God has given us very detailed instructions regarding forgiveness. When we approach forgiveness in the way that God intended, it brings resolution. Even if the person that we are forgiving never accepts our forgiveness, or if they choose to continue their destructive behavior, we can still get the peace and freedom from resentment that God hopes for us.
We all know the agony that comes when people act selfishly and inflict pain on us, but choosing to forgive can help us to release that hurt. Unforgiveness creates bitterness inside of us; bringing our burden to God through prayer and forgiveness is like making a currency exchange of pain, hurt, anger, and unforgiveness, for joy and peace that surpasses understanding. We must be especially careful that our pain does not become self-pity. Spending too much time asking ‘Why me?’ can lead to full-blown depression. Recognizing our pain, handling it properly, and forgiving each time it crosses our minds keeps us from being tied down in depression and bitterness.
Forgiveness is a holy experience. Holding back forgiveness while waiting on the offending person to ‘come to their senses’ creates an idol of that person in our hearts. Instead of allowing God to work on our hurt and heal us, we forsake His help and look to the offender to make us whole again. God is the source of our healing, not man. We cannot wait until the right time to forgive, when Jesus has clearly said that we must forgive and forgive again. Going to God will give us spiritual freedom regardless of the outcome of our efforts at reconciliation.
How do we start the process of forgiveness?
- Compose a list of each person in your life that you need to forgive, not just your spouse. Pray about it, and ask God to reveal to you any places in your life, even as a child, where you have been hurt and have not given forgiveness.
- Think of very specific events, words, and actions that each person committed against you. Take your time, and make the list exhaustive. In doing this, you are preparing your heart for forgiveness.
- Purposefully go through each item on your list, forgiving the person by name for each thing. It even helps to forgive them for things that you don’t know that they have done against you, especially thoughts and words.
- Sometimes a continued abuse in our lives can cause us to mimic the negative behavior that was heaped on us. In this step, examine yourself for any habits or actions that you have picked up from others who have hurt you. You must choose to forgive yourself for this, in order to free yourself from it.
Sample Prayer of Forgiveness