Forgiving someone you used to love, who is gone now, is not as hard as one would think, and that’s because forgiveness is all about releasing the pain, judgment, and expectation of justice or revenge.
Cliché but truth: forgiveness is more for the victim than the abuser.
The process to resolve the hurt and pain caused by someone is 100% up to you, as well as God, who gives us the strength to forgive the individual who has wronged us. We have no control of what other people do, but we have all the control on how we react. Yes, I understand that the pain caused by a traumatic experience is involuntary; the wave of emotions can hit us without warning—but once you have recovered from the initial shock and recognize you will survive, that is when your healing is within your control.
Before I began my personal journey of forgiveness and healing, I needed to be shown that not forgiving was actually hurting me, and it wasn’t what God teaches. I had to recognize that I was becoming angry, passive aggressive, bitter, and my negativity was spilling–over to loved ones. Once I started focusing on the repercussions of un-forgiveness, it was then that I was able to take steps toward a full recovery through forgiveness. My feelings about the traumatic event were still valid, and I would continue to remember what occurred. I then worked on reasons why I did not want to be angry any longer. I looked into how this anger and bitterness affected my relationships with those that I loved, as well as with the offender. I had to decide if my relationship with the transgressor would or would not continue.
Whether you decide to maintain contact with the culprit or not will influence your path to forgiveness. For example, my relationship with my father was something that I wanted to keep, and he was a person I chose to have in my life. Therefore, I had to work with him and talk to him in order to continue to be around him. I had to be honest and clear with my boundaries. Boundaries allow each person to understand what is going to be acceptable and what is not.
Once you recognize that forgiveness is recovery for you, and within your control, the steps to forgiveness are possible. A good, first step is simply saying you forgive the person. You can do this quietly to yourself, or you can do this in your mind. But every day you take one tiny step and say you forgive them. Initially when you speak these words, it will feel false and may even be sickening to you. The statement doesn’t mean forgiveness has been achieved. However, our minds are exceptionally powerful and as we continue to say that we forgive that person we let in the positive possibility of forgiveness. Each time you make the statement of forgiveness, your heart beings to heal, even if it’s just a little bit.
Another step towards forgiving someone is to see things from their side. Examining the perpetrator’s perspective is not about rationalizing or justifying the injury, but rather to reflect on the person and better understand the circumstances that made it possible to hurt another person. For example, when it comes to my father I had to look into his life, see where he was hurt and how that had affected him in such a way that he came to a place where he hurt others.
Yes another cliché but very, very true: hurting people hurt people.
And once we recognize how badly that person was hurt, badly enough that they themselves became the perpetrator of hurt, then we better understand why they did what they did. It also opens our eyes to the fact that we as victims have a high risk of becoming a perpetrator ourselves for the exact same reason. Without professional, pastoral, and self–counseling tools to address pain and anger, our injuries will negatively influence our emotions and behavior, resulting in our hurting others. It may not be the same kind of hurt, however; pain is pain.
After going through this process, I began to have compassion for my father and for others who have hurt me throughout my life. I understand where they have been because I have been there, and I am empathetic of how their injuries devastated them. Once compassion started, then slowly and gradually, God’s mercy and grace restored me. He can do the same for you.
All of this can sound complicated, but you can start by asking yourself the following questions.
Do I take that small step towards forgiveness or not?
Do I seek out resources to help me heal or not?
Should I work towards a compassionate and merciful heart of Grace or not?
Do I want to continue to be a hard person like the perpetrator and possibly hurt others?
Do I want to be a healed, happy, and peaceful person who can move forward with clear boundaries and expectations in my life?
When I chose to take the steps towards forgiveness my life, the lives around me changed for the better. Peace, joy, forgiveness, hope, and love flourished.
So reader, regardless of who your perpetrator is, whether it’s your husband, brother, sister or uncle, whether you have a close relationship or you haven’t spoken in years, you are in control of how you react and who you want to become, and it is God who will help you in your journey to forgiveness.
“So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them” (Luke 17:3).
Categories: Devotion of the Week