Anger. Fear. Hostility. Bitterness. Rage. Resentment. Have you ever felt any of these emotions toward someone; maybe even someone you love? These angry feelings are called “hot” emotions, and they fuel an unforgiving spirit.
When we’re hurt, our angry our feelings don’t go away overnight. In fact, we can spend days, weeks, months, even years turning them over and over in our minds, feeling just as angry as the moment the offense that caused them occurred.
Who the heck wants to live like this? It only causes stress, high blood pressure and a whole host of other problems. If you’ve ever been boiling mad at someone and still feel the fire at the mention of his or her name, you may want to consider the “F” word—forgiveness.
Sounds great, but how do we go about forgiving someone who has mortally wounded us? Well, for starters we don’t bury it, we don’t ignore it, thinking in time that it will go away, and we certainly shouldn’t minimize our pain or pretend it didn’t hurt us.
Before we look at how to forgive, let’s talk about what forgiveness is and isn’t. Forgiveness is a means of release for the person holding the debt; that would be you. Forgiveness is for your benefit, but it isn’t saying that what the other person did was ok.
What can we do to stop the madness of ruminating angry thoughts and walk the healing path? Here are some tips to help move you along on the forgiveness journey:
Make a list
The first step in forgiveness is to take an account of the offense. Take a piece of paper and make three columns. Write the offenders name at the top of the page. In the first column, write down the event that happened that made you angry. In the second, write down how you felt about it and what you came to believe about yourself as a result of the other person’s offense. In the last column, write down what you had hoped for or expected from that person. This will translate into your loss. Here’s an example: Event: your husband was unfaithful. Feelings: anger, hurt, rejection. Beliefs: I’m not good enough. I’m unlovable. Loss: betrayal, identity, self-esteem, hope. Then decide if you can allow God to meet the needs you lost through this transgression. Can you trust him as your security, adequacy and value? Pray a prayer of forgiveness releasing the person from the debt owed you.
Pay attention to what you’re telling yourself. Rumination creates more anxiety and depression and there is no life there. Turning things over and over in your mind only keeps you stuck. Choose to intentionally focus on the Scriptural truths about forgiveness.
Take a risk
Just because you don’t feel like forgiving doesn’t mean you can’t do it. The truth is you will never feel like it. The question is what is the best response you can make to address the hurts and losses you will incur in life? The answer is to give the altruistic gift of forgiveness. Risking forgiving someone who has hurt you can remove a huge weight off your shoulders and probably add a few years to your life too.Medical studies have found that people who have forgiven others for a major transgression have lower blood pressure and heart rates when compared to those who have not.
Restoration is different than reconciliation
Reconciliation takes two people, you and the person who offended you. When the offender comes to you, the offended, you have to decide if you will grant forgiveness. That doesn’t necessarily mean you want to be restored in relationship with this person. Restoration means you and the other person mutually decide what the nature of the relationship will be as you move forward. Boundaries may need to be drawn or the relationship may need to be terminated.
Angry feelings won’t go away overnight. Forgiveness starts with a decision of the will but is born out in the emotions. Once you’ve decided to forgive the offender, focus on the virtues of love, empathy and compassion as a means to develop emotional forgiveness. Allow yourself time and space, but remember forgiveness is for your benefit. Start today and give the altruistic gift of forgiveness.
Back at you: Have you ever forgiven someone? If so, what were the long-term benefits? If not, what’s hindering you?