Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
We all know that we are called to forgive one another. We all know that it is the right thing to do and, in fact, it is the healthy thing to do. But it is so much easier said than done!
We’ve all been hurt by someone close to us, and most of us have found it difficult to let go of that hurt. In fact, it often seems that the hurt will not let go of us!
Perhaps I tell myself that if I let go of my hurt, or anger, or resentment, or bitterness:
- I will be opening myself up to be hurt again.
- I will be saying that it’s okay for others to treat me that way
- I will be agreeing that I deserve to be hurt
- I will be accepting the unfairness of it all
- Others won’t know or won’t care that I was wronged, AND…
- Others won’t know that you did something to wrong me
- Others will forget that I was, and still am, deeply hurt, and they will just go on with their lives as if nothing ever happened
Alexander Pope, in “An Essay on Criticism,” said, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” Perhaps he meant that, as human beings, we are incapable of truly forgiving, in the way that God forgives us. Perhaps what is needed, first, is that we decide whether we wish to let go of our hurt, anger, bitterness, and resentment, or whether we wish to continue to “drink the poison of unforgiveness, hoping that the other person will die” (unknown author). If we decide that we are ready to forgive, perhaps the next step is to ask our heavenly Father to remove the hurt and anger and unforgiveness from our hearts, and to heal us completely.
In the book, “Forgive & Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve,” Lewis B. Smedes tells us about “The Four Stages of Forgiving”:
- “We Hurt”: when we are unfairly wronged by a person we have trusted, when a relationship ends, when someone leaves us, when someone believes we need to be set right; our hurts may be slight or they may be very, very deep
- “We Hate”: When we hate passively, we lose our willingness and our desire to bless the one who has hurt us; when we hate aggressively, we wish for the other person to hurt, as we have hurt
- “We Heal Ourselves” (that is, we make the decision to forgive): When we are ready to take that next step, we open our minds and our hearts to seeing the other person as God sees him/her—fallible, weak, needy, anxious, insecure; we must ask God to show us that person through His eyes; we also ask God to repair our hurting, bleeding, broken heart, and to restore a heart that loves and forgives
- “We Come Together”: When we are able to see the person who has harmed us as God sees him/her, our thoughts and feelings are no longer a barrier to reconciliation– we are free and unburdened by pain or anger; if we are to continue a meaningful relationship, it is also necessary that the person who has harmed us be able to do his/her own work toward repairing the relationship; If he/she is not able to do so, you can still wish him/her well and include him/her in your prayers
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©2020 Christine Muehlenweg, Ph.D.