Learning to forgive is one of the most important things you can do to improve your own mental, physical and spiritual health. Holding a grudge hurts us. There is medical evidence that resentment and bitterness harm us physically, emotionally and spiritually. When we hold onto resentment we close our heart not just to the person who hurt us but we close our heart a little to everyone.
When we forgive we turn our pain into growth, both psychological and spiritual. Forgiveness requires us to stop judging others and to realize that we each hurt each other. We cannot make the other person learn something. We can’t make them express remorse. No matter what the other person does, it is up to us to forgive. Holding onto our pain blocks our healing.
Forgiveness is a process and it takes time. We may need to talk over our anger and pain with someone else or write about our thoughts and feelings before we can forgive. When we don't forgive we are imprisoned by the past. Not forgiving leaves us under another's control. We are controlled by the other person's behavior and locked in a repetitive response of rage and revenge. The present is consumed by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver.
Some of the steps to forgiveness are:
1. Admit to yourself that you are hanging on to resentments. Recognize that no one can take these resentments away except you. You cannot do this by denying they exist, but rather by facing them.
2. Allow yourself to remember in specific detail the times you were hurt or wronged. Notice the anger and blame that smolders in your resentment. In order to forgive the mistakes or "sins" of others we must first admit to ourselves how much they hurt us or disappointed us. This is a painful process.
3.Write about It or tell a counselor or pastor. Counseling may be necessary if your resentments won’t budge. Gradually open up with more and more honestly as you delve further into your story.
4. Look for the good in yourself and in those who hurt you. Make a list of the good traits. Watch the other person and yourself and note small loving or admirable moments. You may also recall some happy times with that person. Pay attention to what caused him/her to be hurtful. This is not to excuse the person but so you can understand him/her.
5. Ask God to help you forgive. Forgiveness is a letting go process. It takes time. Forgiveness requires tenderness and love. Remember how much Christ suffered to forgive you. The book Forgiveness: Following Jesus into Radical Loving by Paula Husted will help you learn radical forgiveness.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
For more on forgiveness see my Faithnotes blog: The Healing Power ofForgiveness