Recently, I was watching my grand nephews playing together. They are rather young still, but my niece as a good mother should had begun to teach them about saying that they were sorry when they have a conflict. On this particular morning the oldest was continuing to bump into the younger and then asking for forgiveness, which the younger continued to grant. This reminded me a bit of the question that was asked of Jesus about how many times should one forgive their neighbor. To which Jesus replied 70 times 7. My grand nephews are learning the importance of forgiveness to have healthy interaction with each other.
Unforgiveness has been described as drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Many think that forgiveness is for the person who has hurt us, but really it is for you. Forgiveness removes our need to provide revenge and gives it over to God to deal with. It removes our bondage and gives us freedom.
Forgiveness is a complex topic and has many levels to it. The question” how do I forgive?” Is a question I hear from my clients as they discuss and deal with trauma from their past.
Joseph’s story in Genesis is a good example for us about forgiving. In Gen. 45:1-3 we see Joseph reveling to his brothers that he is alive, when they had sold him into slavery several years prior. This is a powerful passage that shows Joseph in pain and yet wanting to reconnect with his brothers again. The lesson here is that even when pain is present it is still important to forgive. I have heard people say that they will wait until they “feel” ready to forgive but in this example, we see Joseph forgiving despite the pain that he feels.
Forgiveness is a process that includes pain, healing and restoration. With some situations it is a matter of forgiving and healing without a need for restoration because the relationship is not significant or the person not safe, (safe people is a topic for another blog).
To start with, we need to feel the hurt to know what we are forgiving. This means taking inventory of the hurt and being specific about what happened that needs forgiving. I was told once that it takes 2 years for the brain to process forgiveness. I have heard that many people forgive and then they are reminded of the situation over again and they think “ I forgave that” . This is all part of the healing process which takes time. The more specific you can be about the incident the more helpful to processing forgiveness. If you become aware of new information, take time to forgive that specific incident.
At times restoration is desired and needed. Restoration is trust building which takes time, support and consistency. In our fast pace world being patient to give the relationship time to develop trust again can be difficult. In this process patience is a gift. Help from family and friends who know you and can support you is important. You do not need to feel like you are facing it all by yourself. Professional help can also be a good idea, to have a place of support and reflection. Emotional pain is not something you want to deal with all alone. The last point in our formula for restoration is consistency. Trust is developed by showing that you are sorry and proving it over time.
Although restoration is helpful, forgiveness does not always mean you need to trust again. Romans 12: 17-18 encourages us to be responsible for our part in the relationship, do all we can. Sometimes our best response to the situation is to let the other person know that what happened was not ok, and you forgive them but not continue the relationship.
Keep in mind, forgiveness is not so much a feeling, as it is a discipline that we have which keeps us emotionally healthy. My grand nephews will undoubtedly have conflict though out their relationship but I am thankful that they are learning the basics to forgiveness. It is my hope that you too find encouragement to remember to forgive. If we can be of help with this process for yourself or your family please do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with someone at our office.
By: Julie Perry