“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” ~ C.S Lewis
Last week, we looked at some reasons people hurt others and how we can choose to respond. In my Instagram post, I asked you to imagine your hurt as an anchor. That anchor is attached to a rope and that rope is tied to you. Everywhere you go, you drag that heavy anchor around. Its weight is depleting and exhausting.
Now imagine what it would feel like to cut that rope. How free would you feel?
Forgiveness is the scissors that cut the rope and set you free.
The bitterness that settles in as a result of unforgiveness may seem innocuous, but I’ve experienced it as an insidious poison that chokes out love. The side-effects of bitterness— hatred and anger—affects us, our responses to situations, and all those in our proximity.
We might think that by hanging onto an offense we claw back control and hurt the offender. In truth, the only one we continue to harm is ourselves by repeating the cycle in our mind and heart.
When we forgive and “cut the rope”, our offender’s actions lose its power over us and we break the harmful pattern of reliving the event in our thought life. We are now freed from that repeated cycle of hurt and the person who caused it.
Forgiving doesn’t mean that you forget the offense, it means you choose to offer undeserved favor. It means you go against your natural bent to stay bitter and choose God’s way.
Remarkably, Jesus told us to, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28) In doing so, we not only echo God’s treatment toward us, but this behavior sets us free.
Here is a powerful and sobering reason to forgive. Jesus says, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
God forgave us everything. Can we not, with his help, do the same?
How will we know if we have forgiven an offense? We’ll know the work is complete when we can think of the person who hurt us without being triggered. We’ll know it’s a finished work when we can pray for them and even bless them. Forgiveness may take time, God’s help, a concerted effort, counseling, and much prayer, but it is possible.
Forgiveness does not mean remaining in harm’s way or repeatedly enduring mistreatment or abuse. We may never see our offender again, and it may not be wise to do so, but we can forgive all the same.
Forgiveness is God’s upside-down way to peace and freedom. It’s the same unmerited forgiveness and freedom purchased for us on the cross and the forgiveness he asks us to extend to others. In doing so we become “children of the Most High.”
It is my belief that we are closest to the heart of God when we forgive.
As a helpful tool, I have included 7 Steps to Forgiveness below. If you would like to be lead through these steps, click here to watch the 7 Steps to Forgiveness video.
7 Steps to Forgiveness:
- Make a list of all the people you have never forgiven.
- Choose one person on that list to forgive.
- Repent by asking God to forgive you for holding onto this offense and bitterness.
- Ask God to help you forgive.
- Forgive again—as many times as needed. This maintains our freedom! We can forgive but we don’t forget. The memory of the offense may return. It doesn’t mean we haven’t forgiven, but at that moment we can choose what happens next. We can stay in peace and adjust the former way of stewing about or reacting to the offense. Here, we change our thinking. Instead of rehashing it or falling back into the habit of bitter thinking, we choose to take our thoughts captive or forgive again if needed.
- Bless them. This completes the cycle. If I can wish my offender well and pray for them, I know I have forgiven them.
After you have completed these steps, do the same for the next person on your list until you have forgiven each person. You may need to ask a friend to pray with you through this process. I’ve also included a video here to help you through this process.
If you are having trouble forgiving, you may need to separate the person from the sin. They are not what they did to you. You may also need to first forgive yourself or God to free up yourself to forgive others.
Join me next week as I tackle the difficult topic of church hurt.
Much peace and freedom in your forgiveness journey. xo
The Journal Journey Excerpt #5 Click here to watch this week’s video
March 16, 2017
I have felt disrespected and disregarded, and have been struggling to not grow bitter.
This morning I read how even as Jesus hung on the cross he said forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing. Being reminded of that was massive, it also helps remind me that they don’t know what they are doing either. But it is so easy for me to feel hurt due to the repeated behavior. You know I’m not great at forgiveness and have a tendency toward bitterness, so please help me to do what I know you would have me do: forgive.
This verse is a good reminder right now: “Walk worthy of the calling to which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” ~ Ephesians 4:1-3