Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The process of forgiveness 20

How do you keep yourself in a state of forgiveness?

There are times when I am very tempted to fall out of the forgiveness and the peace for which I've worked so hard to get. I find there are two things that try to pull me out of forgiveness. The first is learning some new piece of information about the person, or remembering some new problem I hadn't worked into my original forgiveness process. The second is when the person actually does something new, to me or to another person.

Let's take the second problem first. When something new happens, I've noticed it is almost always a variation on something I have already processed about the person. I find when I consider the new actions in light of what I've already forgiven, I can minimize my anger or hurt feelings, and move quickly into a place where I feel badly that the person has not changed, that they are still stuck in a behavior or way of thinking, that they are still doing things that hurt themselves as well as others, and so on. I can get to the point where I want to pray for the person out of sorrow and wanting the best for them.

Notice that I wrote "minimize my anger or hurt feelings." I usually still have them as an initial reaction, and I can't quite stop my adrenaline from kicking in and my blood pressure from elevating. But I can more quickly recover from these gut reactions. I can more easily check myself from taking things personally---even though the act may be intended as a personal attack. I can fairly quickly get back into the forgiveness state of mind, which is where I want to be.

The first problem, that of learning new information or remembering something I had not previously considered, takes more time. Here is where pulling out my written-down notes about my process helps immensely. I think about the new wrinkle I've become aware of, and then look to my notes to see whether I have, in fact, already considered it or something very similar to it.

Usually, I have already either covered the behavior in my initial forgiveness process, or I have considered something very close to it. In these cases, the new information can be incorporated as another example of something I've already processed. Or it may help me to better understand and flesh out a behavior about which previously I only had a vague notion.

The point is, gaining additional information does not throw out the hard work you've already done in forgiveness. Almost always, it is not a "brand new" thing to forgive, but rather, another example or a clarification of something you've already forgiven.

If it does turn out to be something new, you can just go through the process for this one particular thing, knowing you have already done so much work on other areas of forgiveness. That hard work is not invalidated. Of course, you absolutely may decide to make minor adjustments to how you think of those things, or what you are forgiving. You even may find the new knowledge helps you to better understand the person and have more empathy for them and the way they live.

The point here is that as time moves forward, your forgiveness can be flexible enough to take in changing circumstances. New things may happen with the person. Or you may learn more information about them, or remember something you'd forgotten. None of these things has to torpedo your forgiveness. As they happen, just take these things in, hold them up to the Holy Spirit, listen and ponder, and incorporate them into your greater forgiveness. Things change, of course. But you also have been changed, freed by forgiveness, and empowered to live in its light in a new day.

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