Over the last few posts about forgiveness, we've accepted and acknowledged it's power and necessity, but forgiveness itself can seem impossible.
As it always is - when something will benefit us greatly, there will be work and sometimes pain involved and we can't expect something like forgiving to be any different.
But have hope! There are five simple steps to the process. The process is simple. The list is simple- making yourself walk through each step until it is finished is the hard part.
First step: Don't assume the worst.
There are some instances - just plain evil acts - that we can assume the worst. I'm not referring to those here.
We humans have been known to jump to conclusions and assume the worst in situations - especially when we feel we've been wronged.
Don't assume the worst. I have found that most people don't intend to hurt others. Often times it is a bi-product of their own circumstances, a moment of weakness or fear - it can be a lot of things. Do we have to jump straight to believing that they intended harm and are rejoicing in our suffering?
Second step: Put yourself in their shoes.
This step closely pairs with the first.
I encourage you to look through the entire event from the other person's point of view. What could they have seen, felt, believed that caused them to act the way they did?
Again, if they're just butt-heads, they're butt heads, but there is a chance that if we actually get out of our own space and try to see things from their perspective, we can understand a little better which will help with the forgiveness process.
Hear me: I am not saying that you take the blame for things you should not take the blame for. And I am not saying that you have to like the person, hang out with the person or give them a pass from their behavior. What I am saying is that seeing things more of their perspective may in fact help you understand why things derailed. This can help unravel the coil that smothers you, and help you process - not necessarily accept the person or the acts.
Never forget that hurting people hurt people. If someone is suffering in their own life, they may have taken it out on you. That doesn't make it right, but it makes it a little bit easier to get over. Putting yourself in their shoes allows you find even the tiniest bit of empathy. Empathy can actually soothe a lot of hurts.
Third step: Apologize for your part.
You're yelling at the screen right now. I know it.
You're angry because I've assumed that you played any part in the act that caused you so much pain. I know. Let it out! Let me have it.
There will be many times when we didn't do anything wrong or have anything to apologize for. I acknowledge that. But there are also scenarios where we played a part in the situation. Whether it was our reaction, the way we behaved after the offense - there are often things we should've done different, and whether we want to look at those things or not, they haunt us.
This is a step in the process. If you have nothing to apologize for, don't. But be honest with yourself if you played even the smallest part in the process.
You might also want to apologize to yourself. Sometimes the person you need to forgive is you. Stop beating yourself up for your choices and mistakes. Admit you made them. Forgive yourself. It will be freeing.
Fourth step: Pray for them.
We are told to pray for our enemies. Those that we aren't able to forgive would be considered our enemies. Therefore - get with it. Start praying for them.
The prayers may start with something as simple and honest as: "Lord, I'm praying for them because you told me I have to. So hear I am. Praying for them...."
The more you pray for them, the more God will reveal to you (and prepare yourself, some may involve things you would've found in steps 1-3 if you actually did them). In time, God will also open your heart, give compassion, empathy, mercy or grace and before long it will start to flow out of you and towards the person.
What do you pray for? Pray for them to find God. Pray for them to be healed of their own hurts and sin. Pray for good to come to them. Pray for them to find peace. For their family. Remember - even if they hurt you, God still loves them and wants to establish or restore a relationship with them. Pray for that!
That sounds like crazy talk, I know. But it's true. I've experienced it. More than once. So, start praying for that SOB.
Fifth step: Move on.
Do not dwell. Do not go back to that village. Do not revisit that relationship (unless you feel God has told you to), do not seek out gossip or updates about the person - Just. Move. On.
If someone brings up the subject, ask to move on. You don't have to stay there. In this particular instance, the saying out of sight, out of mind actually works. You less you talk about, look for and think about the person, the more likely you are to forgive.
Look, I get it. Forgiveness isn't really simple but it is doable. We have to be willing to be brutally honest with ourselves, and transparent before God. Take it to him. Pour it out. Pray for those that hurt you. Move on.
You will be so glad you did!