Some people are neglected, abandoned, and abused, while others are betrayed, manipulated, and deceived. Hurt is all around us and no one is immune. The world does not see the value of forgiveness, but Christians are supposed to forgive because God has forgiven them. It is a difficult journey to choose forgiveness, but it is worth it to be able to be free of the chains that past hurt keeps people in.
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a process.
It is not a one-time event for human beings. Jesus was able to do this once and for all on the cross, forgiving past, present, and future sins with his death, burial, and resurrection. People often think something must be wrong with them if they chose to forgive another but then they still struggle with feelings of hurt.
Sometimes people can forgive once and not think about the hurt again, but most will still think about it from time to time. Forgiveness is choosing to forgive repeatedly. This doesn’t mean allowing someone to repeatedly hurt you, but it does mean choosing to let go of the hurt and anger you’re holding onto.
Forgiveness is not forgetting.People struggle to forget hurt. One should not feel the pressure to completely forget the hurt done to them because the human mind does not easily forget. Some people can, and sometimes the brain forgets certain traumatic experiences automatically. Forgiveness simply means to let go of the hurt. It doesn’t mean to make oneself try to forget.
To forget all the hurt may set oneself up to be continually hurt in future situations. Remembering the hurt is different from holding bitterness. It helps set boundaries and determine who are safe people in one’s life.
Forgiveness is not justifying.
Again, for God it is. For humans? People don’t want to forgive because they think it communicates that it’s all okay – that whatever happened is okay when it wasn’t okay that that person hurt them. Forgiveness isn’t pretending as if it’s fine.
Forgiveness does not always mean reconciliation.
People think that if they forgive someone that automatically indicates the relationship will go back to normal, but reconciliation requires both people to come together and right the wrongs and work toward change. Forgiveness only requires a choice from one person – the choice to let go of the hurt. Forgiveness does not mean that both parties will come back together. In fact, sometimes the relationship is over after the hurt.
What does the forgiveness process look like?
1. Name the hurts.
Get out a journal or a piece of paper and write down the hurts you haven’t been able to forgive. It can be from one person or multiple people, but it is important to write down each one. Many people do not like this part of the process because it feels like they are reliving past hurt or bringing up things that are already in the past. This part of the process can be painful, so it may be helpful to take breaks. What was the hurt and what was so hurtful about it? Be
2. Consider why it has been so hard to let the hurt go.
What is it about this specific hurt? Is there a theme? Do you feel most hurt when you feel forgotten or deceived or betrayed? Is there a deeper issue from earlier in life where you first felt this hurt? Why are you struggling to let it go?
3. Consider how this hurt has affected you.
How does it continue to affect you today? Why let it go now? What is the cost of holding it forever? What do you want to see happen after releasing this hurt?
4. What outcome are you hoping for when you choose this forgiveness?
Are you hoping for reconciliation? Are you hoping the other will forgive you?
5. Practice forgiveness for each hurt.
You say something like this: “I forgive ___________ for __________.” Take a few deep breaths and say it as much as needed. Then move on to the next hurt. Keep going through all of them. Another practical way to do this is to write each on separate pieces of paper and put them all in a box, saying “I let go of this” for each one. It sounds a bit cheesy, but it can be a powerful exercise for one’s healing.
6. Communicate your choice to forgive if the situation calls for it.
Not every situation requires a conversation because sometimes it is more for the individual than the relationship. However, if appropriate, let the other person (or yourself if it is you who needs to be forgiven) know. Some write what is called an “amends letter,” and some have a conversation in person. Even if there is no reconciliation or potential relationship restoration in the future, letting the other know can be an empowering and helpful step.
7. Repeat if needed.
As mentioned earlier, forgiveness is not easy or always a one-time experience. You may walk through all of this for one hurt and find that it still creeps up later. If that is the case, just walk through it again. Eventually, the hurt will be released.
Forgiveness is not something God commands his people to do out of cruelty, but for those who have experienced deep hurt, forgiveness feels impossible. He asks his people to do this because he knows the bondage bitterness holds, and he knows the freedom of releasing the pain and the hurt back to him.
People weren’t meant to carry all of that. They were meant to lay it back at the feet of Jesus, to ask him for the strength to forgive and let go. Jesus knows forgiveness isn’t easy because he had to give his life for it. He knows the cost and the pain, but it is always worth it.
Bible verses on forgiveness
If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. – Luke 17:3
I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. – Isaiah 43:25
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you don’t forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. – Matthew 6:14-15
But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. – Mark 11:25
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” – Matthew 18:21-22
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. – Luke 6:37
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:15
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. – Colossians 3:12-13
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