“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
We’ve all been there. Someone close to you did something to you that made you angry, upset, hurt, or sad. Maybe it was a one time offense, or perhaps it’s a hurt that’s replayed on a repeating cycle. We all have a choice on what to do next. We can choose to hold onto the hurt with spite in our hearts or take the steps towards forgiveness. The thing is, only one of these options leads to a life well-lived. I know this because I’ve held onto unhealthy and toxic feelings towards others that have hurt me. When I have chosen this route, I’ve had to reverse and do a complete 360 to head down the road of forgiveness. Why? Because the path of unforgiving lead to a day-to-day life of bitterness. My hurt and resentment was what I thought about and talked about. I was being robbed of joy of living in the now due to past offenses that had no bearing on my today. Unforgiving is like carrying a load of bricks on your back everyday. It stirs up unwanted and unpleasant emotions from the past and recreates a fresh wound daily. Unforgiving makes you feel grumpy and angry on days that God has planned many joyful moments for you to see. Below is a guide on how to begin the steps toward forgiveness, to live a life free from the chains of unforgiving, and how to cut the chains from negativity and spite. Lastly, to live each day in all the glory God intended for you.
Talk to God
I’m a pro at talking to my closest family and friends about hurts that have been directed towards me. After spending the day voicing my frustrations, sometimes God is the last person I talk to. That is a big mistake! Our all-knowing God is the only one who can leave you with a sense of peace and direction. If you ask him, God will direct your thoughts, show you which way to go, and will calm your anger and frustration. If you take the time to talk about all of your frustrations with him, you will be blessed with a clear mind, your anger settled, and your emotions released. He will direct your steps forward. All it takes is that initial step, invitation for guidance, and time to talk to him.
Forgiveness Needs Humility
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).
When I have decided to chose the path of forgiveness, Jesus has humbled my thoughts on how I was involved in the situation I am trying to forgive. His approach isn’t accusatory but gently reminding me of times I could have been better. Softly showing times where I may have hurt this person in a way I wasn’t aware. Through this process, I am reminded that I am far from perfect myself and Jesus is showing me ways that I can better myself and change for the better. The process of forgiveness isn’t all about what the other person did or said, but recognizing your part in the interaction. There are also times where you have no direct involvement but are blindsided by a ricochet shot that hurts just as much. Either way, there are often parts of our actions and imperfections that we can improve upon, too. Ask yourself a few questions: How might my actions have contributed to the situation? Am I looking at the situation from all angles, all points of view? The proud may never admit any fault, but the humble are brought into the light on how they can grow and change during the process of forgiveness.
Forgiveness Doesn’t Happen Overnight
There are so many times I am so upset about a situation, I can’t even fathom forgiving. But over time, my heart is softened towards the other person involved. God does not expect you to push away all feelings of anger and sadness immediately. But he does ask that you don’t make these resentments the focal point of your everyday. If feelings of bitterness and regret are eating away at you everyday, you are the one who is suffering. Ask God to soften your heart towards forgiveness and to allow time to free yourself from living in disgust and frustration.
Setting Boundaries is Okay
“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it” (Mandy Hale).
If someone is repeatedly hurting you or bringing you down, boundaries are okay. There is no reason you need to put yourself in the line of fire with someone who has repeatedly hurt you with no end in sight, or any seeming empathy on their part of understanding how they make you feel. You don’t need to grant complete access to your life to anyone, especially those who bring you down. If you have a family member or a friend who continually hurts you and whose path continually crosses yours, as best you can, limit your interactions with them. This does not mean you have chosen the path to not forgive, you’re simply making the conscious decision to protect your heart. It is okay to protect yourself from any future hurt by limiting time with people who don’t make you feel loved and supported.
Monitor Thoughts Replaying Feelings of Anger and Regret
“Your attitude is like a box of crayons that color your world. Constantly color your picture gray, and your picture will always be bleak. Try adding some bright colors to the picture by including humor, and your picture begins to lighten up” (Allen Klein).
You are in control of your thoughts. You can control what comes in and out of your mind. If you are constantly replaying a hurtful situation over and over in your mind, it is going to be very hard to forgive. It is imperative to release the situation from the confines of your mind, and in return, negative feelings will be released as well. This will allow you to joyfully live in the present moment without constantly looking backwards at a situation that caused you hurt. In the end, if you are dwelling on the hurt, you are only allowing hurt into your everyday which causes you to miss the joy in the now.
Conclusion on Forgiveness
The evil one does not want out to forgive. Why? Because when you don’t forgive, you hold onto feelings of resentment. In return, this steals joy and light away from your present day. In the end, not only does not forgiving hurt the person involved, it actually ends up hurting you more over time. When feelings of resentment and anger bubble up, allow them to come, and when you are ready, release them. Don’t hold on to frustration and miss out on the gifts of today. Allow God to soften your heart. Let go of your anger and hurt and joyfully begin the road towards forgiveness. “I am happy to say that everyone that I have met in my life, I have gained something from them; be it negative or positive, it has enforced and reinforced my life in some aspect” (Walter Payton).
Just writing this makes me feel lighter and brighter. I hope that you feel the same and begin the process of forgiving any hurts you have experienced.
Begin your own path towards forgiveness by trying out my journal prompt on forgiveness. Check it out below.
Check out my post, 3 Secrets to Complete and Utter Happiness, here.