Monday, November 12, 2012

Thoughts to Consider as You Start the Serious Work of Forgiveness

Before delving into the specific situations and questions that arise on the Path of Healing through the journey of forgiveness, consider these words of wisdom and encouragement.

Thoughts adapted from 
Sandra Wilson's Released from Shame:

Get straight on the principles

Forsake the Fantasy! You cannot undo the wrong done, but you can work toward a much better situation with realistic expectations for the future if you accept the situation and its limitations. Let go of yesterday so that you can embrace tomorrow. Accept a realistic view of the situation and the people involved. Consider their limitations. too. Don't pit your desire or compulsion to reconcile against their needs and limitations, but be patient and loving with them (after you've completed your grieving).

Remember that repentance is often a process for the other party as well. If the person who has offended you is hard hearted or cannot release their own fantasy version of what they want to be or want to believe happened, give God an opportunity to work with them. This is why it is important to work on your grieving process. When you actively experience intense pain, you only have so much patience, and your own pain depletes it. When you dive into cheap forgiveness before you've allowed God to initiate your internal healing, it becomes nearly impossible to show love and understanding to the person who has hurt you. The timing of forgiveness is important.

Release the right to get even or to seek restitution yourself. Repent yourself of your own desire to see justice and embrace the miracle of forgiveness, especially if your wounds are deep.

Build your faith in God's faithfulness. If the situation does not provide for restitution or even repentance on the part of the offender, look to God and trust Him for restitution. (See the Prayer of Serenity.) God may be working on a different time table and may be using the situation to work some greater good in the future – for your best benefit and His greatest glory. Consider that you're just not able to see how the process will come together for good in the future.

Forgiveness requires admitting that forgiving is not merely difficult, it is humanly impossible. God doesn't call us to forgive without supplying the power to do it, and He has provided the indwelling Holy Spirit to empower us. He works in us to will and do of His good pleasure, and He's able to complete every good work He's begun in you.

Don't forget to forgive yourself, often the hardest person you'll ever have to learn to forgive. Do not try to “help” God through punishing yourself for failures for things beyond your control. Do not punish yourself for your own sins for which you've repented and forsaken.

Commit to New Choices

Don't settle for cheap forgiveness, and don't try to bypass grieving or confrontation when they are necessary. Study forgiveness and work at the process from as broad of a perspective as you can. Stay committed to abandoning the fantasy in favor of “radical realism.”

Don't bypass justice and confrontation. Many high demand groups teach that Christians have no rights and must endure injustice without ever seeking safety and freedom from pain or abuse. This is not what the Bible teaches but is a twisting of the truth to exploit others through manipulation. We are to take suffering with patience, but we should also seek to be free if we can.

Consider that the person may not realize or believe that they've been offensive. If the person who has hurt you doesn't realize that they've hurt you or doesn't care about the consequences that you've suffered, if you do nothing and say nothing, the treatment will continue. What if the offense is one of ignorance instead of a deliberate one? They may not know that they've violated your boundaries. You have no power in yourself to establish boundaries for another adult, but you can establish and defend boundaries concerning what you will tolerate from them.

Consider your moral duties. You may not be the only person who has suffered the same wrongs at the hand of your offender. If you don't set any boundaries or seek justice, you may be setting someone else up for the same mistreatment. You may have some duty to others to come forward to seek justice, depending on the offense.

Stop cultivating bitterness, and work toward the practice gratitude and empathy. Gratitude refocuses your attention on the blessings that you do have and encourages you to walk in faith and hope. When you've worked through grief, aspire to learn about how the other party with whom you have conflict feels about the situation. Try to understand as much as you can about their perspective. It will give you more compassion and understanding for them and will foster an attitude of love.

Consider that forgiveness at work is a process of redemption. As Genesis 50:20 and Romans 8:28-29 attest, what seems evil and painful and destructive can be transformed by God into something powerful and good. Both passages of Scripture include the promise of some type of salvation, both physical and spiritual. Use this to foster your sense of faith and hope, too. Find the potential and the purpose in the process.

Now, on to more discussion of the specifics
of these considerations when following the 
path to forgiveness.

(Link HERE to the next post.)