I hope that your time of prayer yesterday was a fruitful one as you began the process of forgiveness. The first three steps we discussed yesterday are fundamental to the healing process and they may need to be revisited often as you journey toward forgiveness.
Today, we will look at the next three steps identified by psychologists as essential to the process of forgiveness.
Admitting the anger, identifying or naming the emotions or hurt involved, and expressing that emotion and hurt all begin to break through the fortress of an unforgiving heart. They ready the heart to embrace forgiveness through an act of the will.
The following three steps encourage our progress.
This can be the most challenging step in the process of forgiveness. Psychologists call it “reframing.” Essentially, it is choosing to reappraise what happened by considering other factors we may have initially ignored. For example, it is hard to forgive someone if we perceive his actons as only malevolent and unloving.
But, it may be easier to forgive him if we see his actions as a result of his own deprived circumstances and personal limitations. The purpose here is not to excuse the behavior, but to see what the potential roots of the behavior might be.
Forgive and cancel the debt
Ultimately, the moment arrives to make the decision to forgive. It does not mean the pain will automatically go away, nor does it mean there won’t be moments of regret or sadness. It does mean that in those moments we will admit the hurt and renew our commitment to forgive in spite of it.
When we find it difficult to let go of resentment or bitterness, we should prayerfully look at the cause. Perhaps there is an unrelated area within us that need to be healed. Or perhaps our current situation brings another similar more painful issue to mind and we are reacting to it rather than to what is immediately taking place.
A word about reconciliation
The best-case scenario is that we are able to achieve reconciliation with the party who has injured us. However, in many cases, this is not possible. The injuring party may not be alive, may not want to reconcile, or may be emotionally or physically dangerous to us. None of these, however, diminishes our mandate to forgive. Fogiveness sets us free from the injury and the sin committed against us, and even if reconciliation is not achieved, in some spiritual way, our offender is set free as well.
Today’s Spiritual Exercise
Take your journal into your time of prayer. Begin your prayer by invoking the mercy and love of God.
Read what you have written in your journal over the past few days. Based on what you have written, how can you apply the next step in the healing process? Where might you need to exercise understanding and to what extent are you willing to do so? Try to “reframe” the events.
Continue to engage the healing process until you can honestly move on to “Forgive and cancel the debt.”
Is reconciliation possible at some time? Why or why not?
Copyright 2009, by Johnnette S. Benkovic. All rights reserved.