Ever battle with forgiving others? Do you feel guilty at times for not forgiving someone who has hurt you? Have you prayed and prayed to God to remove the pain you feel associated with the wrong done to you? Do you find yourself feeling depressed or anxious over memories that you’d soon want to forget? Does the thought of forgiveness seem so distant for you to achieve? Do you feel that if you forgive the person that you will have to be their friend? Have you thought that if you forgive that it would be like excusing what the person did? Does the past somehow affect how you relate to others in the present? Are you feeling tired of holding onto the past pain? Are you wanting to just let go of the hurt but have difficulty doing so? Do you feel trapped in the burden of not knowing how to forgive?
You are not alone with this struggle. Many people, Christian or not, have struggled with forgiving others and just the thought of doing so may ignite the anger, hurt and all the other feelings associated with past offenses. Many times we can recognize the anger, hurts, trauma, disappointments, shame, fear or guilt in our lives long before we can get a clear understanding or direction toward the solutions. As a believer, you have the Holy Spirit by your side to help you overcome the past hurts as well as a trained brother or sister in the Lord available to help you through the process. Therefore, recognizing the inward struggle or battle in your heart is the beginning…moving forward to healing is a necessary process that we as Christian counselors have experience, empathy, care, and compassion to walk, listen and encourage you to healthy change and victory in your life. We have seen many of our Christian clients overcome their past hurts and be able and willing to forgive those who have hurt them. As far as the struggle to forgive, let’s look at some possible reasons why and then what can be done.
Why do I struggle?
The offense was more like a betrayal
The one who offended you may have betrayed your trust. You had a trusting relationship with the person only to discover that the person violated your trust. In the Scriptures we can read of many such cases. For example, Joseph and his brothers, Samson and Delilah, David and Saul, and of course Jesus and Judas Iscariot are a few relationships with betrayal. This offense is painful and yet may be harmful and destructive for you if you continue to hold onto it.
I just want to forget about it and move on
Many people have heard the phrase, “Time heals all wounds” or “Just sweep it under the rug” as ways of handling offenses. However, is this true for everyone and especially for you? What has the aftermath been like for you since the offense? You need to examine what you have done with the “time” since the offense and look to see if you truly are healed. What you may not realize is the changes that you have made because of the offense. Further, understanding how those changes affect you today. Another perspective on “forgetting” the offense is avoiding, denial and pretending. When we put it in our minds to avoid the offender’s offense, deny that it happened, or pretend that it wasn’t as bad as for other people, then we still haven’t dealt with the pain tied to the offense.
I’m still reeling from the pain
Maybe the offense was recent and the pain from it is still fresh or the situation has not changed and the relationship with the offender is on-going (such as a spouse, a boss, a co-worker, a neighbor, the father or mother to your child, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a family member). Being in a “cycle” of offense can be very difficult to manage and especially with those who are a part of your life. Your approach to the offender may take some tact and having a plan of action that does not hurt you (or the other or other witnesses) in the process. Staying in a cycle of being offended along with unforgiveness may generate helpless or hopeless feelings and defensive or “victim” like behavior that will add to your emotional and mental pain. Learning empowerment with boundaries along with a solution focused approach may help you to forgive and to retain your sense of self and dignity. This can be discussed in counseling.
So What Do I Do?
Recognize the pain you have now
Seems pretty obvious, right? Not necessarily. Many people who are experiencing day after day struggles, arguments with others and so on may consider it “normal” or just the way life is supposed to be and not take the time to consider what’s stirring internally. When you take an inside look into how you are feeling, the thoughts associated with your feelings along with how you are reacting to those around you, you may discover that the pain you ignored or covered up is still there. Further recognize how it is affecting your life in the present time. Is reliving the pain of the past worth the quality of life in the present? Maybe the pain you have now is due to current conflict or offenses from another or others. Recognition is a start to working through the hurts and work to changing how you approach them and those in your life.
Explore when the emotional pain started
This may be hard to do especially if it started many years ago. Sometimes it is not even necessary to know exactly when it started. However, it will help you to identify what it was that had happened to initiate the hurt and the circumstances surrounding the event or events. Knowing when can help untangle between current problems or help to figure out differences between the past and the present situations and relationships.
Identify what offense or wrong was done to you
This is a difficult step for many people for various reasons as it may intensify the pain, the anger or other emotions…although initially. Going to the source helps to separate the pain from the event/s and person/s involved. Offenses come in all shapes and sizes and identifying the particulars of the offense may help to sort the thoughts and feelings associated with the offense verses other offenses. This also helps you to know who you are forgiving and it readies you toward forgiving the person/s. Through all this it is not necessary to drudge up all the details but to recognize what you are letting go as a form of purification and renewing your mind with focus on freedom, redemption, hope, love, joy, and grace.
Acknowledge the impact it has had on your life
This may be hard to do as so many things can affect us in different ways. Sometimes doing a timeline from when you remember about the offense and what you found yourself doing at the time up to now may be helpful in sorting these things out.
Take ownership for your pain
This seems counter intuitive given the fact that you didn’t do the offense or cause the pain. However, it is your pain. For example, if you are injured in an auto accident and the person who caused the accident is not injured, the paramedics will take you not the non-injured person. You are the one who is hurting and carrying that pain inside of you. Get yourself the help you need to heal.
With our years of experience in counseling clients through their past hurts and struggles, we look to see how we can help you. Counselors with Pathways each have varying experiences, backgrounds, and approaches that may be the best fit in what you are looking for. Feel free to read more about Pathways, the counselors, or email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call Pathways at 520-292-9750 or contact any of the counselors by email or phone (which is located on their individual webpage).