We know we need to forgive.
We know our physical, emotional, and especially our Spiritual health depends on forgiving.
Yet, how do we begin down the path towards forgiveness and freedom? You can find many different lists, many different places.
Here’s my version 🙂
In order to forgive we must first realize we have a problem. We may have tried to stuff the issue deep in our hearts. Years and years of hurt, heartache, and memories may be wrapped up in the deep bitterness we have towards the per-son, people, or the organization we must forgive.
We must realize that nothing will get better until we change it. We must own the problem ourselves, and not pass it off on someone else. Not blame it on another person. We must get to the point where we realize we are the only ones that can do the work.
We must want to get better. Sometimes it may seem ‘fun’ to be angry. Sometimes it may seem to hard. But in the end we have to get to the point that we WANT to get better so much that we are willing to go thru very hard emotional work. We must get to the point of wanting it so badly we are willing to work hard. Very hard.
As we realize, own it and want it, we will likely find ourselves very angry. If you have stuffed the hurt and pain deep inside, the chances are high that the anger is still there. Someone did you wrong. Someone hurt you. The natural result of this is anger. We must look at what the person did head on. Not skim over it or try to say they haven’t done it. We need to look at it for the sin it was. Sometimes the person may not have even realized it hurt us. Still we must process the hurt. Anger is, in and of itself, a protector for us. An indicator that something is wrong. It is as an alarm screaming in our mind that a boundary may have been crossed or a hurt may need to be worked through. Don’t be afraid of anger. It is not hurtful if dealt with in the right way.
Be sad. It is ok to feel that deep hurt. Hurt of rejection, the sadness, the crushed spirit, the embarrassment, the shame. Don’t hide from the hurt that washes over you. We may have stuffed it for years, which can cause the grief to be beyond imaginable. Years of grief that you did not deal with all bubbling to the surface. Grief over what should have been, could have been, and should never have been. Let your mind and body grieve.
In the midst of all of this you may be forming a mental list. As you experience the anger and the grief you may be surprised how much the memories come back. Write it ALL down. Journal it. Tell a single trusted person or professional/licensed counselor. Record it via audio or video. How ever you best express your feelings, express it. EVERY. Single.part.of it. Every.single.detail. Don’t be surprised if, as you list things, you find yourself going back to the anger and the grief stage.
Look over your list. Look at what was going on in the life of the person, people, or organization right then. Don’t make excuses for them. None of us can excuse sin. Ever. Yet look and see if you understand what was going on in their life right then. How did they live? Have they forgiven others? Do they have a deep hurt, themselves, they are trying to run from? Write it down.
In order to release it, let the hurt go. Completely forgive the person. Let the desire for revenge and retaliation go. I’ve heard some people sit across from an empty chair and read their list, going thru each one they say out loud, “I forgive you for….” Afterwards burying or burning the list.
Another person I know wrote sins against her on a rock, wrote her personal sins toward the person on a fabric. She wrapped the fabric around the rock and buried them both. Planted a flower on top of it. She buried this during a little ceremony she held with her close friends. The amount of time this whole process will take may depend on how you release it or how big of an ebenezer you place on it. However you choose to remember this by, somehow put a ‘line in the sand’ to signify it.
The peace, that is. The freedom. Keep the ebenezer fresh in your mind. When Satan comes to say: “forgiveness isn’t worth it. It’s more fun to be mad. You didn’t really forgive.” Tell Satan to get away. Go back to that ebenezer. Just hang on to the peace. The freedom from that load of bricks you were carrying. And Keep the forgiveness.
Go over and over these steps again and again. Sometimes you may have more to do on the grieving step, or more time spent in the angry step. But just keep moving. Repeat steps until you have forgiven 7 times 70.
I must say it again. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. Forgiving does not mean letting the sin towards you continue. Forgiving is releasing the right to get revenge.
Do not be afraid to get help as you go thru these steps. You don’t do it alone! First, ask God to help. A trusted friend or two, a professional Christian counselor, someone trained to help you thru these steps.
I hope these 10 steps help you, even if just in some small way, to move toward a life of forgiveness.
This article first appeared in the 2017 Fall Issue of Titus2.