The last few weeks have been absolutely jam packed with me facing challenges that I am obviously meant to overcome as a matter of urgency. Sometimes one thinks that you have dealt with certain aspects but they continue to surface & albeit to a lesser degree, they continue to affect & influence the way that you perceive, react to & handle situations & the people linked to them.
Forgiveness is an area that I struggle with. I trust easily, I generally try to see the good in people/ situations, I will go out of my way to help you where I can… but if you prove my judgement incorrect, show me a side of yourself repeatedly that does not build trust, say something that hurts me in my core, participate in dishonest behavior that affects other people or take advantage… I REALLY struggle to move past that point & I will generally make a plan to exit the relationship as soon as possible… and I struggle to bring my heart to a place of forgiveness.
The challenge with this is that IT IS NOT very Christ -like & it is definitely not a good example to my kids. My children (bless them) are also the kind of humans that despite their ages (6&10), they call me out at any time telling me exactly WHAT they think I have done that is not great or is not Christ like behavior or doesn’t sit well with them. Although in that moment IT DOES NOT feel like a blessing, I know that they are here to teach me my biggest lessons & bring me to my greatest good.
So here I am battling with FORGIVENESS.
Forgiveness is really hard when what has been done has offended, hurt or angered you or someone you love/ care about. Sometimes it is behaviour that has caused deep ingrained hurt, sometimes over many years. Sometimes, when situations or behaviour just doesn’t make sense, is unfair or does not sit well within your own moral standing it is difficult to think rationally. Sometimes the person or people involved is completely oblivious to what they have done/ what they continue to do because they are simply wired completely differently to you. Sometimes it is through your own filter that you process certain behaviours & sometimes your filter is also defective. God encourages us to forgive & turn the other cheek… but sjoe that is so hard to do! To unlock yourself from the prison of unforgiveness is hard!
Matthew 5:38-39 You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evildoer. On the contrary,whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well.
Luke 6:27 But I say to you who are listening, LOVE your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.
The perfect example of this selfless forgiveness is obviously set by Christ & although we strive to be like him, many of us (including me) faces our own internal demons as we navigate this road. In my own processing, I have to write to integrate what I have learned. I started by asking myself the below question:
“HOW do I make it easier for myself to FORGIVE when I am hurting?”
In helping clients navigate forgiveness in work situations or from childhood trauma, there are steps that we take that really helps them move past the judgement… today I am using some of those same tools on my own journey & adding a few more that I feel will help my & anyone elses’ situation.
1.Acknowledge the initial emotion. Recognise it. Label it. When you call the emotion by name you are able to dampen down the part of your brain that houses your emotions, providing energy for the part of your brain that needs to do the thinking to navigate the situation. Don’t react to the emotion, definitely dont share it with those around you. This often leads to the biggest trouble if the emotion is a more volatile one, which it often is. Call it out! Say to yourself “I am angry”, “I feel betrayed”, “That really hurt me”, “That feels unfair” Label the emotion out loud so that your brain hears you calling the emotion by name.
If you are a believer like me, then the next step is very very important.
2. Bring the problem to the Fathers feet. God says that he wants you to bring him all your troubles. He wants you to realise that you NEED NOT deal with the situation, the hurt or even the person on your own. He is there to assist & in fact HE WANTS to help you with it.
With God as part of the process, even the most unlikely problem has a solution. Even the most threatening situation can be overcome. When it feels like it is unlikely to work out, God has the ability to bring to the situation a SUPERNATURAL solution. I have neglected to do this. Sometimes I have completely taken control of the issue & done more harm than good.
3.Remember ‘Grace’. Remember that God has given you the Gift of Grace.Over & over again, he has given you another opportunity to make amends, to do better, to re-try, to improve, to grow. Throughout the course of your life, as you navigate multiple situations, he has allowed you to make decisions & calls that have not always worked out well. Even when the outcome has been less than ideal, he has been there to help you figure it out, fix it, fine tune it.
4. Forgiveness means to write off the debt. When we are making a decision to forgive, in that moment we must also ask God to help us write off that debt. It cannot be a TALLY that even if we forgive in that moment, still racks up a massive bill in the background. THAT is what leads to us later possibly deciding to write people off. If they transgress again, we have such a massive ‘bill’ that another point on the scale just completely tips it & we are faced with an explosion of emotions.
5. Look at your role in the situation. This is often the hardest part of the process. The Self reflection. Looking at what you could have done differently, what emotions are involved, what you have based your opinion on, your state of mind about the person, the history, how the other person may be feeling or perceiving the situation. This is the hardest part… but it is important. In many cases, it takes 2 to tango. Especially if it is over a longer period of time, often there has been a dance of destruction & both partners have had a turn to dance.
6. Reflect on what you may need to learn from the situation. After following the above 5 steps, thinking more clearly about the situation may be easier. Very often, the people we need to learn the most profound lessons from are the ones that grate us the most. Once you know what it is that you needed to learn about yourself from the situation, be grateful for the opportunity to have learned something. Write down these reflections, note it so that you can reflect on it clearly, giving yourself an opportunity to have some realisations that hit home.
7. Forgive yourself. This is also hard to do but it is something that one must make part of the process. The emotions that run riot, the resultant behaviour, words sometimes spoken in jest & the chaos that follows are sometimes a part of the process. Forgiving yourself for being human in this process is a vital part of moving on.
8. Communicate your truth. This is also a vital part of the process. Throughout your life, communicating your truth with love is very important. Knowing what your boundaries are, what hurts you, what sits well with you & what does not. Once you have processed the above 7 steps, speak up about the situation to the person involved. Communicating your truth with love, in a amicable, loving & non threatening way allows you to always be upfront. Deciding when to address your concerns or how to communicate your truth lovingly may be a fantastic action step for future.
9. Release the emotion, bank the lesson, be grateful for the opportunity & FORGIVE. This is probably the hardest part of the entire process. Letting it all go completely & releasing yourself from the torment of carrying it all on your shoulders.
10. Move on. Don’t dwell on what happened. Release the person & yourself & be free from the situation. You can also ask God to help you to be present at all times & have a heart of forgiveness from that moment on. We all have the opportunity to start sometime, let this be our moment… remember, practice makes progress.