Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Forgiveness 101

Someone has wronged you. Every time you think about what happened, you feel your anger rising. How could anyone do that to me? You ask yourself. You know you're supposed to forgive them, but you just don't know how. 

Forgiving is always instant. The second you forgive someone, all is well. Forgive and forget...right?

Nope on all three counts. True forgiveness isn't instant. You can't sit by yourself and say 'I forgive you, wherever you are' and expect peace and tranquility. And forgiveness has never meant forgetting it ever happened.

So, what is forgiveness and how do you forgive someone?

Forgiveness is letting go of your anger over the situation completely. It's to truly understand the other person's point of view, and respecting how they think. The term 'forgive and forget' doesn't mean forget the incident, it means forget your anger and move on.

But how do you do that?

It's not easy. It's not always instant. But once you learn how, it will change your life forever.

My mom was a toxic person. I held a lot of anger towards her for years, and it slowly poisoned my heart without me realizing it. One day a friend helped me see things differently, and even then it took a day or two before I could finally forgive my mom. 

And this is how I did it- with God's help.

See her perspective. When I looked at the same situation in a different light, my actions could have been intrusive and demeaning, even though that wasn't my intent. I was hurt, she was hurt, and we both reacted badly towards each other. 
I also had to see things in her long view- she had a hard life when she was younger, and through her perspective, I had it easy because I never had the hardships she experienced. When I realized this, it was a lot easier to understand why she reacted as she did, dissipating most of my anger.

Stop rehashing. I can't tell you how many times I went over and over an incident in my mind until it seemed like it happened yesterday instead of years ago. The problem with rehashing is the anger never truly dwindles- it remains a hard, hot and bitter ember in your chest, and the second the other person acts remotely like they did back then, you explode.
The fact is, the event is over. Done. The other person isn't affected by it (and to be honest, most times they don't even remember the event!), and no matter what happens next you can't fix it. This has to be the hardest thing to accept before you forgive someone. You can't fix the event itself, but you can make amends for actions through forgiveness.

Let go of the anger completely. I'm not saying be cheerful about past events, but think of those experiences as spiritual growth stepping stones. True forgiveness is when you can remember the incident without getting angry about it. You can feel remorse, regret, or even frustration over it, but the anger should be gone. What good does that kind of anger do you anyway?

Biblical forgiveness means getting face-to-face with the person you need to forgive. The only exception to this (when you can do this in a room by yourself) is if the person isn't within reach or has passed on. The former can be done over the phone or online if possible, and the latter can be done through God. Try to forgive before it gets to that point though.

There's another sticky problem with forgiveness. Sometimes forgiveness needs to be on both sides, and the other side won't comply. Whether they are Christians or not doesn't matter- the same rules apply. Face to face and a willing heart to forgive. 

But what if the other party isn't willing, or doesn't truly forgive?

It's so much harder to forgive someone that won't forgive you- indignation can rise up and whisper in your ear "Hey! why forgive them if they won't forgive back?" and it's so easy to listen to that voice! 

How do I know? Because it happened to me. 

I gently told this person I had forgiven them, and throughout the conversation I could feel them stiffen up and become aloof. When I poured my heart out to ask for their forgiveness, they wouldn't even look at me. They said they forgave me, but I could tell they hadn't. It took me several months for me to finally forgive them, and I remember both the event and the talk with a great deal regret and sadness.

I have to stop myself from rehashing over their unforgiveness, because the incident is still rather fresh. and that's another reason forgiveness isn't always instant. Time needs to heal the deeper wounds. 

We need to forgive in order to move forward. God even says it in His prayer 'Forgive those who trespass against us, as we are forgiven for our trespasses'. If you don't, He won't either. From this writers perspective, I'm forgiving others and letting go of my anger!

How about you?


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