Step 1: Recognize the need to give and receive forgiveness.
Are you bitter? Does the mere mention of someone’s name upset you? You might want to ask an honest friend if they think you have a problem with another person. Here are a few questions to help you discern whether you are reluctant to forgive someone. This is the first step toward ridding your life of resentment. Are you ready for some heart-to-heart honesty? Okay. Here we go.
- When the subject of forgiveness comes up, is there a person who immediately comes to mind?
- Can you recall, at any given moment, more than three things that person has done to injure you or others?
- Do you struggle with sleepless nights thinking about this person?
- Do you want to stay informed about what that person is up to? Do you try to find out what they are doing and what they are saying?
- Do you feel the need to set straight everyone about the true nature of that person?
- What is your body language communicating when that person’s name is mentioned? (Do you grimace, recoil, stiffen, or tense up?)
- Do your friends think you have a problem?
- Do you talk negatively about this person more than once a day?
- Do you rehearse and rehash the events of previous days, weeks, months, years?
- Do you feel the need to prove your innocence or victimization?
If you answered yes to even one of the questions, it’s time to recognize your need to forgive so you can move forward in the journey toward release. If you are unsure of the condition of your heart, allow the release of unforgiveness to take place.
Step 2: Make the choice to forgive.
The greatest reason for choosing to forgive is because Jesus told us to. Over ten times in the Gospels Jesus commands us to forgive.
We choose to forgive because this is the will of our Savior. We choose to forgive because Jesus has forgiven us.
One day when I was a little girl I was due for some hefty discipline. I don’t remember the offense. I was only four at the time. My dad sat down with me and before proceeding he asked me, “Cheryl, do you know what the Bible says about this?” Dad fully expected me to quote Ephesians 6:1 (“Children, obey your parents”) or some such passage.
Dad says he was totally taken aback when I looked up at him and with tear-filled eyes said, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Even at a young age, I knew quoting Ephesians 4:32 was the wise move.
And sure enough, Dad forgave me that day and I got off without any punishment. Why? Because God had forgiven him for Jesus’s sake. In the same way, we forgive others because God has chosen to forgive us, not only because of what Jesus has paid, the penalty of our sins, but also because Jesus wants us forgiven. And Jesus wants us to choose to forgive.
Step 3: Pray and give it to God
Many women, after making the choice to forgive, feel that decision challenged. For example, during the prayer time at a women’s retreat, some participants will confess and lay their unforgiveness or bitterness down. They receive the release that comes through prayer. However, when they go home, that decision is threatened by old thoughts and maybe even new offenses. Sometimes women discover another bit of damaging information about the offender.
They chose to forgive, but now they need to call again on the divine power of God to continue to ratify that choice. Prayer invites God into our hearts and minds. Only God can purify our minds and fill them with the right thoughts and clear our hearts of blame and other emotional ties that don’t allow us to forgive.
When we humbly go before God and seek and receive His forgiveness, we are reminded how powerful and transforming mercy is. We are reminded that we are blessed with the opportunity to bring to Jesus our transgressions as well as our need to forgive others and all that stands in the way of us doing so.
Step 4: Clean the slate
Be on guard for any thoughts that suggest you take a step backward on your path to forgiveness or lure you to the dark corners of resentment. Present these to God in prayer and commit to being in God’s Word daily so you are defending your Spirit against false- hoods and unforgiveness with the power of God’s truth and clarity.
Step 5: Keep walking and living in grace.
Recently, I experienced a situation that upset me. I replayed the incident frequently in the days that followed and I dwelled on my personal injury and the injustice of the situation. As I started to consider it yet another time, I heard the Lord speak to my heart: “Put the thing down. Put your hands up in the air and back away!”
That was exactly what I had to do. I laid the issue down before the Lord. I put my hands up in air and surrendered the situation and my thoughts to God. Then I backed away. After that, I refused to pick it up again as I went on a wonderful ministry adventure to Australia with my husband. During the trip, the only thought I had about the entire event was that I was so thankful I had given it to God. I didn’t give the situation any more power or pull in my life. And because I had done that, I was able to minister and fellowship and also praise God without the burden of an unforgiving heart.
God has good things ahead for you. Keep walking on the path to victory. Take inventory of all that God has done for you. Don’t let anything or anyone slow your pace as you march on toward triumph!
Adapted from When a Woman Chooses to Forgive, by Cheryl Brodersen
Copyright © 2014 Cheryl Broderson, Published by Harvest House Publishers, used with permission, all rights reserved