5 Steps To Forgiveness
Updated: Oct 6, 2021
“How can I forgive when it hurts so much?” Have you ever said these words? You know you need to forgive, and you want to be obedient to God and do so, but how? How can we let go of those things that have wounded us in unimaginable ways?
A few weeks ago, I wrote a long and deeply personal blog about my own struggle to forgive my own brother for something that felt unforgivable to me. (You can find that blog post here.) I knew I wanted and needed to forgive him, but I wasn’t sure how to do it when it hurt so much. I’ve spent an awful lot of time in prayer lately seeking to let go, forgive, and make peace with this situation. I wanted to release him as badly as I wanted to be released. I feel so blessed to say that the Holy Spirit has moved in some pretty amazing ways recently to answer those prayers. Because so many of us struggle with forgiveness and letting go of past wounds I’d like to share with you the steps I’ve been guided to take on my forgiveness journey. I understand now that we can indeed forgive anyone for anything even if we think not. Yes, even those things we might feel are unforgivable.
Step 1: CHOOSE TO FORGIVE I knew I needed to forgive my brother, but I didn’t know where to begin. Because I wasn’t feeling it, so I didn’t think it possible. Well, the Holy Spirit revealed to me that forgiveness isn’t about feeling anything, but about making a choice. Put simply, I must first choose to forgive him. Forgiveness is not just an emotion but an act of the will. We might not be able to control how we feel, but we can control our will. So by an act of the will we choose to let the hurt go. That doesn’t mean that we will instantly have “loving feelings” towards that person, but in making that choice the path to forgiveness and freedom is put into motion. From this all important first step, I believe the Holy Spirit can and will provide the grace we need to move forward on a path to complete forgiveness and healing.
Another method is to set up two chairs facing each other. Sit down in one and imagine the person you are forgiving is sitting in the other. Bring Jesus into the scene and imagine He is there beside you. Express to the one that hurt you all that’s on your heart. Tears are healing, so don’t be afraid to cry. Remember, this is a time for emotional release. When you’ve emptied your heart, imagine telling that person that you have chose to forgive them, and they are free. Again, you might not feel as if you’ve forgiven. The hurt, pain, anger or resentment might still be there — for now. Don’t let that deter you. You’ve made a choice to do so. Stand firm in that decision, and trust in the Holy Spirit to guide, counsel, and comfort you.
So, for this step I personally wrote letters. First to Jesus, telling Him (although I’m sure He already knew) just how I felt and why I felt that way. I wrote the next letter to my brother expressing my feelings, and telling him I’d forgiven him. I asked for the Holy Spirit for guidance and my own healing in the process. And then, I destroyed both letters as a ceremonial act that it was done — finished.
Step 3: AFFIRM IT VERBALLY Say it out loud, or better yet say these words aloud to a witness: “Lord, I have forgiven (name of person).” There is always added power in speaking something out loud, and if you are feeling weak in your stand to forgive, then by all means find that witness.
Step 4: STAND IN FAITH. You may find that there are moments of temptation when the bitterness and anger try to creep in once more. Don’t allow the enemy to steal your peace. In such moments you must stand in faith that you have forgiven the person. Every time those old feelings want to rise up affirm: “Lord, I have already forgiven (insert name). It’s a done deal. I have burnt the IOU’s, and have released (insert name).” Be sure you phrase your affirmation in the past tense.
Step 5: PRAY FOR THEM. Jesus is clear on this point in Matthew 5:44 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you …” We are to pray for those that hurt us. Sometimes this can — at first anyway — be hard for us to do. Again, we don’t feel like praying for someone that has hurt us so deeply. That’s human nature. But as Christians we must subjugate the flesh here and allow the Spirit within us to reign. So once more we choose as an act of the will to be obedient to God’s Word on forgiveness. The feeling part will come sooner or later as God’s grace moves to set us free. Praying for the one that we have forgiven is also a wonderful way to react to those left over feelings of bitterness that might try to creep back into our thoughts from time to time. When the enemy tries to tempt you with feelings of resentment and bitterness strike back by holding that person upon prayer.
In closing, think on this Scripture verse if you are tempted to hold onto your anger, grudges and resentments.“And when you pray, make sure you forgive the faults of others so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you withhold forgiveness from others, your Father withholds forgiveness from you.” Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus makes it so clear. We are called to forgive all for everything, even those things we think are unforgivable.
Now, will you join me in prayer? Heavenly Father,Thank You for your gift of forgiveness. Jesus experienced the worst pain imaginable and died on the Cross so that I could be forgiven. I am grateful for your unfathomable mercy and grace. Help me to love like Jesus…to forgive like Jesus… to be merciful like Jesus. I understand now that forgiveness can begin with a choice to forgive. I have made that choice. I understand I do not have to allow my emotions and feelings to rule my actions. So, I choose to forgive (insert name). Help me to fully release the pain and hurt and see them through the eyes of Jesus … a loved and accepted Child of God. May Christ rule my heart and help me to see the one who hurt me through His eyes, that I may move to a place of true compassion, peace, and total freedom. I am so thankful that you are working in me to strengthen, grow, and perfect my faith. Praise God! In Jesus Name,Amen
In Christ’s Love,
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