The Three Steps To Forgiveness
It’s a word we hear a lot.
We are supposed to forgive others when they hurt us. Forgiveness releases us from the pain that they have caused us. It allows us space to heal. It does not represent giving in nor does forgiveness mean that one is condoning the behavior of the offender.
Forgiveness can mean freedom from the past, it can mean freedom from current pain and it means freedom to move into the future without destructive baggage hanging on for dear life.
When someone wrongs you one time – if you try, you can forgive them. You can forgive your husband for forgetting your anniversary. You can forgive your best friend for borrowing your car and denting the door. On an even deeper level, you can forgive your past for its ups and downs and twists and turns that brought you to where you are today.
But what happens if someone or something keeps offending you? What happens when you do forgive once – but it happens again? What happens when it happens again after that? And again, after that? How do you live in forgiveness and peace when the offense continues to present itself time and time again?
My name is Erik Hines. I’m one of the pastoral addiction counselors at our Spring to Life location. As a person in recovery myself, I know all too well how my addiction continued to have me offend over and over the people that I loved the most. How did they do it? How did they keep forgiving me? I’ve been in recovery for decades now. I’m comfortable in my own skin and my loved ones trust that I will not offend them with my addiction again, but it wasn’t always that easy.
Through my years of experience of my own and my decades of experience running Spring to Life, I have learned you can forgive a repeat offender.
Step 1: Realize that to forgive simply means to release someone of the debt they owe for the pain they caused.
Many times in life, when people are hurt or offended by another person’s actions or lifestyle, they begin to carry around baggage from that offense. When we don’t release them of their offense, what we are doing in essence, is carrying that baggage on to the next relationship or opportunity, and then we are hurt or offended again and we pile that NEW hurt or offense on top of the old baggage and carry on to the next relationship or opportunity.
Before long you begin to notice that your character has changed. Your attitude has changed. Your confidence has changed. This cycle will continue until you begin the process of unpacking the baggage and releasing the offenders in your life.
Step 2: Think about what happens if you DON’T forgive.
There is a story about a young lady about 50+ years ago who knew she was pregnant and went to the doctor for the delivery, but when she got there, she heard another woman in the throes of birth, screaming in pain. She became scared and ran out of the doctor’s office telling herself that she didn’t want to believe she was pregnant.
Well, as you and I both know, it just doesn’t work that way.
However, this lady was determined to believe that she was no longer pregnant and just went on living her life. For 50 years this woman simply lived her life and never gave birth to a child. Maybe she was right? That she wasn’t actually pregnant?
When she was in her 70’s this lady was experiencing severe abdominal pain and goes to see a doctor. When the doctor does the x-ray he is astonished to find that this lady has what is called a Stone Baby. The doctors then have to perform a long and grueling surgery that last over 6 hours in order to extract this, “Stone Baby” from her abdominal wall.
What happened was that the undelivered baby had died inside of her. And her body had built this protective cocoon around the fetus after it died, to protect her from infection. The surgery was extremely difficult because the Stone Baby had infused with her ribs and stomach and the extraction process tedious and dangerous. After the long surgery, the lady confessed that despite her belief that she wasn’t pregnant and there was no baby, that she still had to alter her life to compensate for the “ailment.” All of those years she wore special shoes, has to use a walker and often took pain medication.
This story reminds me of how not forgiving someone can be. The pain that someone caused us will begin to infuse with our character and personality if we don’t choose to release them of the offense. Over time we will have to compensate and medicate in order to live with the pain.
Step 3: Remember, forgiveness is not about THEM. It’s about you. There’s quote that applies here. “How you treat people is their karma. How you react is yours.”
So, the next time you think about forgiving someone (or something) just remember that forgiveness is not all about them, it’s about you. So what if they may not deserve to be forgiven, you deserve to release them! Holding on to a grudge or an offense can be like carrying a stone baby inside your heart, mind and body – always.
Remember, the baggage of your past will continue to pollute the opportunities of your future if you don’t learn to release those who have caused you pain.
May the rest of your life, be the best of your life,
Pastor Erik Hines
President, Spring to Life