The Process of Forgiveness
Forgiveness happened in layers for me because I didn’t know it was a process I needed to go through. When reconciliation with my father began in 2001, it was as if I cut an onion.
I told my dad the things he had done to hurt me. He apologized and said that he never meant to. I believed him, and forgave him… I thought. Over the course of many years I kept unearthing things I had not dealt with, or known I needed to.
I had no idea that with each layer my eyes would burn with tears more than it had during the previous layer. I thought wanting to forgive and saying, “I forgive you,” was all I needed to do, but what do you do when your heart won’t listen to what your mouth said?
Saying the words hadn’t healed me. Each time we experienced another level of intimacy in our father/daughter relationship, I realized I still had trust issues, some anger, and I still felt like blaming him sometimes. Things got better progressively, and on the surface I seemed fine. I didn’t understand it then, but I had residual feelings of hurt deep down inside because I was not yet finished with the process of forgiveness. I wouldn’t peel back the last layer until 2013.
If you can successfully make it through the steps to forgiveness, you can be free from anger and bitterness.
I can’t tell you how precious it is to experience the freedom of forgiveness!
Step 1 – Identify the infraction
Sometimes we can’t get to the point of forgiveness because we haven’t even acknowledged the infraction. It’s like little kids. A little boy pushed my daughter once. He was made to say sorry by his parents, and baby girl’s response was, “It’s okay.” But it’s not okay to shove someone.
Sometimes when we are hurt we tell ourselves, “It’s okay. It wasn’t that bad. Don’t make a big deal out of it,” but we should acknowledge what happened, why it was wrong, and what we didn’t like about it.
Step 2 – Praying about the situation, for your healing, and for the perp (You should do this all throughout the process)
Praying for the situation means saying, “God, though I was hurt or mistreated, I want You to get glory from this situation. I place myself on the back burner and say have your way God, so that all parties involved and those looking on would be saved because of how this turns out.” Those sentiments are far from easy to exhibit, but when we get in a mindset that enables us to search for God’s glory no matter the situation, we become the best funnels for God’s almighty power.
Of course we need to pray for healing. We need to ask God to hold our hearts in His hands and apply that soothing salve so we will no longer burn with anger or have anxiety flare ups.
When we pray for the offender, not on them, but for them, God shows us why He loves them… in spite of what they did to us. We begin to see things from heaven’s vantage point. When we see His in spite of love for them, we are reminded that He has to love us in spite of our dirt as well.
This takes us off the high pedestal that dictates that forgiveness is for us, but not the next man. This is what really gets the wheels turning in the direction of forgiveness. Without a little bit of heaven, forgiveness is impossible!
Step 3 – Acknowledging the hurtful emotions
Some of us just like to shake it off when hurtful things are done to us because we don’t want to wallow in hurt. The only problem with that is that if we do not process what happened and how that made us feel, we can’t truly shake it off.
It is instead stored deep down inside, wreaking havoc on our internal organs (according to eastern medicine), waiting to rear its ugly head the next time that individual repeats the action or a similar situation presents itself. Then we explode or internalize more hurt.
The human mind was made with the need to bring closure to experiences in order to move on from them. If this does not happen, it is kept it in our current queue, rotating back and forth in our conscious and subconscious mind, causing behavioral patterns we may not even understand.
What we need to do is face the hurt, explore the emotions it evoked, deal with them accordingly, and ignore the urge to pretend we are too strong to have been hurt.
Come back on Thursday for the rest of the steps in the process. A brand new life awaits you on the other side of forgiveness.