Do you want to forgive someone but just can’t seem to make it happen? Many times, we will genuinely want to release past hurts or offenses but our efforts don’t stick. We continue replaying hurtful conversations and experiences even though we want to be rid of them. Let me describe a process to journal and pray through that will lead us into complete forgiveness. First, let’s look briefly at what forgiveness is NOT:
Forgiveness is not erasure. We don’t come along with a white board eraser and wipe it from the slate. Rather, we write Paid in Full next to the offense. It is paid for through the blood of Christ. It cost Him something and it has cost us something.
Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. We can forgive someone but that doesn’t automatically mean we want to have dinner with them. We can forgive the offense and honestly say they don’t owe us anymore, while also holding the boundary that we don’t desire to continue opening our life to them.
Forgiveness is not rationalizing or marginalizing what someone has done. We don’t say things like “oh, he had a rough childhood” or “she’s just that way.” Rather, we acknowledge the wounding that happened and release it to Jesus Christ, asking Him to carry it for us.
When I began to study the Bible as I processed wounding from my childhood, I was struck by the fact that Jesus expected us to forgive others. How could He demand this? Did He not know the horrible things that could happen in life? Yes actually, if anyone could ever understand injury and betrayal it was Jesus. Will you take a moment and read Matthew 18:23-35? It is Jesus’ answer to the question of how many times must we forgive someone? In the story a man does not forgive because he did not fully perceive his own freedom and forgiveness. Our forgiving others and even ourselves is anchored in one simple fact: Jesus purchased our forgiveness with His blood. It is paid for-past, present, future. Christ-followers forgive because God has forgiven all of our sins. When we can own the radical, brazen love and forgiveness of God for ourselves then we are free, truly free to love and forgive others.
Grab a journal and some Kleenex and find a quiet space. Anchor in the love of God and then ask Him to show you any hurts, offenses, or unforgiveness that you may be holding toward anyone. Write down what He shows you, listing the person, the offense, and all the effects that have rippled through your life. List the emotions that came with the hurt—perhaps betrayal, anger, shame, fear and so on. For each event acknowledge that Jesus is just, and He will deal with that person rightly. I acknowledge that Christ died on the cross to pay for that hurt with His precious blood. “Then, I take the offense, hurt, and every connected emotion, and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Each time I say something like, I have every right to be hurt (angry, bitter, jealous, afraid, etc.) but I know if I hold on, it will ruin me. It’s too heavy for me to carry, Lord. I ask Jesus to carry that hurt or offense for me.” (Gracious Living, p. 240)
After laying these things at His feet, “I acknowledge that the hurt has taken up space in my heart and mind that needs to be filled with something else. If I’ve held bitterness, for example, I will ask Jesus to replace it with a sweet and tender spirit. If I’ve held on to fear and foreboding, I’ll ask Jesus to pour joy in every place that once carried fear.” (Gracious Living, p 241) Do you understand the process so far? We list the hurt and all the effects it has had and we consciously lay them at the feet of Jesus, asking Him to carry it for us. Then, we replace those emotions with ones that Jesus gives us. Now, one last step: “Because demonic spirits often inflame unforgiveness, I conclude my forgiveness practice with a prayer of renunciation and protection. I’ll pray, I no longer partner with unforgiveness (bitterness, fear, anger, hurt, etc.). I command these spirits to leave in Jesus’ name. I forbid them to return or torment me about this hurt again.” (Gracious Living, p 241)
For years I struggled with shame and anxiety but when I spent just a few hours focused in this way, laying shame and anxiety at His feet, I was changed. A true exchange happened! Take some time this week to process forgiveness. If you stall out, get a trusted friend or counselor to walk through it with you. My book, Gracious Living, creating a culture of honor, love, and compassion spells out the process in greater detail. Go to www.MargaretAllen.org for the book, the blog, and free resources.