Four Steps to Forgiveness
December 13, 2015
Forgiveness is a process. Most of the time it’s not something you do once, but something you have to continue to choose again and again. Below is a 4 step process for choosing forgiveness – and moving from bitterness toward love.
Before we get to the 4 steps, however, I want to make sure one thing is clear … I want to be clear about what forgiveness is, and what it isn’t.
Forgiveness is not:
Forgiving is not condoning, or diminishing what the person did. In fact, part of truly forgiving is coming to terms with what happened and facing the pain that it caused.
Forgiving is not removing the consequences for someone’s actions. Justice is important, both to God and to humans, so a consequence may be necessary for the person who hurt you.
Forgiveness is not necessarily forgetting. Sometimes we should forget, and sometimes we should remember. Remembering helps us to create boundaries that keep us safe in the future.
Forgiveness is not necessarily reconciling and restoring the relationship. Sometimes things can’t go back to how they were. It’s great when they can, but it’s not always possible.
Forgiveness is a process, whereby you set yourself free from the prison of resentment and bitterness.
Forgiveness is a process where we let go of our right to revenge, and receive God’s love, and extend that love to another person who has hurt us.
And this process may take an hour, or it may take years. But, freedom comes when we decide to walk in forgiveness and love rather than in bitterness and hostility.
Four Steps to Forgiveness
1) Picture the person for whom you know you have bitterness and resentment in your head. By picturing that person you have already taken the first step – admitting that there’s bitterness in you.
2) Now, tell God exactly why you are bitter. Maybe you have never actually specified what you’re bitter about. If that’s the case, spend some time sorting that out. Then, tell God why you’re bitter. This is called confession. Most of us want to confess someone else’s sin (shaming them in the process), but freedom from bitterness involves confessing my own sin.
(These last two steps are the ones that you may have to practice again and again. It may take hours, or a few days, or it may take a year or more. But, these last 2 steps are more like a path that you walk than something you do once and are done with. Ready?)
3) Ask God to help you see the person the way that God sees them. You can say it as simple as that: God help me see them the way you see them. And you may need to do this every time that person’s name comes up in conversation, or every time you think about them. Make the choice right now that that’s what you’re going to do. Say, “God help me to see them the way that you see them.”
4) Finally, ask God to replace that bitterness with love. When you ask God to replace your bitterness with love, you’re not asking God to give you wonderful feelings toward the person, or make you enjoy being around them … not at first anyway.
Loving the person you feel bitter toward isn’t about what you feel, it’s about what you choose, and how you act. It’s about choosing to ask God to forgive them for what they’ve done to you. It’s about choosing to ask God to bring good things into their life. It’s about choosing peace and good will for them, and choosing to want good things for that person because God loves them, and wants to transform them by his love.
If you can take these 4 steps, you’ll make a trade that changes your life. You’ll no longer be a prisoner to your bitterness, you’ll be set free in love.