“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee; Until seven times; but, until seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22
I have wrote a little about my struggle with anger and bitterness in my previous post. I would like to talk now about how to forgive someone who has hurt you. These are not scientific steps. They are just my opinion. I think every one of these steps needs prayer and guidance from God as you work through them. If you feel that you need help on working through the process, please feel free to see a counselor, pastor, therapist or friend. Please work at your own pace.
1. Denial that you feel angry/hurt/resentment
I have run into people who don’t even recognize when they are angry or hurt by another person. This is especially an issue if the person concludes that he/she was the one who did something wrong instead of the other person. Sometimes a parent may abuse his/her child. Then the child concludes that it was her fault. Perhaps the child will think “I am a bad person.” An abused wife may also blame herself rather than recognize the fact that it was her husband that did something wrong.
I would suggest that you look for thoughts of resentment or anger towards a specific person. Also, pay attention to your body’s anger response for other hints on whether this is a person that you may need to forgive.
2. Discern whether you have been wronged or not.
This may seem obvious. ”I feel angry therefore I have been wronged.” But, sometimes we have specific situations that trigger our anger because of our past experiences. I would recommend asking God for wisdom in figuring out whether you were hurt or is this a trigger for you. If it is a trigger for you, then you may want to explore your past to see what this situation may be reminding you of. If you conclude that you have been hurt, then explore those emotions.
3. Explore hurt feelings
I have a few questions that you can asked yourself to help you explore the situation and emotions. I would describe the situation to a friend, therapist or into your journal as a starter. Please include your feelings too. How was you wronged? How did this make you feel? I have found that writing a letter to the person who hurt me without mailing the letter is a good idea to get the emotions out of your head. Once the emotions are outside of your head where you can look at them, it will be easier for you to think through your anger/hurt feelings.
4. Gain understanding
A big part of therapy is developing a better understanding of your needs and boundaries. Did the person violate one of your boundaries? Spend some time looking at the situation from the point of view of the other person. I am not saying that I think you need to understand all of his/her actions, but I think this will help you have some empathy towards the other person. This can help you to draw closer to forgiving the person.
5. Forgive the person and yourself if necessary
forgiving the person will free you from the festering pain of the anger and resentment. ”How am I going to get him/her back?” can be a very troubling thought when you know that Jesus cried out “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” while dying on a cross. I listed forgiving yourself because many of us who struggle with anger and resentment may need to forgive ourselves too. Also, I think it is important to keep in mind that getting out of an abusive relationship is necessary. It is okay for you to forgive them but you don’t need to get them a chance to do it again. (Yes, I know. The abuser is really really sorry.) The abuser needs to get help and change his/her behavior before you give him/her a chance to do it again.
6. When the anger comes back, forgive again and again.
When something happens that irritates or frustrates you, you may feel the original feelings of anger again. So, tell yourself that you forgave them and let it go. Keep doing it until your mind gets it.