Life happens, things get crazy, and a lot of times you end up hurt and after the dust settles there is the overwhelming concern of whether (or when) you should forgive and forget. The Bible is very clear about God’s position on forgiveness so I won’t be arguing that point, I do, however, want to provide some guidance on how to do it effectively.
Come To Terms With What Exactly Has Happened.
Obviously, a situation has happened that has left you in a bad space but I don’t want you to solely focus on the action that has hurt you- that’s the oppressor’s job. I want you to take a moment to revisit the root of your feelings, was there an expectation placed, a need left unfulfilled, or maybe a communication failure? The idea is to place your finger on one or two reasons that you feel the way that you do about the action.
I’m not talking about victim blaming, I’m solely talking about taking responsibility for your actions before and after the circumstances; what were you doing when the ball was dropped. I have had many situations in my life that have left me heavy-hearted, some my fault and others not so much, but the realization I have always come around to is that I played a role in the situation. Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe people act of their own accord but I wouldn’t be able to explain my hurt if I didn’t look at how I became vulnerable in the first place. Even if I can find no wrong in my expectations of a person (especially the one where they should just be a decent human being) I know that when I am blatantly wronged, I can become self-righteous and agitated. Those two core reactions often make me lose focus on the character that I am constantly working so hard to build up and create a worse situation. Taking responsibility means pinpointing those nuances and dealing with them internally.
Communication & The Golden Rule.
There is no doubt that whatever you are feeling, you will feel again if you aren’t honest with yourself and if you don’t communicate what’s going on inside of you and how you got there. In order to forgive someone wholeheartedly, it requires you to be open to effective communication, so make it your responsibility to provide that avenue. Effective communication is free of character attacks and passive listening. This is not an easy task especially when the wounds are very deep but remember it’s not for them, it’s for you. By offering the chance to talk things out you not only provide a gateway for them to see your concerns, but you also provide yourself an outlet to understand where things may have gone bad; and quite honestly if the shoe was on the other foot wouldn’t you want the same opportunity if you were on the wrong side of a disagreement.
Forgive For Yourself.
Relationships and circumstances can leave you feeling broken and fed up but there is no better feeling than knowing that you have done all that you can to rectify a situation even if does not end with reconciliation. Carrying around hate for a person doesn’t have the lasting impression that you may want it to because you don’t have a heaven or a hell to place them in, and it could potentially place you in your own personal hell if you become consumed by it. Most people move on after they have wronged you and you owe it to yourself to do the same.
To be clear, I believe you should definitely exit toxic situations but you need to forgive and reclaim that brain space during your journey to moving on. And if no other reason, as Christians, we are charged to forgive just like we have been forgiven and although that can be hard to do; taking a look into ourselves, identifying the ways you contributed to the problem, communicating (possibly reconciling) and remembering that you have done things that you have needed forgiveness for is the best way to move forward. For some, this can happen immediately and for others, it may take a while but the object is to try and keep trying until you are able to do so.
Bad circumstances are meant to be lessons and chances for YOU to grow, so don’t stunt your growth by continuing to hold grudges.
Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV)
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.