“Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city” Proverbs 16:32 (NIV)
Relationships are bound to experience conflicts. Whether it be friendships, romantic or platonic relationships, there will always be times when the one you love or care about will cause you hurt and pain. Maybe they didn’t say the right thing; or maybe they forgot that special day; or maybe it was something serious like infidelity, lying, being abusive or unapologetic. If the hurt or conflict is great enough and is not resolved, it can cause stress which leads to negative emotions that could result in the relationship ending.
One of the most difficult things to do in life is to forgive. What’s more difficult is to forgive the spouse, partner, ex-partner, friend or family member who deliberately hurt you, even though it was not your fault. In your mind, you are thinking there is no way I’m forgiving them after what they did. It just ain’t happening!
When we feel like we have been wronged, human nature kicks in and the first thing we want to do is get back at the offender. As anger and resentment continues to rise, we allow these negative emotions dictate our thoughts and the actions that come behind it. We want vengeance or we will avoid the person. If we react too quickly, consequences of those actions can have a deep rippling effect.
“If you set a trap for others, you will get caught in it yourself. If you roll a boulder down on others, it will crush you instead.” Proverbs 26:27 (NLT)
One of the greatest mistakes we make is holding on to pent-up, negative emotions. The longer you stew and grit about the hurt, who did it, how it happened and what’s next, the more you’re likely to explode. We can do and say some horrible things out of anger and hot-headiness…then regret or feel guilty about it after the fact.
You can’t take back a stone after it’s thrown, a word once it is spoken, an occasion once it’s missed, an action when it is done and time once it’s passed. Unknown
As Christians, we are not immune to hurt and pain, even from the very ones we love and care about. Sometimes the hurt is intentional. As Christians, how should we respond to people who have deeply wounded us? If we learn to forgive God’s way, we will find a better alternative to living at peace with ourselves and others. Hebrews 12:14 states that we should make every effort to follow peace with all men. Even the ones who intentionally set out to hurt or sabotage the relationship.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” Matthew 5:38-40 (NIV)
Forgiveness involves stabilizing those human natural feelings to seek vengeance and instead, release the person from the liability of the injustice or transgression. Forgiveness is liberating. It relieves us from the anger, resentment and hostility we were holding on to. Unforgiveness binds our spirit and hinders the healing process.
However, forgiving the offender does not relieve them of their mischievous deeds and injustice to you. They must answer to God for themselves about their transgressions.
Action Steps to Forgiveness
- Forgive yourself – In order to forgive others, we must learn how to forgive ourselves for our actions and thoughts of vengeance. Take responsibility on how you handled the situation. Let God handle the offender. We must ask God to help us to rid ourselves of the hurt and the negative emotions; replacing them with values and principles that are consistent with the Word of God.
“If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:18-19
- Spiritual Journal – Write about this event in your spiritual journal. Make a list of all the negative / positive emotions you are experiencing. Are there more negative than positive emotions? Continue to write down every detail of the event. Write down some good points about the offender. Write down steps of how you are going to approach them and forgive.
- Extending an olive branch – Communicate. Call a truce and make peace. As believers of Christ, we are called to a higher standard of peace, love and forgiveness. Even if you feel that the relationship is dissolving, it’s about doing the right thing and being at peace with yourself, regardless of who’s at fault. Show love. God instructs us to treat others as we would like to be treated. It takes a real effort to forgive. Pray for the individual.
- Prayer is everything. Forgiveness is healing. When we forgive, we set ourselves free to cultivate spiritual healing and restoration. Whether you decide to continue or dissolve the relationship, you’ve done your part, now let God do the rest. Turn the page. Forget the past. Let go of guilt. Forgive, let go, move on!
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 (NIV)