I want to talk about an in-depth journey through the difficult topic of forgiveness. I say difficult because forgiving someone who has deeply hurt you is no doubt the hardest challenge you will ever face. But deciding to forgive someone who has deeply hurt you is also, unquestionably, one of the most important choices you will ever make.
I want to walk with you step-by-step through how you can actually forgive someone. I truly believe this is the most important blog I've ever written because forgiveness will help you find freedom. It will free you from the toxic emotions that trap you in bitterness and hate. So, let's get this started.
But first, it is important to state that forgiving someone does NOT make what they did right. You are not saying, "It's okay," because was not okay to hurt you. Rather, you are choosing to let go of the bitterness while remembering your boundaries. You don't have to be friendly with them again. You also might not FEEL forgiving, but forgiving someone is a choice you make, not a feeling you stir up. It is important to understand what forgiveness IS and what forgiveness IS NOT.
6 Steps on How to Forgive Someone
STEP ONE: You can't truly forgive unless you have grasped the extent of the violation that has been done against you. With the help of a counselor, minister, or another professional, you need to seek to understand what happened to you when you were hurt and why it hurts so much.
Jane sent me some great advice, "Let all the things that have happened roll through your mind and let them pass through. Don't try to deny feelings of anguish that you may have had. If you keep trying to smother that fire, you won't help it. Allow yourself to experience the feelings you need to go through, then don't cling to them, let them go. Try to focus on the good things the experiences have provided you with, however tiny they may be compared with the wrongs the person has done to you."
STEP TWO: Write down the name of the person you have chosen to forgive. Underneath that name, think of the many things you have done for which you need forgiveness and write them down. When we realize how much we need to be forgiven for all the wrongs we have done, it makes it easier to show mercy to those who have hurt us. Keep what you have written in front of you as you go through this process.
STEP THREE: Realize forgiving others is a spiritual, supernatural exercise. In fact, it is impossible to truly forgive others without God's help. God can help you forgive because not only has He forgiven tens of billions of people, but He also has the power to help you, in particular. Just remember: He only helps those who admit their helplessness. You might say a simple prayer like this: God I admit I can't forgive (insert name) with my own power. Please help me. Help me to understand how much you have forgiven me, so I can forgive the person who has hurt me.
Nathan commented on how he has lived this out, "The hurt from the harm someone has done you is so big you cannot forgive on your own. I tried to put it aside, to rationalize it, even to blame myself for it. It was poisoning my spirit. Then one night I cried out to God realizing that this burden was too big for me alone. I laid the pain and anger and hurt at His feet, and He lifted the burden from me. It was only then that I could begin breathing in God's love and peace and move on."
STEP FOUR: Now it's time to make the big decision to surrender. Let go of your deep desire to get even with the person who has violated you. Come up with a prayer or statement announcing your decision. Here's an example: By an act of my will, and God's power, I give up my rights to get even with (insert name). I make a commitment that when those sordid feelings come over me again, I will release them. I won't babysit them. I admit the feelings are real, but I choose not to be controlled by them any longer. Instead, I will dwell on the good things I have learned from this experience.
STEP FIVE: Make a choice to have compassion on your violator. Look at them first, as a tragedy. In one sense they should be pitied. Bottom line is, because of their violation against you they have suffered, are suffering, and in the end will suffer far more in this life, or the one to come. We're not making excuses for them, but we're only saying they are pathetic, and desperately need our compassion. One way to show compassion is to pray for the person who has hurt you. Jesus said, "Pray for your enemies." He knows it is impossible to continue to pray for someone, and still hate them. Then, while you're praying for this person, ask for a blessing in their life. Pray that good things come to them. Wish them well.
STEP SIX: Move on. It's time to make a concerted effort to stop dwelling on what happened. By forgiving someone you're promising not to bring it up again to use against him or her. If you are going to talk to someone about how the other person has hurt you, make sure this person is a professional or a wise person you can trust.
Jenn commented, "Forgiving takes time. It doesn't happen just once and it's over with. But I am letting [God] take it from my hands and letting Him handle it. It is not my place to punish [the guy who hurt me], and I certainly don't need to punish myself by holding on to that hurt and anger."
Forgiveness is Worth the Effort
In conclusion, forgiving someone who has hurt you could be the greatest challenge of your life. But if you choose to forgive, you will join those who are not being destroyed by bitterness, anger, hurt or other toxic emotions. There is nothing quite like living in peace, knowing you are a forgiving person. May God bless you as you seek to be a truly loving and forgiving person.
To understand more about why forgiveness is so important for your own emotional healing and future, read What Happens When You Don't Forgive.