Every week we may experience actions from others that may offend or hurt us. This could be as simple as another person lying or saying something condescending. Often we are ready to forgive them after a few hours or a day, but there are times when the actions against us are extremely hurtful and forgiving is equally difficult. What then? Here are some steps we can take in the forgiveness process.
Forgiveness is not only important for us to return to a healthy state of living, it is commanded by Jesus. When He taught us to pray, he used the words "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." Wow! We are going to have our sins forgiven only to the degree we show the same love and compassion for others. This "forgiving thing" is extremely important.
Sometimes people could unleash a tremendous amount of hate, malice, and shall we say, evil, towards us. We may experience deep pain, and in some sad cases end with physical scars or worse. How do we begin to forgive? As I mentioned above, forgiveness is not a one time event, but a process that could take many months. Father Eamon Tobin offers the following tips in his book "How to forgive yourself and others: Steps to reconciliation."
1. Prayer of rage. It is likely that we feel anger, rage, and hate towards the other person for what they unjustly did to us. We don't need to cover up our real feelings in our prayer. We need to tell God all of our feelings no matter how terrible they sound. We need to unleash AND release. Do we need examples of this type of prayer? Look no further than many of the Psalms that express the rage and agony of a people suffering. Unleashing our true feelings to God is likely to kick start our healing.
2. Prayer for the desire to forgive. We may feel zero desire to be nice to the person that hurt us so bad. Forgiving them may feel like we are being nice to them, although in reality we are being nice to ourselves. When we choose not to forgive we chose to carry a heavy burden and live with less joy. So we need to pray that God gives us the grace we need to forgive, we need to ask for the desire. This could take some time, but God will help us get there.
3. Prayer of repentance. We also need to look at our own actions with humility. In all of our interactions with the person that hurt us, were there things we also did wrong? Did we slander the person afterwards? I'm not saying that we necessarily created the original situation that triggered the bad action, but we may have had behaviors that were not Christ-like and we should ask for forgiveness.
4. Prayer for the offender. What? One thing is to forgive, another is to actually pray for the person. Aren't you asking too much? Now I need to give the gift of prayer? Yes. Jesus asked us to love our enemies. If we think we have forgiven, but can't pray for the person, then it may show we still have work to do. We haven't forgiven them fully. We pray that God has mercy and forgives the person's sins. We pray that God gives the person the grace to heal and improve, and that the person can humbly accept God's grace. We pray for the person's well being.
Eventually we will be able to say with full conviction and heart, "I forgive you. May the peace of the Lord be with you today and always." Our burden will be lifted. Our joy will return.
Of course, in most instances we also need to reconcile. But in a number of cases, it will not be practical or even safe to do so if the other person is not sorry and has not changed.
God bless you.
Source of Father Tobin's tips was Catholic Update, March 2015