What is Forgiveness Really?
Often forgiveness is one of those concepts that is defined by the absence of feelings:
I no longer want to seek punishment
I am no longer angry at the person
I no longer experience resentment (re-living the negative emotions associated with the person/event)
I give up all claim to punish the person for the offence
What Does Forgiveness Look Like?
Forgiveness can be messy, it is a process. It involves healing of brokenness; it involves words, actions, and emotions. Forgiveness is rarely an all or nothing affair, and it can be easy to question if you will ever move towards forgiveness.
Because, forgiveness is an internal and personal state, it will look differently for everyone. It is complex (emotionally, physically, and spiritually). It takes time to heal internally. Feelings of bitterness and reactivity may continue to surface; this doesn’t mean there is no forgiveness. Forgiveness is a process. It is helpful to have a personal concrete and positive concept of what forgiving will look like.
For example the above concepts of forgiveness state what a person will not be wanting, not feel or no longer experience. To move forward in forgiveness it helps to consider what I do want to feel and how I will know that I am feeling that way. It helps to know what I will be experiencing, and what I will be looking for.
How can I move forward in forgiveness?
When, I no longer want to punish what will I want instead? (Wishing them well, wanting to see them get some help…).
When I am no longer angry at the person what am I feeling instead? (A sense of sadness, or loss, disappointment, regret, maybe ready to place anger on the situation rather than the offender).
What thoughts and actions will indicate that I am feeling a desired way (laughing at the person’s jokes, exchanging greetings when passing).
When I am no longer re-experiencing negative feelings (resentments), what will I be experiencing instead (seeing changes, seeing growth, speaking truthfully).
Helpful tips for processing forgiveness.
- Acknowledge feelings of hurt, anger, or shame and commit to doing something about them.
- Identify and focus on the offensive behavior (rather than the person) that has caused harm to you. This could be relational harm, emotional harm, physical harm or spiritual harm.
- Make a conscious decision to let go of seeking revenge, or nursing the grudge. Move toward forgiving thoughts or language. For example, replace derogatory references to the offender (“the jerk”) with their name.
- Remind yourself that you have a good reason to forgive (to experience healing, to move on, to be a role model, to act out my faith)
- When thinking about the offender, remind yourself that they are human and that their actions say more about their suffering or brokenness than about you.
- Accept the pain you’ve experienced without passing it off to others. Recognize that you may be unintentionally victimizing yourself or causing those around you to suffer in response to the pain you have experienced.
- Choose to extend goodwill and mercy toward the offender by wishing for their well-being.
- Think about the times when you have been released from a resentment. Be open to feeling that emotional relief again, and find ways to grow from the experience.
- Realize the paradox of forgiveness: as you let go and allow yourself to forgive offenders, you will experience release and healing.
by Ramona Taylor 8/2014