“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” Colossians 3:12-13
Today, I want to broach the subject of forgiveness. Many of you are suffering or have suffered at one time or the other from an offense imposed by a spouse, significant other, family member, church member, friend, co-worker or maybe a stranger. I have found the closer the relationship–the greater the offense. In an article titled, “Forgiveness,” by Psychology Today, it defines forgiveness as the release of anger or resentment–it does not mean reconciliation. Forgiveness is vital for our emotional health as well as our physical health. Oftentimes, we harbor these ill feelings while waiting for an apology that may never happen. The article also states, “Carrying the hurt or anger of an offense leads the body to release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Eliminating the perpetual flow of these hormones may also explain why forgiveness provides physical health benefits, such as lowering the risk of high blood pressure and heart problems.”
I am quite sure you all have heard the idiom, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” This is so far from the truth. Words can hurt, scar, and sometimes destroy a person. Being transparent, I have my own personal struggle with forgiveness. A couple of years ago, I was confronted by someone who was once very close to me–he wanted to tell me exactly how he did not agree with how I handled a particular situation. Because I did not respond at all to the barrage of accusations, he unapologetically let out a flow of words that cut me to my core. I felt as though I had been kicked in my stomach with a size 13 steel-toed boot–yes, it hurt. To know someone’s vulnerability and to maliciously verbally attack them in that particular area was inexcusable. I was deeply wounded by the words that so brazenly flowed from his lips; however, I refused to respond to the offense. It was one year later before I was able to voice the offense and address the pain it caused–I had unhealthily suppressed it. I knew I had to talk about it and work towards forgiveness for my own wellbeing. Psychology Today states, “Forgiveness has been shown to elevate mood, enhance optimism, and guard against, anger, stress, anxiety, and depression.”
Forgiveness is never for the other person–it is for you. It prevents from something that once hurt you to continually hurt you. When you forgive, it does not excuse the person’s behavior; instead, it frees you from bitterness, hatred, and resentment. In his book, Let It Go, T.D. Jakes states, “These people who free themselves from long-term emotional debilitation find themselves more blessed, more productive, and much more grounded than those who become blocked by incidents, tragedies, and injustices.”
So, how do I pardon someone who offended me? How do I heal my heart from that offense to avoid becoming bitter? Psychology Today proposes four steps of forgiveness offered by psychologist Robert Enright:
- Uncover. Uncover your anger by exploring how you have avoided or addressed the emotion.
- Decide. Make the decision to forgive. Begin by acknowledging that ignoring or coping with the offense has not worked.
- Cultivate. Cultivate forgiveness by developing compassion for the offender. Reflect on whether the act was due to malicious intent or challenging circumstances in the offender’s life.
- Release. Release the harmful emotions and reflect on how you may have grown from the experience and the act of forgiveness itself.
Because I sometimes come across as blatantly direct, I am sure I have offended others; however, not in a hateful or spiteful way. I choose to forgive because I want to be forgiven. You may be wondering have I forgiven the person who offended me. Because forgiveness is a process, I believe I have; however, it does not mean I feel the need to reconcile with someone who intended me harm–it simply means I no longer harbor the bitterness or resentment I once had towards this person.
Please watch the YouTube video below as Sarah tells her story of forgiveness. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.Share on Social Media!