Forgiveness can be one of the most difficult challenges we can face. We are wronged. We wrong others.
Forgiveness is necessary for healthy living in body, mind and spirit. Not offering forgiveness can cause physical symptoms as well as harbor resentment and anger.
David Peterson in his article "Climbing Mount Forgiveness" says, "There is no place where we reflect more of Jesus than when we forgive others. But, it's important to remember what forgiveness is not.
Forgiveness is not denial of the wrong and hurt.
Forgiveness does not diminish the pain.
Forgiveness does not remove the responsibility for the harm done by the other.
Forgiveness does not justify.
Forgiveness does not require warm and loving feelings."
Peterson continues, "Forgiveness is always difficult. Some things even seem unforgivable. But forgiveness is like climbing Mout Everest. We don't have to make it all the way to the top to improve our view. Even if we never reach the summit of Mount Forgiveness, we can at least keep climbing."
Jesus and Forgiveness
Jesus talks about forgiving others seventy times seven, which means 490 times (Matthew 18:22). I've also heard forgiveness explained like peeling an onion - there are layers to forgiving someone and forgiveness takes time.
Forgiveness is often a "one way street." We forgive so we can be free of resentment and anger when the person who offended us may not offer reconciliation.
My Experience with Forgiveness
Recently, I began the process of forgiving someone who wounded me greatly. I was overwhelmed, numb, and couldn't even think about forgiveness initially. As time passed, I knew forgiveness was the only way to get rid of anger and betrayal I experienced about an injustice that was causing physical symptoms and emotional discomfort.
How did I start to walk along a path leading to freedom and peace?
1. I began by asking God to help me and give me strength. I knew forgiveness would not happen without God's leading and grounding.
2. Letting God know about my desire to forgive this person gradually shifted the energy in my heart, slowly releasing anger and resentment and allowing room for quiet and comfort.
3. Knowing Jesus forgave those who crucified him offered companionship as I walked through the circumstances and emotions generated.
4. Exercise regularly. Experiencing a wrong doing can create a lot of energy. Dissipating this energy helped relax my body, release tenion, and open my heart and mind.
Wondering how I would know when I had reached forgiveness was a question that arose frequently. Could I think about the incident with less anger? Did I have fewer flashbacks of what happened? Would my physical symptoms that developed afterward go away?
Although I have not completely reached a place of peace, I know that I am making progress toward forgiveness compared to where I was a month ago. My anger is reduced when I think about the person and what happened. Flashbacks occur with less frequency. I have stopped taking the medication my doctor gave me because the physical symptoms have gone away.
Inviting God into my desire for forgiveness helped me feel like I was not alone on a difficult path.
1. Is there someone you need to forgive?
2. Ask God to help you begin to forgive by using the suggestions listed above or creating your own way to start.
Two Prayers for Forgiveness
1. For all those I have harmed, knowingly or unknowingly, I am truly sorry. Forgive me and set me free. For all those who have harmed me, knowingly or unknowingly, I forgive them and set them free. For the harm I have done to myself, knowingly or unknowingly, I am truly sorry. I forgive myself and set myself free. Amen.
2. I let forgiveness rest on all of my memories of you (name a person). I bless you and ask God to fill you with his love in this instant and for eternity. Amen. (You may want to pray these words for a certain period of time, such as daily or for forty days.)
God, we try so hard to live with love, but sometimes we are wronged by others in various ways, and we wrong others. As you offer forgiveness so freely, strengthen and guide us when we need to forgive another, even when there is no possibility of reconciliation or acknowledgement. Amen.