This week I want to share about the gift of forgiveness. Now, before you step off this blog because you were hoping this link led you to the newest tech gadget or stocking stuffer, hear me out. Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself and those you love, because it lasts well beyond any physical gift you can give this Christmas. Trouble is, few concepts are as misunderstood as forgiveness.

Trust me when I say this. Even as a therapist, I’ve had my share of needing to walk through forgiveness. The common belief is that forgiveness is all about admitting that whatever happened was wrong and just  “letting it go,” as though nothing ever happened and there was no damage. But that isn’t forgiveness, … and few of us are naturally capable of forgetting things that hurt us. Forgiveness is a process, and sometimes quite a painful one. But here’s the thing, granting forgiveness is not really just a gift for the person who wronged you. Forgiveness is actually a gift to yourself. And here’s the hard truth, forgiveness is required for healing. Ouch, right?

So what is involved in forgiving? Forgiveness begins with identifying the wrongs done and allowing yourself to feel hurt, pain, disappointment and even anger. Being wronged never feels good, so it is important to give yourself permission to name the offense and recognize the emotions that have come as a result of that offense. Naming offenses and recognizing emotions can take time.

Once you’ve identified what needs forgiven and validated your feelings, it is also important to set future expectations if you plan to stay connected to the person/organization that wrong you. (That’s right, forgiveness does NOT mean that a future relationship assured. It means you won’t allow the offense to keep you from being whole and experiencing fullness in life and relationships.) What are the expectations in the future? Even if the relationship is long over identify what you expect from similar relationships in the future, and what boundaries you will set to protect and uphold those expectations. It doesn’t need to be an exhaustive list, but consider at least including accountability in that boundary list. Yes, we recognize this is hard work, but it is worth it to do this and move to the next step.

This might be the hardest step of all of them: agree to give up your “right” to “get even.” This is a tough one, because our culture incorrectly emphasizes the power of revenge. Pastor Michael Todd recently said we have a culture who’s currency in offense. We’re often driven by offenses. Trouble is, when you’re holding a grudge or seeking retribution, it occupies a piece of the heart reserved for wholeness and healing, and it captures a part of your mind meant to be creative and free. Read that again. Forgiving the offense may be a one time act, but forgiving and letting go of hurt is a process that requires intentionality.

Here’s a little reminder about this process: if you are hard on yourself and wish for redo’s, it is just as important to work through this process for what you’ve done as well because self forgiveness is a vaccination to prevent types of shame. 

The steps may sound simple, and you’re probably thinking that they’re a lot tougher and more complicated in practice. That’s absolutely true. Whether you’re forgiving yourself or someone else, it takes work. You may want to reach out to a professional who can help you through the steps. It might take some assistance defining what to do at each step, or support to help get through the steps. It’s a difficult journey, but you’ll find that forgiveness is a gateway to healing and restoration.

Contact us today to learn more about forgiveness and to get help forgiving yourself or others.

Listen to Lysa Terkeust share about forgiving the unforgivable.

Michael Todd talks about forgiving fathers.