Forgiveness and Freedom! As you may know, I’ve been writing a
series of articles on Working Through Hurts in Relationships. The
steps I have already covered include: identifying your feelings
surrounding the situation, looking at the situation and person who hurt
you in context, and finally, examining how you may have contributed to the problem. The fourth step in working through hurts is forgiveness. I believe that we as Christians talk about forgiveness a lot, but often don’t do the work of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is one of the main things that sets Christianity apart from the world. The world says don’t forgive unless the other person is sorry for what they did. God says forgive no matter what (Mt. 18:21&22, Col.3:12 &13). God knows that forgiveness equals freedom for those doing the forgiving. In the world’s way of forgiveness, our freedom depends on another person. I love what Anne Lamott says about un-forgiveness, ‘it’s like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.’ When there’s un-forgiveness we almost always suffer more than the person we are not forgiving.
Some people use forgiveness as an avoidance tactic. They forgive people without giving thought to what the person did or how it affected them. In the Steps to Freedom in Christ’ by Neil Anderson, there is a wonderful forgiveness prayer that reaches deep into one’s heart rather than glossing over painful feelings. The prayer goes as follows:
‘ ‘Lord, I forgive (name the person) for (say what they did to hurt you) even though it made me feel (name all the painful memories and feelings).’
Once you have dealt with every offense that has come to your mind, and you have honestly expressed how that person hurt you, then concluded by praying:
‘Lord, I choose not to hold any of these things against (name) any longer. I thank you for setting me free from the bondage of my bitterness toward (name). I choose now to ask you to bless (name). In Jesus name, amen.’ ‘
I really believe that leading people into forgiveness is probably the most significant work that I do as a therapist. In my practice, it often seems that the person that my clients have the most trouble forgiving is themselves. I know there is little else that makes Satan happier than when we play God and hold things against ourselves or others.
(II Cor.2: 10 &11)
Just because we’ve made the choice to forgive someone, doesn’t mean we should automatically plunge into trusting them again. (John and Henry make an important distinction between forgiveness and trusting.) Certain boundaries may need to be set so we don’t continually get damaged by the same people over and over.
Let us walk together in the freedom of forgiveness. God bless you.
On our own we cannot forgive–this is a work of God’s Spirit in our hearts. If you need some help forgiving the painful hurts in your life, we invite you to join our Forgiving the Unforgivable group at our next New Life Weekend.