In a world that tells you that when others hurt you, you have the right to harvest bitterness, that “haters gon’ hate,” and “Let me do me,” the concept of forgiveness can seem foreign and even frowned upon by those who have been hurt. However, this Valentine’s Day, let’s look at what Love is really about: Forgiveness.
Why Forgiveness is Powerful
Many will chase after spiritual giftings for power, but I am a firm believer that power is found in forgiveness. Forgiveness is the radical shift that defies punishment for sin. It is the hope for reconciliation, and the it is the means by which our God chooses to fight for intimacy.
It is spiritual to practice forgiveness. Anyone can point of wrongdoing and flaw, but it takes something supernatural to see the good in another and choose to forgive.
It is essential that the Christian practices forgiveness (both receiving and giving). Here are some practical tools on how you can practice forgiveness:
Steps on How to Forgive
1. Admit you are hurt
At Jesus’ famous prayer at Gethsemane, we see Jesus stating how he wants “His Father’s will to be done. Many people look at this as an example on how to pray, thinking that this type of surrender is what pleases God. However, if we read just before, we see that Jesus first admitted the difficulty of the task before giving into surrender: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (Matthew 26:39).
If we want to forgive, we need to first understand that it is a process. We cannot rush to say “Let your will be done,” if we have not first counted up the cost. Especially if we hold wounds about pleasing parents, or perfectionism, it can be very difficult to admit weakness. However, forgiveness can only be fully accomplished unless we first see our pain at face value. We cannot dismiss the pain because it is the means for true healing. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
2. Identify the hurt
Secondly, ask the Lord to lead you into identifying what really is hurting you. Sometimes we are hurt by mere symptoms or reflections of a deeper underlying pain. Therefore, it is important to depend on God to help you discern if you are hurt because of a projection of something lying deeper, or if it is a real mistake from the other person. This hurt will also most likely be a skew of a truth God wants to teach you. Identifying your hurt will help guide your next steps in forgiving and/or confessing to another person.
3. Pray and Repent
This is the difficult part. It is easy to talk in circles about why we are a certain way.
I’ve been in many conversations where people will justify certain sins in others or themselves by saying “Oh, they are just that way because…” without making any steps towards resolving an issue. We need to repent, meaning turn away from our sinful habits, rather than psychologically justifying them or insisting others cater to them. It is good to be aware of how our culture/upbringing has defined us, but it cannot be the reason why we tolerate the sin of unforgiveness. According to the cross, there is no sin that is big enough that is not worth overcoming. (Romans 3:23). We must choose to repent of unforgiveness, and experience forgiveness from the true Forgiver before we can forgive another (Acts 3:19).
4. Choose Trust Over Control
The act of forgiveness is difficult because it puts the power to vindicate into God’s hands, and not your own. In Psalms it states: “For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.” Psalm 135:14
We serve a just God, and we serve One who is worthy to be trusted. We cannot experience true forgiving if we do not first understand this.
5. Communicate and Make Solutions
More often than not, it is good to communicate to the person you feel hurt by. A standard “formula” to do so (Credits to Pastor Dennis) is using “I” statements rather than “You” statements along with a specific incident and emotion you felt [When (Insert Event Here), I felt (Insert Emotion Here)].
For example: When we didn’t get to hang out yesterday, I felt rejected. vs. Why didn’t you hang out with me yesterday??
This puts you in a humbled position, and allows for better communication, rather than accusation.
Always try to have some action steps prepared so that you and the person do not end up making the same mistakes again. Try to brainstorm together on how you both can make steps towards deeper intimacy with each other. Sometimes this means being more intentional with one another, or setting up boundaries, but you will know if it was fruitful if you both feel closer with Christ.
6. BONUS STEP: HEALING
Sometimes you’ve already forgiven the person, but you are still hurting. This is completely okay. Forgiveness and healing are contingent but different things. Make sure you are in accountability with someone who will challenge you to move in the opposite direction of hurt. Also, try praying and blessing that person in your prayers. Thank God for them, and prophesy over them. You will be surprised at how quickly your heart will catch up with your prayers.