February 23, 2007

10 Steps to Forgiving

10 Steps to Forgiving
from the book "When Your Past is Hurting Your Present" by Sue Augustine

It’s all well and good to talk about forgiveness, but how do we do it? If we have chosen to forgive and have decided to do it without looking back, what comes next? Here are some steps to get you started:
1. Make a deliberate decision to stop discussing the story with others. You may need to confide in one trusted friend or a trained professional for therapeutic reasons, but only open your heart to someone you know will encourage you to forgive. Even if you have told others in the past, make a promise to yourself not to talk about it in the future – other than for the purpose of supporting someone else in a similar position. Be uncompromising and strict with yourself. Reject the temptation to keep discussing the story. This is not easy, especially when we are still suffering the pain. If revenge is our goal, we know we can ruin someone’s reputation by telling on them with statements like, “Can you believe what she did to me?”
2. Stop mentally dragging up the past. Rehashing hurtful and disturbing scenes over and over again in your mind can drive you crazy. We sometimes do this subconsciously, and other times we keep the anger fresh on purpose, but in either case, we are only hurting ourselves. Besides, the other person has no clue about what is going on inside our heads. We are suffering, yet it’s not having any effect on them.
3. Be pleasant and congenial when you are in the company of those you forgive. This doesn’t mean you have to go out of your way and conspicuously make an effort to be hospitable or sugary sweet. Simply don’t say anything in reference to the event or do something that would cause them to feel ill at ease or apprehensive.
4. Avoid putting anyone on a “guilt trip.” Guilt is most painful, and if we are truly ready to forgive, then we won’t want others to have feeling of self-reproach, humiliation, or shame. Remind yourself of the Golden Rule – Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31). In your mind, say a blessing over them. Mentally give them your consent to break from their own past and move forward.
One of the reasons others may have a difficult time apologizing or asking forgiveness is that they may have stopped growing – emotionally or spiritually. Pray that they will seek God’s forgiveness for themselves and that they will thrive in their spirit, flourishing in every way. The opposite of blessing a person is wishing for his failure, or hoping for disaster to strike. That’s when you want his success to be impeded in some way – or you are even hoping for the worst. You will know you have truly forgiven someone when you genuinely want the best in life for him and can sincerely bless him.
5. When a person is remorseful, do what you can to restore a sense of dignity. Allow others to feel good about themselves again by saying whatever you can (if it is true!) to restore their sense of worth, value, and self-respect.
6. Abolish any sense of self-righteousness in yourself. As long as there is even a trace of arrogance or condescension in it, or any finger pointing, your attempt at total forgiveness will not succeed. Sometimes we can use false “kindness” to try to make the other person feel miserable.
7. Behave as though you don’t even think they did anything wrong. This can be most difficult for all of us, but sometimes acting in a certain way helps us to actually experience the feeling. Remember the old phrase, “Fake it ‘til you make it”? Actors do it all the time when they have to depict a certain emotion. It’s an amazing attribute of human nature. You can act as if you hardly noticed the wrongdoing – and before you know it, the genuine feelings soon come along.
8. Make total forgiveness a lifelong commitment. Once you have chosen to forgive, keep it up today, tomorrow, and forever. Some days will be easier than others. You will have times when you think you have won a complete victory and are totally free from harboring and resentment, then WHAM! – the very next day, something happens to remind you of what someone did and of the utter injustice of the fact they will never be punished or exposed. That old temptation to “go public” or hold onto the bitterness will emerge once again. Not only will you have to make the commitment to forgive, but your pledge will have to be renewed periodically.
Even if I did not share with others what I was going through, there was a time when I felt justified in going before God and pleading my case. “He ought to be punished”, “She doesn’t deserve to be let off the hook.” Then, when I began thinking of God as my Father in heaven, I realized that, like most parents, He wants His children to get along and love one another. After all, no parent likes it when one child comes squealing on the other, demanding they be punished. But our Father loves all His children equally.
9. Pray for those who have wounded you. That’s a difficult one to understand or put into practice. When you pray, be completely honest with God. If you feel angry, tell Him. Say, “Lord, nothing in me wants to pray for this person.” Confess your anger, hurt, unforgiveness, resentment, and disappointment. Ask God to give you a right spirit and renewed sense of love. Trust Him to heal the situation. The Bible says, “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9 NKJV). If you truly want to be set free from a past that is crippling you, desiring the best for your enemies is a powerful step. Something happens to our hearts when we pray for another person. The hardness melts away, and we become able to move beyond the hurts to forgive. Miraculously, we are even able to love the person we are praying for. It happens because, through prayer, we enter into God’s presence – and He fills us with His own spirit of love.
10. Ask for healing for yourself. Memories of the situation can come back to haunt you when you least expect it. God’s healing will release you from the hurtful recollections and the harmful emotions that go with them.

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