The Norman Transcript

March 29, 2013

Forgiving others

By Jerry N. Duncan, Ph.D., ABPP
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Not every hurt we experience requires forgiveness. Some hurts we easily write off or ignore. Other hurts are not dismissed so easily. Hurts that are personal, deep and unfair require something more. When deep hurts are not resolved properly, they “contaminate” us, resulting in long-standing and worsening bitterness and resentment.

There are four principles and one technique for forgiveness I would like to introduce you to:

Principle No. 1: Forgiveness is for you, not for the person who hurt you. You may not have had control over the original hurt they did to you, but you can control the hurt you do to yourself with bitterness and resentment. The goal of forgiveness is to heal yourself. You deserve it. God provided forgiveness for those settings or circumstances when you might never get that apology or contrite heart you need. It puts you and God in control of the healing.

Principle No. 2: Forgiveness does not require trust or reconciliation. Sometimes the person that hurt you is unwilling to change or get help with the behavior that was so harmful to you. You do not have to trust them or reconcile with them to forgive them. Remember Principle No. 1.

Principle No. 3: Forgiveness is a process. It is not a one-time act of recognizing the need to forgive, or praying a single prayer of forgiveness. Hurt harbored over a period of time results in individual “pebbles” of bitterness added each time we recollect the hurt and feel our secret hate for the person that harmed us. The pebbles only go away one-at-a-time as well. Each time we choose to see the hurt differently, some healing occurs. If when we remember the hurt, we wish them bad, we have quite a few pebbles needing to be dislodged. If when we think about the hurt, we do not wish them bad, but do not wish them well either, we are “on our way.” If when we remember the hurt, we can still wish them well, we have evidence that we are free from the damage we have done to ourselves.

Principle No. 4: Forgiveness is something you do. There actually is a concrete, tangible way to create the healing. The technique involves returning in your mind to the memory of the original hurt and seeing the person(s) as someone weak and fallible, and separating what they did from who they are. For example, “_______ is weak and fallible and subject to human error. What _______ did is horrible and despicable, but who _______ is is someone deeply and incredibly loved by God.” These statements are repeated over and over until you know all of the pebbles are gone.

Forgiveness is not an easy thing to do, it’s just an important thing to do. Understanding that forgiveness is a tool God designed for our personal good helps make some sense out of Jesus’ recommendation to forgive seventy times seven if necessary. He wanted us to have peace in spite of the circumstances outside our control, like the free-will choice of someone else to hurt us.

We have all been hurt in personal, deep, and unfair ways or we will be in the future. Hope you find the peace and healing you were intended to enjoy.

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