by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA, USA)
Once we have battled bitterness and won, we return to being generally calm; our temper is restored to more gentle times. Our reactionary fuse becomes longer, or in other words, we are not as apt to “blow our fuse.”
As was stated previously, full restoration usually takes a long time. Healing the inside of ourselves takes much longer than a physical healing like a broken ankle, arm, or leg. We may have lived with emotional injury for as long as we have been alive, but we cannot truly love until we have truly forgiven.
How do we get motivated to begin the forgiveness process that rids us of bitterness? Well, two things immediately come to my mind:
One – Think of how much better you will feel once the weight of all the negative affects of bitterness are no longer in your life. You will feel free, you will feel happy; you should be both emotionally and physically healthier. That alone is a good motivation factor.
Two – As Christ-followers we need to listen to, and obey, the teachings of Jesus. His call for us to forgive others, found in the Sermon on the Mount in particular, comes to mind:
“Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:36-37, NKJV).
In saying the above, Jesus did not mean God will not forgive us unless we have forgiven everybody in our lives. What Jesus is saying here is, “if we do not forgive God is going to apply some pressure until we do.” Jesus repeatedly taught forgiveness. He taught it and demonstrated it. Remember His words even from the cross, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus never withheld forgiveness and as His followers that should be our goal as well. In our own strength that may not be possible, but by faith and the help of the Holy Spirit we can forgive even the most painful of hurts. And as we do forgive others, “we enjoy reconciliation and the joy of healthy, loving relationships.”
STEPS FOR GETTING RID OF BITTERNESS:
Getting rid of bitterness is a process that can take a good amount of time. However, it is worth it as it leads to emotional and spiritual health and freedom. The steps are simple to list, and with prayer, they can actually be carried out as well (these steps come directly, for the most part, from The Gift Of Forgiveness, by Dr. Charles Stanley, pp.169-170).
1) Make a list of the ways in which “that person(s)” has offended you.
2) Make a list of your own faults (yes you have them, we all do).
3) Make a list of things you have done and for which God has forgiven YOU.
4) Ask God to help you view that person who has wronged you as a tool in the hand of God.
5) Ask God to forgive you for your bitterness toward that person(s).
6) Decide in your heart to assume responsibility for your attitude.
7) If you feel it is appropriate, and it will not cause more problems than it solves, go to that person, confess your bitterness, and ask forgiveness. Remember, you are assuming the responsibility for your attitude; you are not trying to solicit repentance I must given some advice of caution regarding this last step of Dr. Stanley's. Approaching another person improperly can lead to much deeper problems than what was originally there. I strongly advise you ask for godly counsel on whether or not this step is appropriate for situation, and if so, get advice on how to do so effectively.
We can do one of two things. We can be unforgiving and let our bitterness fester, or we can make the choice to forgive and allow the Holy Spirit to help us be the kind of person God wants us to be. We have to consciously make the choice to see hurts and wrong doings as chances to grow emotionally and spiritually.
FINE-TUNING FORGIVENESS: A CONCLUSION
I am going to conclude this paper on forgiveness by suggesting some points of action. I am going to share with you information in order to help you apply the things you have read to your life. A list may seem a bit simplistic, and I know there is no “magical formula,” but taking these steps will not in themselves be simple actions to carry out. It takes some time and work to forgive people appropriately, but practical steps certainly can aid you in the process. These points also serve as a summary regarding much of the information we have covered in this paper.
First, remember that forgiveness is NOT...
-justifying or making excuses for the actions of the one who hurt you
-forgetting about the hurt and trying to let time heal the wound
-asking GOD to forgive them (you are the one who needs to forgive)
-simply asking GOD to forgive you for your harsh feelings toward the one who wronged you, it's more than that
-denial: “I'm just being a baby. Others have had it far worse.”
Second, remember that approaching someone face to face to forgive them is usually not a very good idea, especially if they have not asked you to forgive them. This can cause accusatory feelings and lead to even deeper problems.
Third, find a time and location where you can be alone and uninterrupted for a while.
Fourth, pray and ask God to bring to mind everyone who has done something to you which you need to forgive. Ask God to remind you of the specific things they did that you need to forgive them for.
Fifth, take your time. List everything and everyone that comes to you mind; even if it seems sill. List it all.
Sixth, grab a couple of chairs, place them so they are facing each other, and sit down in one.
Seventh, act and think as if the first person on your list is sitting in the other chair. Let out everything you can remember that the person did to hurt you. Don't hold back; let the emotions and truth flow out.
Eighth, actively choose to forgive them from that point forward. You may not feel completely forgiving right away, but do mean what you are saying and God will bring the correct feelings to surface.
Ninth, release that individual from whatever it is you feel you are owed. Actually verbalize something to them. Have a conversation with them (the chair). It can be as simple as, “I completely forgive you. You are now free.”
Tenth, if the person is still in your life, now would be the time to accept them for who they are without feeling a need to change their attitude or actions.
Eleventh, thank God for actually using each of these people, which you have gone through with this process, as a tool for you to change in a way that better understands His grace, love and forgiveness toward you.
Twelfth, prayer. As you speak to each person (or chair) pray. I am not one for programmatic prayer recital, so just use words that feel right for you given the situation.
Thirteenth, and last, once you have gone through your entire list of painful experiences and the people you needed to forgive, pray one final time. Pray in faith and thankfulness for the process having been completed. Pray for your reliance on Him in these matters in the future.
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