that you have chosen to forgive and purposefully think about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable (NLT, 1996/2015, Phil. 4:8), i.e., not the offense or the offender.
Step three – pray for help. Wrangling your emotions is difficult, and they directly impact your thoughts. So, pray for help. You can borrow my prayer, “Lord, I have chosen to forgive ____, please help my emotions support my decision.” You may have to pray this prayer many, many times, depending on the severity of the offense. But fear not, God will answer. Forgiveness is in His will, and He will help you to do it.
Note that I did not say you should not process trauma or grief. Processing is not ruminating. How can you tell the difference? You will feel better as you process, i.e., you will gain insight, understanding, compassion for yourself. You will feel worse as you ruminate.
If you need help processing, contact me.
As a reminder, forgiveness does not require reconciliation or for the wronged party to “forget,” acting like it never happened. Neither is an apology necessary. You obtain power over the situation by forgiving because you choose to do so - not in response to an apology. God did not wait on an apology before He sent His only Son to pay for our sins so we could be forgiven. God demonstrates taking control of the situation by forgiving while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8).
Contact me for help on your journey to authentic healing and forgiveness.
Angela W. Startz, MAHSC, CCLC