The final goal of forgiveness is to move you from -1 to 0: Reduce negative thoughts (believing that the offender had evil motives, is an evil person, insensitive, uncaring), negative feelings (annoyance, frustration, hatred, rage) and negative behaviour (Avoiding, refusing to talk, plotting revenge or badmouthing the offender) towards the offender
And take you from 0 to +1: To have positive thoughts (simply wishing the person well, understanding that the offender is human and deserves respect on that ground alone), positive feelings (mild sense of liking, respecting, loving and caring) positive behaviour (smiling, helping) towards the offender
It is not the final goal of forgiveness that you simply stop talking to your offender. That is part of the path but not the destination.
Justice and Mercy
Forgiving is about mercy. Mercy does not exclude justice. You can choose to forgive someone who hurt you and still take that person to court, not for revenge but for the necessary compensation that may be needed or to prevent that person from hurting others.
Anger and resentment
It is okay to be angry. Anger is a normal response when one is hurt. However, resentment is dangerous. It is basically re-feeling the original anger of the hurt every time you remember the hurt and that is what you need to deal with. If you do not, then the effects of unforgiveness strikes as previously discussed.
How do you start on the path to forgiveness?
Start small. You do not have to meet the offender. Make a small positive action like praying for the offender (Jesus says that we must pray for our enemies. Do Good to those who hate us). You can also start by deciding to stop badmouthing your offender and wishing him/her well despite how you feel.
Why do you need to give compassion, goodwill and love to your offender?
Remember holding onto anger makes you hurt people close to you. Nature abhors vacuum. If you remove something, you must replace it with something else. If you do not, something worse will fill in that place.
Jesus says that when you remove a demon, you must replace it with something otherwise, the demon will come with ten more. It means that in the place of anger and bitterness, you must replace that with compassion and goodwill.
To forgive or not to is your free choice
People are not obligated to forgive you and neither are you obligated to forgive them. But you cannot choose not to forgive and refuse the consequences of not forgiving; of holding onto the anger. Moreover, if you are a follower of Christ, forgiving your enemies is a requirement of discipleship. Therefore ask for the Grace to forgive and overcome the hurt. however, do not feel obligated to forgive in order to be a good Christian. If you do forgive out of religious obligation, you might not forgive fully.
What if the offender never asks you for forgiveness? Never apologizes?
The person who hurt you may never apologize. Maybe they are dead or just do not care or have forgotten or do not even think that they are actually hurting you or did hurt you in the past. You may need to tell them that they are hurting you or have hurt you in the past but do not give them your power and right to be happy. When you withhold forgiveness to someone because he/she is not changing or asking for your forgiveness, you give away your power to be happy and at peace. You’re always free to forgive. Do not give that freedom away.
Is it okay not to trust someone I have forgiven?
You do not have to trust your offender. In some cases such as abuse, you actually should never. Forgiveness is free. Trust must be earned.
What if the offence was unintentional?
You can and need to forgive even if you feel that offender never intended to hurt you. You may feel guilty that you are angry at a person who never intended to hurt you but still, you need to. Remember, when you do not forgive, sooner or later, you start hurting people in your life who do not deserve it. And no one deserves to be hurt anyway.
What if you were wrong and the offender innocent?
Forgive the offender for what you believe could be hurting you in order to see the offence in its true light. Sometimes we blame others for our current negative state in life even though they did nothing or what they did is not really the direct cause of our problems but a lack of understanding. When you start to forgive the person, you might actually see that you are the one who needs to change.
Some people are completely unrepentant. They can even tell you to your face that you deserved what you got. For your own sake, you need to forgive. Remember what forgiveness is and is not, as previously discussed. Even with such a person, you can and you need to forgive.
Can I forgive on behalf of someone else?
Everyone has a right to forgive but you cannot forgive someone on behalf of someone else. If someone hurt someone you love, only the person hurt can forgive. Not you.
What if I also offended the person who offended me?
Remember that many times forgiveness and repentance go hand in hand. You may need to forgive first in order to repent since the anger may prevent a sincere repentance. This is in those cases where you are offended but you also did offend the other person.
Can I forgive someone who is dead or I don’t know where they are?
It is appropriate to forgive those who are no longer present because they moved or they passed on or simply because you do not know where they are.
Write notes from this material. Did you learn anything new? How does that new information affect you? How are your feelings towards some or all of what you have learnt from this part two?
(Summarized and Developed from: Robert Enright’s Forgiveness is a Choice Manual)