I’ve been asked by several people “How did you learn to forgive?” This question has caused me to really think about the process of forgiveness. I’m not quite certain there is a ‘one size fits all’ answer to this question.
When you are hurt by another person, especially if it is someone you are supposed to love–there is a confusion between doing what is ‘right’ and holding onto every bit of vengeance and anger you have.
For me personally I had to go through the emotions of, hatred, anger, sadness, depression, fear, shame and guilt. Each and every one of these emotions took years to overcome and I took it out on those around me. I rationalized how I felt by saying “He needs to acknowledge what he has done and ask for forgiveness.”
When I finally decided enough was enough, I realized I was allowing the person who offended me to still be in control. I didn’t want my life to be ruled by him any longer. I began by taking time for myself everyday to say out loud “I can forgive you” even if I didn’t honestly feel like I had forgiven I did this anyway. This was not any easy practice many times I stumbled on my words with tears running down my cheeks.
I read a book called ‘The Miracle of Forgiveness” and began to soften my heart. I believe, just like there are different levels of sin, there are also different levels of forgiveness. For example, if someone were to lie or steal from me I could forgive and move forward, I may not ever do business with them but I could accept them in my life. However, if someone where to abuse one of my children or grandchildren, it would take some work on my part but I could forgive them but I would never invite them over for dinner. There has to be a separation sometimes for safety and sanity.
I started to feel sorry for my offender, I even wondered if he had been hurt as a child. Slowly but surely I began to see myself through the eyes of God and knew He loved me and wanted me to heal, completely. The only possible way for me to rebuild my life was to fully forgive. I prayed for my offender everyday, and asked for peace to fill my heart. Remember this was a daily battle I fought for years, this did not come over night.
When I was finally able to let go of the expectations I had, I discovered all the wonderful possibilities I had been shutting out. Instead of living in a dark lonely place, I saw each day as an opportunity to make a change, to shift directions and to get a little closer to the things my heart desired. This was no longer about forgiving the offender. I now had the knowledge of how to do it, this was about my happiness. Once and for all I was able to say “I forgive you”
I think the only advice I can give now is live in the present, do not lose it to past regrets or future worry.