Friday, November 29, 2013

The work of forgiveness 9

In my process, once I  uncovered my expectations of the person I need to forgive, and then listed what behaviors needed to be forgiven, I was surprised to find I needed to add a step before I could continue to forgiveness.
3. What was it about these behaviors that made me angry or hurt?
While I knew the behaviors on my list made me angry, one thing I have learned over the years is that I often do not know why I am angry. Or hurt. Or happy. Or sad. Or any emotion, really. I have to think very honestly about the cause of my emotion before I understand it.

I used to think emotions were these pure things that come upon you very suddenly, and that they were always true and trustworthy. I thought they could be counted on in life to steer you in the right direction.

I was very wrong. I have learned from experience that emotions are easily manipulated and can come upon you so suddenly that sometimes you can't handle them. They are raw things, and they can be very untrustworthy.

So when I am in this process of forgiveness, this step forces me to look at why the person's behavior has made me angry, or hurt, or sad. What has happened because of the behavior? What are the effects? As I contemplate these things, I also check my emotions, to see whether they are self-serving or genuine.

Step 1 helps you understand what you expected from them. Step 2 compiles a list of what they did. Step 3 looks at the damage resulting from the person's actions.

I have been surprised as I go through this process how often I am not angry or hurt because of what happened to me. More often I am upset at what happened to others. So as you go through step 3, do not hesitate to look beyond what was done to you, and include the bigger picture of how others were affected in your consideration.

As with the first two steps in the process, take your time, be thorough and honest, and bathe your thinking in prayer. Ask God to show you what really needs forgiving.

When you are finished with this step, you should have a pretty good idea of what it is you really need to forgive.

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