“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on God’s. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.” – Corrie Ten Boom
As I write this article, every news medium out there is proclaiming the death of Usama Bin Laden. People are celebrating in the streets, calling into radio talk shows and posting on Facebook to express their delight that the king of terror is dead. One person just stated that now that UBL is dead, the families of the victims of 9/11 can finally be at peace. Really? His death has the power to finally transform their anguished hearts into one of acceptance, rest and peace? Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is important that justice be served when at all possible. However, when one has been terribly wronged, maybe to the point of their life being destroyed, what real power, other than consolation, does justice have to heal those broken hearts and rebuild their broken lives?
Corrie Ten Boom, the woman responsible for the quote above, suffered incredible abuse and suffering at the hands of the Nazi’s during World War II. Corrie was a single woman who lived with her sister and elderly father in Amsterdam at the time when the Nazi’s rose to power and began their conquest of Europe, exterminating millions of Jews in the process. The Ten Boom family was responsible for saving the life of over 800 Jews, destined for death by the Nazi’s.
Corrie’s father was a watchmaker and Corrie and her sister, Betsy tended the family shop in their little town of Haarlem. Until one day, they, along with other relatives, were harshly removed from their home and sent to different concentration camps. It was in those concentration camps that her father, sister, brother and a nephew all perished. Corrie survived and went on to share her story of God’s love and the power He gives to forgive enabled her to not only survive but thrive in the years following the horror she experienced.
Now, it could very well be that you don’t have a loved one that has suffered or died at the hands of a terrorist or Nazi, nor have you experienced that kind of pain in your life brought on by another. Yet, it could be that you have been deeply wounded or betrayed, abused or mistreated and it’s been eating you up inside for weeks, maybe even years. The pain it has caused you will not go away and you are in an emotional prison as a result. You know you so desperately need to discover how to forgive someone!
Hopefully, justice has or will be served at some point or another when/if those responsible are made to pay for the injustice or pain they inflicted on you. If not justice, perhaps, it may be that the consequences of their actions come back full circle to hurt them because of their actions. However, to believe that justice or retribution will bring the healing and peace of mind necessary to move on, is to be deceived and is a set-up for disappointment. What if justice is never served and those who fail you or inflict severe pain, never pay for it in any way? What do you do then?
As hard as this may be to accept at times, the only way to healing and restoration is through forgiveness. No doubt, many will cringe at the very thought of forgiving the one responsible for so much pain in their lives. Humanly speaking, it makes no sense at all. Yet, there is no greater power to release us from the pain, inflicted by another, than to forgive the one who caused it.
The alternative to forgiveness is destructive and can have devastating results. It’s like a fire that smolders in the heart and smothers the soul. It is so insidious that one is not often aware of the damage it is doing, until it is too late.
Unforgiving people live as victims and feel justified in doing so. They are often obsessed with the wrong done to them and are quick to point out to anyone who will listen that no one has any idea how much they’ve suffered or how much they have been hurt at the hands of another person. They’re right, most people can’t nor will they ever truly know the suffering of another, yet what is the benefit of staying in that misery and trying to draw others into it along with them? Where is the healing in that?
Unforgiving people manifest signs that should alert them to the damage being done to their souls as they continue to live out their unforgiveness. They are quick to claim rights. They are also very sensitive to any wrongs done to them, regardless of how small or miniscule. They are obsessed with the bad things that have happened to them in the past and are absolutely certain no one’s circumstances were as bad as theirs were. They relish in the power their pain seems to give them over friends and enemies alike, as they seek to demand pity and understanding. They are oblivious to the pain their unforgiveness inflicts on others not understanding or caring that dwelling on their pain only serves to make everyone else around them miserable . In short, unforgiving people are some of the most miserable people in the world.
So, if unforgiveness is an issue for you, what do you do about it? The first thing is to recognize that God Himself has extended the offer of unconditional forgiveness to you, should you choose to receive it. You receive it by believing in His Son Jesus Christ and confessing that He is Lord and then asking for God’s forgiveness. The Bible says we are all sinners and in need of His forgiveness so that we may be reconciled to Him.
Once you receive that forgiveness, the Bible tells us that you receive the power of God, through His Holy Spirit now living in you, to do the things He asks you to do, like forgive other – no matter how awful the violation or abuse. It doesn’t mean you deny the wrong doing or the pain it caused or that you try and excuse it or justify it in any way. It would be disingenuous and demeaning not to recognize and acknowledge something terribly hurtful and inexcusable was done to you and that it should never have happened. It would also minimize the power of forgiveness to bring healing to a broken heart and a devastated soul.
Forgiveness also doesn’t mean you forget but when healing takes place, the memory of the incident will no longer trigger the raw emotions it once did. The memories instead will begin to fade and lose their hold. Rather than pushing all your buttons, the memory will be more about the time you forgave or the process of forgiveness you committed to.
Forgiveness is an act of the will. We have the responsibility, and the authority as children of God to offer to others the very forgiveness that God has given us. That’s what Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:21-35. He would not tell us to do something we did not have the power to do through Him!
What are some practical ways to put into practice how to forgive someone? This may come as a surprise, but the first step is to examine what happened to our heart as a result of how someone else hurt us. Did it cause deep seated anger, bitterness or resentment? Did we speak unlovingly to others about them? Did we retaliate in some way? If so, we are just as guilty before God and we must confess that to Him. We must also confess that to the one to whom we acted or felt this way, regardless of what they originally did to us. Again, this does not in any way say what they did was ok. It’s just allowing our heart to be cleansed from whatever resulted from that so that it’s free to forgive and be healed.
Another practical, yet powerful, way on how to forgive someone is to bless the person every time you think of what they did and the pain they caused you. I Peter 3:8-9 says;
“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”
When you bless others who have hurt or cursed you, God says, you will receive a blessing as a result. Blessings promote healing, not only for you but for those to whom you bless.
You can also write a letter – that you DO NOT SEND – to the person who hurt you. Tell them everything they did that hurt you and how you feel as a result. If you are angry with them, tell them. Be very honest. Writing touches the emotional side of our brain and allows us to get in touch with what we are really feeling. It has been said that most Christians are stuck in their anger because they deny it exists.
When you’re done writing, get alone with God and read it out loud to Him, making sure that no one else can hear you. After you’ve said (and yelled) everything you wanted to say (and yell), make a conscious choice to forgive, remembering that you can only truly forgive with God’s help and power. Then say, “In Jesus Name (that’s where your power and authority comes from) I forgive you. List the name(s) and what specifically you are forgiving them for. Follow that up with “I release you and I bless you.” When you bless them, bless them in every way you would like God to bless you. As you do, you will begin to notice that joy and blessings will start to flow in your heart and life again.” Then, destroy the letter!
Restoration of a broken relationship is a worthy goal, yet there are circumstances and situations where that is not possible or realistic; like when a perpetrator has died or is no longer mentally cognizant or a person has been the victim of rape by an unknown assailant. Nevertheless, regardless of the crime or pain inflicted upon the victim, there will be no healing apart from forgiveness and there will be no real forgiveness apart from the power of God to do so.
It took years but Corrie Ten Boom was finally able to forgive those responsible for the death of her loved ones and the suffering she personally experienced. It was not easy. One prison guard, responsible for death and torture, tested her commitment to forgive when she saw him face to face years later. By God’s grace, she was able to forgive him and as a result of the amazing healing and transformation that took place in her life, she was able to travel around the world, bringing the powerful message of forgiveness to all who desired to be released from their own prison of unforgiveness. Are you ready to be released from yours and start putting into real life, “How to Forgive Someone?”
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