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Forgiveness



















What is it?

To start, there is so much misunderstanding around the topic of forgiveness. In the New Testament the word means to let go. As in to let go of a debt that you are owed. We can see an example of this in the Lord’s Prayer itself- “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who are indebted to us.”

Going further, there are so many passages that point to this reality of letting go of offenses so that we will be forgiven as well (see Ephesians 4:32, Matthew 6:14-15, Colossians 3:13, Luke 6:37, & Mark 11:25). I think this points to a greater truth…not forgiving those who have harmed us keeps us bound. We have to “let go” of what they have done to harm us or those close to us. Not forgiving them means that we continue to hold on to their impact on our lives. We continue to permit their voices to be at the dinner table of our souls, so to speak.


What It Is Not:

  • It is Not condoning the behavior or offense. In Isaiah 5:20 we read “Woah to those who call good evil and evil good.”

  • It is Not pretending that it never happened. In 2 Samuel 12:9-13 God forgave David for his sins but we see that God did not absolve David from the consequences of those sins.

  • It is Not letting them continue to take advantage of you, or permitting them back into your life.

    • See (Psalms 37:21, Proverbs 14-15; 22:3)

  • It is Not blaming yourself for what happened

  • It is Not waiting for the person(s) to express remorse.

  • It is Not necessarily reconciling with them, either.


Oftentimes, in religious circles, we confuse forgiveness with bad boundaries.There are times when we have to fire people from our lives or, if we cannot fire them by cutting them out of our lives entirely (ie we live with them), we can fire them emotionally from having say in our inner world. In Acts 15:39-40, Paul and Barnabas had a “sharp disagreement” and they parted ways. Sometimes, we have to cut ties or separate ourselves from people in our lives causing issues.

How To Forgive:

  • Don’t let it fester (it is understandable that there are times and instances where the journey towards forgiveness of certain people is not a one time thing. Nor, is it something that can easily be done because the harm caused by the person could have had a large impact on your life and just “letting go” feels impossible or too simplistic.) Ephesians 4:26 admonishes us to not let the sun go down on our anger.

  • Recognize that it frees you. The value of forgiveness is that you are no longer letting that person live rent free in your mind.

  • The May Clinic shares the following benefits of forgiveness:

    • Healthier relationships, improved mental health, less anxiety, decreased stress and hostility, fewer symptoms of depression, lower blood pressure, stronger immune system, improved heart health, and improved self-esteem (MC, 2022).

  • Release yourself from the perpetrator’s control in your life.

  • Be reasonable- if someone has committed a minor trespass against you, be quick to forgive. Remember the Golden Rule- Do to others what you would want done to you (Matthew 7:12) (Worthington, 2003).


Tools To Get You There:

  • Process this article: What parts resonated with you? Angered you? Challenged your assumptions about forgiveness?

  • Consider therapy so you have a professional to come alongside you and support you in this journey.

  • Take the forgiveness quiz: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/quizzes/take_quiz/forgiveness

  • Unsent Letter Writing:

The unsent letter is a deeply empowering journaling technique that aids the participant in the ability to communicate freely what they have experienced from the trespass/trespasses that they have faced from another. In this letter, the writer can pen exactly what they feel (the raw and unfiltered) to be able to “empty” themselves of the potential storm of emotions that they had/are feeling from the event, situations, an individual, or even yourself without hurting anyone. The emptying of self that occurs from this UNSENT letter then has the potential of getting the participant to a place of decisional/emotional forgiveness where they can try on the words “I forgive you for ______ (State/trait).” It may surprise the writer that they are able to get to a place of forgiveness faster than they anticipated because they were able to express the feelings that they were holding in because they could not say them directly to the person or to another.

To be clear, it may take more than one letter to get to this place. Each time, the participant is writing the letter as if they were addressing the trespasser directly and they have the freedom to address one situation or a series of events or words spoken that caused the participant damage. *******Also, to state it again, your “unsent letter” is for your own purposes and is therefore NEVER NEVER, NEVER, NEVER actually sent. It may even be therapeutically helpful to tear up the letter or burn it.




References


Greater Good Magazine (2022). Forgiveness quiz. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/quizzes/take_quiz/forgiveness


Mayo Clinic (2022).Forgiveness: letting go of grudges and bitterness. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692


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