There is no magic formula that allows us to forgive. We must set it as a goal and continue to strive for it. A good place to start is how the Bible tells us to remember that the other person is just as guilty of sin as we are (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-13). Our sin separates us all from God and knowing that can give us a better perspective.
Perhaps a good way to start on the path toward forgiving someone is to pray that God would allow you to see them like HE sees them. Remind yourself that Jesus cherished them enough to die for them as well as you. Let God break your heart for them and thereby heal you of your hurt from their hand. I am not suggesting that you should do this in a way that allows yourself to be in an abusive relationship or create an unsafe situation for your children (as can happen). If that type of thing continues, the offender has not repented and the rule regarding severance should be applied. God did not create you or anyone else to suffer abuse from another.
If you are the one in the wrong, how do you seek and accept forgiveness? Matthew 5:23-24 says this: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” God wants you to have clear and honest relationships here on earth. To seek forgiveness, you must as gently as possible confess your offense to the person you offended and share with them that you are not going to do that anymore. When they understand that, apologize and then ask if they would forgive you.
I am not promising that this will happen instantly, healing can take time depending on what the offense was and how badly someone was hurt by it. Our friends from Alcoholics Anonymous recommend as part of seeking forgiveness, that we make sure that in seeking forgiveness we do not cause further damage to someone. It may take time before it is wise for you to seek forgiveness from someone or you could make the issue worse. During your wait, pray to God for the opportunity of healing and restoration.
Forgiveness, though not easy, is necessary. Without being able to forgive, we cut off our ability to be forgiven. God himself even cuts off the avenue of forgiveness if we cut it off from someone else. If you want to be everything that God has created you to be, then you need to be willing to enter into the dialog that bring forgiveness.
Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Christiana Rivers
Larry White is the Pastor of Community United Methodist Church in Marathon, FL and is also an Adjunct Professor at Florida Keys Community College teaching courses in World Religions and New Testament.