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Finding Forgiveness- Tips on how to forgive even when it’s difficult

forgivenessEvery Christian knows where Jesus stood on the act of forgiveness. Steve Cornell, a senior pastor at Millersville Bible Church, points out, “Jesus clearly warned that God will not forgive those who sin against us (Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:25). It’s not that we earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving; instead, God expects forgiven people to forgive (Matthew18: 21-25).” Even though giving forgiveness is an expectation of Christian people, it is not always so easy to provide. A spouse has an affair, a friend talks badly about you to another friend, a criminal breaks into your house and steals personal items that were important you. No matter what the situation, granting forgiveness to those who hurt you can be difficult. In conflicts, forgiveness is necessary if reconciliation is to occur.

So why is it so difficult to forgive? According to Wayne Stiles, the Executive Vice President for Insight for Living Ministries, forgiving is difficult because “[…] we feel that not forgiving is our payback to our offender. But in truth, unforgiveness tortures us more than it does anyone else.” He goes on to explain, “ The problem with forgiving is that the debt is real. […] And in order to forgive, you must give even more than has already been taken.” Forgiveness is difficult for people who experience a reoccurrence of pain in their lives.

Throughout my life, the challenge has often been granting forgiveness to someone who is not apologetic. I have felt that if I forgave a person who hurt me without them apologizing then they are getting away with it. In an article by Lynette Holy on the Power to Change website she explains, “Forgiving someone does not cancel out the consequences of their actions.” Dr. Andrea Brandt, author of Mindful Anger: A Pathway to Emotional Freedom writes, “By forgiving, you are accepting the reality of what happened and finding a way to live in a state of resolution with it. This can be a gradual process—and it doesn’t necessarily have to include the person you are forgiving.”

Unfortunately, there is not a particular process that works for every person on how to forgive. Depending on the situation and the people, each process is different. However, there are some suggested tips to move toward forgiveness.

Angela Haupt, a senior editor for U.S News, suggests “[Expressing] the emotion. Let yourself feel hurt and angry. Verbalize the way you feel. Ideally, express it to the person who made you feel that way. Otherwise, talk to a stand-in friend or even an empty chair. Write a letter; you don’t need to send it.” Allowing your thoughts and feelings to get out of your head can be a very therapeutic process, people often internalize, and it wears down their energy.

The Mayo Clinic Staff advises that you, “Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how this combination has affected your life, health, and well-being.” Understanding your role, feelings, and thoughts on the situation permits you to gain perspective.

E.C LaMeaux from Gaiam Life suggests that you, “Develop empathy. […] Looking at things from another person’s perspective takes you out of your bubble of hurt, and may make it easier to become more forgiving.” In my graduate courses, we have been required to write about the same conflict from multiple perspectives. Doing this activity has been difficult, but it has allowed me to take myself out of the equation and brainstorm why the other person acted or said what they did. I found it easier to approach the conflict or move on from the conflict once I gained this perspective.

Finally, The Mayo Clinic Staff recommends you, “Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life.” To forgive does not mean you forget, but that you are no longer letting this person or situation effect your day-to-day life.

Granting forgiveness to someone that hurts you is not always an easy task, but continuing to harbor a grudge can be detrimental to your emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Abigail Clark

Graduate Student, University of Baltimore –

Negotiation and Conflict Management Program



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