This has been an honest and reflective series. I hope you’ve been turned upside down on many of your thinking errors about forgiveness. Jesus asks you to forgive others and now you’ve learned how it is one of the bravest behaviors you can do.
But how do you forgive? What are the practical steps to do that? Here is the way I teach to guide you through. You may or may not be relieved to know that I don’t ask you to meet with the person face-to-face. This may be something you want to do in the future or you may want to send a letter which would be safer. That decision is not for now.
Remember first and foremost that forgiveness is a journey that begins in pain and ends in hope. This is a journey you are on. This means you will have good days and you will have bad days. You will be experiencing all aspects of grief: denial, shock, depression, anger, and acceptance. And you won’t move through these in a linear way. You may be “all over the place.” These are a lot of emotions you will be feeling. It is no wonder that forgiveness is justified away so you don’t do it. But you can make these steps forward. You are ready. Remember that pain is the beginning. Be brave. You will heal.
For the actual moment you speak those words of forgiveness, you may want to have a trusted person join you on this. This person would serve as a guide and encourager. It would be an extra bonus if this person could intercede for you in prayer during this. This person should not make this raw moment about him or her (don’t invite that person). He or she is there for you.
This is personal. You know what God is bringing to your attention because it feels so yucky in your gut. Every article you’ve read along the way as well as other life circumstances have supernaturally arisen these past few weeks to lead you to this moment. Recognize that. Thank God that he has led you in this direction.
Find some quiet space. Take two chairs and arrange them facing each other. Seat yourself in one of the chairs.
Imagine that the first person you are forgiving is sitting in the other chair. Disclose everything you can remember that the person has done to hurt you. Do not hold back the tears or the emotions that accompany the confessions. This will be raw pain. This is okay. Remember that pain is the beginning. Let your spoken audible words be said. You’ve probably been stuffing them in for a long time. Now it is okay to let them rip.
In this rawness you may start having wrong definitions of forgiveness again. It may help you beforehand to write up some of the truths what forgiveness is not or the misconceptions of forgiveness on note cards so you can remind yourself of these truths.
When the pain has been spoken, choose by an act of your will to forgive that person. Do not doubt that what you have done is real and valid.
Now is the time to say a prayer of forgiveness. This is a suggested prayer to pray as you “talk” to each person:
Because I am forgiven and accepted by Christ, I can now forgive and accept you, _____________, unconditionally in Christ. I choose now to forgive you, _____________, no matter what you did to me. I release you from the hurts (take time to name the hurts), and you are no longer accountable to me for them. You are free.
Release the person from the debt you feel is owed you for the offense. Say audibly, “You are free and forgiven.”
Take a moment and breath quietly. Realize this moment.
Thank the Lord for using each person, including this person, as a tool in your life to deepen your insight into God’s grace and conforming you to the image of Jesus. It may sound silly to be grateful coming out of this raw moment but the practice of gratitude is very important right now. When you practice gratitude you are acknowledging that there is joy to be had and that you have enough to share. Yes, joy. Joy will arise out of this moment. And you are worthy to have joy.
You are worthy to have joy. And that is the point of all this, right? You.
Leave that quiet space. Take this joy with you. This has been quite a journey–and it may not be over yet. This journey may be like climbing up a steep mountain with lots of backsliding. Don’t hate yourself for this. Begin with the pain, walk with endurance up that mountain. Remember that tenacity is brave. All of this is good.
Now go and bless the world. Be braver.
Source recommendation: The Choosing to Forgive Workbook by Les Carter & Frank Minerth
(Photo credit: Luke Porter, Unsplash.com)