A friend of mine called the other day and asked for guidance about how to forgive. Following our conversation, I thought the ideas we shared could be helpful with others struggling to forgive. Here are three aspects of forgiveness we explored.
1. Forgiveness is an organic process, not mechanical, not subject to absolute willpower or pure moral obligation. Forgiveness has its own course of healing from within. Wanting to forgive is, of course, necessary. But this alone does not make it happen. Time is essential; time for us to grow and to be ready to forgive and time for the spirit to work within us, preparing us for the forgiving. We don’t control the when, but we can invite the willingness.
2. There is a four-step process that can aid us in our preparation for forgiving. First we need to be clear whom it is we want to forgive. Secondly we must be clear about what has happened, what has been done that has caused us harm. Thirdly, we identify how we have been harmed; has it been an insult to our ego, has financial damage than done, has there been a sexual violation or physical harm? Finally we must examine our own mistake regarding this problem. Sometimes we had been purely victims, but upon rigorous examination we often discover our contribution to this situation that has caused us pain and injury. With our mistake or mistakes identified, we are in a better position to forgive and to prevent similar incidents in the future.
3. The third component of this process of forgiveness is prayer and this is a twofold matter. First we pray for the one whom we perceive has offended or harmed us. We do not pray that they become a better person or that they come to their senses and apologize. Rather, we pray for their wellbeing and that they receive the same blessings and peace we desire for ourselves. Secondly we pray that God will give us what we need in our own hearts and minds to be free from this wound, free from the past and able to live our lives unburdened by what has been and open to the blessing of what may come.
Forgiveness is a task for mature people. We must surrender our sense of what is fair and right to the will of God. This is not always easy, but the weight of resentment is an unnecessary burden best given up to God’s grace.