But God wants you to forgive those who hurt you. In fact, He commands that you do so. Why? Because if you don't, bitterness will poison you, but if you do, you can grow in love.
Here are some ways you can forgive others:
- Admit and confront the pain you incur when others wound you.
- Rely on God's power to forgive. Know that God will enable you to forgive anyone who has inflicted any type of wound on you, and have confidence in God's power to heal you. Realize that forgiveness will likely take time, but that it is always possible. Trust God, and expect Him to act.
- Remember how God has forgiven you. Think about what Christ did for you on the cross, and recall the times God has answered your prayers. Thank God for His great love for you, and ask Him to help you forgive through the power of His love.
- Pray about a particular hurtful incident soon after it occurs, seeking to forgive. Remember that God has warned that your own prayers will be blocked if you don't forgive others, and that evil will gain access to your life. Don't wait until you feel like forgiving; that may never happen. Instead, act out of obedience, and God will gradually send you peace.
- Surrender any plans to take revenge. Be willing to pay the cost of forgiveness to receive its priceless benefits.
- Understand that forgiving an offender doesn't mean that you endorse the offense. What happened was wrong, and your forgiveness won't change that. But it will enable you to break free of your pain and heal, and it will release the offender from any obligation incurred due to the offense.
- Strive to channel your energy when thinking of an offense in positive - rather than negative - ways. Instead of using energy to nurse resentment, use it to think of creative solutions to the problem and ways to improve your relationship with the person who hurt you.
- Don't make your forgiveness contingent on whether the offender responds positively to your efforts. He or she may even be hostile, but God still wants you to forgive, and you can still benefit greatly from doing so.
- Release your pain to God in prayer, and destroy any records of the offense so you won't use them to dwell on it.
- If the person you need to forgive is yourself, ask God to give you a vision of how He sees you, and embrace His love. Confess any sins you haven't yet confessed to God, repent of them, and accept His forgiveness, knowing that once you do you are truly forgiven and don't need to fear that those sins will stand between you and God.
- After you forgive someone, guard your heart, since it may take a while before you're able to find emotional peace. Take a bit of time to isolate yourself from the person and the situation that caused the offense, but make sure that's only a temporary way to find emotional peace, not a habit to disguise festering resentment. Realize that you don't have to resume your former relationship with the person as if nothing ever happened; and in fact, sometimes reconciliation doesn't work. But recognize that peace is always possible, and that reconciliation may work if the person is willing to pursue it.
- When seeking reconciliation with someone, let him or her know of your love, emphasize the positive aspects of your relationship, discuss the offense specifically and honestly, listen to what the person has to say and consider it, challenge the person to change and commit yourself to change and be patient.
- Pray for the people who have hurt you - whether you're reconciled to them or not - and ask God to give you the grace to interact gracefully with them when you encounter them.
Adapted from Forgive and Love Again: Healing Wounded Relationships, copyright 1991 by John Nieder and Thomas M. Thompson. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Ore., www.harvesthousepubl.com, 1-888-501-6991.
John Nieder is the host of the daily national radio broadcast The Art of Family Living. Dr. Thomas M. Thompson is director of pastoral ministries for The Art of Family Living. Both Nieder and Thompson are graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary.
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