Saturday, November 23, 2013

The work of forgiveness 3

A lesson I learned more than a decade ago, when I had to do some other major forgiveness work related to the church, has been helpful to me again this time around.

And that is, you cannot just sit down and force yourself to forgive because you know you're supposed to. Or because yes, it's the right thing to do. Or because, if you're a Christian, it's something Jesus thought was pretty important and you feel terrible about not doing it. Or because you realize it's been a while and you need to get on with it.

You have to want to forgive before you can start the process of forgiving.

The thing I learned the first time around, is that if you realize you don't want to forgive, you can ask God to help you want to want to forgive. Let that sink in. If you don't yet want to forgive, it is perfectly acceptable—and healthy—to pray that God will help you want to want to forgive.

This is an honest acknowledgement of where you are if you don't want to forgive yet. Perhaps you are in a place where you need to think some more, to try to make sense of what happened. Or you are so hurt that you need to be able to hang on to the feeling of being a victim a little while longer. You know you don't want to stay in that place forever, but you are not ready to give it up just yet.

The healthy thing to do is to understand where you are, own up to it, and admit you are not quite ready to move on. At the same time, you can be open to a change in perspective where you could move from where you are now, to a place where you would want to want to forgive.

Once again I find myself in need of forgiving some big things. And once again this advice (I wish I could remember where I had read it all those years ago) has stood me in good stead. Getting to a point where you actually want to forgive is possibly just as hard as the actual forgiveness process itself.

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