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5 Steps to Successful Forgiveness

5 Steps to Successful Forgiveness

forgiveness_stepsEmotional Detoxing

I’m on a journey to wholeness—detoxing my body through whole foods and juicing while I detox my heart through forgiveness. Relationships  bring us cheer, approval, comfort, love, and joy. Broken relationships bring anger, discouragement, depression,  sadness, and sorrow.

Unforgiveness is Toxic

Unforgiveness is toxic. It can consume us. It  causes suffering, health problems, bitterness, chronic anger, resentment, rage, and a miserable attitude. Studies show that such emotions can lead to an increased risk of heart attack, joint pain, headaches, high blood pressure and a depressed immune system.

Forgiveness releases hurt, heals emotional pain, and removes toxic emotions by cleansing our heart and freeing our soul.

Knowing the detrimental results of unforgiveness and the wonderful peace of forgiveness makes the choice a no-brainer!

“But I Can’t Control My Feelings!”

You may say, “I can’t control my feelings”—and this might be true. But you can control your thoughts, and your thoughts control your feelings.

Choosing to wallow in  thoughts of revenge is self-indulgent sin comparable to gluttony. Forgiveness is essential to the Christian faith; it’s one of the hardest things to do, and one of the most important lessons we can learn.

Step 1: Seek God

  • Ask God to reveal any unforgiveness in your heart.
  • Confess. Unforgiveness is a sin. Ask God to forgive you for harboring bad feelings.
  • Ask God to renew your heart and give you a right spirit and perception (unforgiveness usually clouds our judgment and distorts our view of the situation).
  • Thank  God for His forgiveness toward you.
  • Ask God to help you answer the questions below (examining your heart)  honestly.

Step 2: Examine Your Heart

Examine your heart to get an assessment of who you need to forgive. You may need paper and pencil for this.

Are you bitter?  Are you harboring resentment against someone from your past? Does the memory of the hurt and pain overwhelm you again and again?

Does anxiety erode your mind as events play over and over? If you cannot forget, have you forgiven?

Write down the name of a person or persons (friend, family, enemy) you have had to forgive for hurting you in some way (for any situation occurring over your lifetime).

  1. What type of offense was it? a) a one time offense, or b) something ongoing (opening the wound over and over).
  2. Did you forgive them? a) yes. b) no. c) I’m not sure. d) I’m trying. e) I’m waiting for an apology.
  3. Did you pray about the situation? a) yes. b) no.
  4. Did you pray for the person? (in a positive manner; praying vengeance doesn’t count) a) yes. b) no.
  5. Do you find yourself having to forgive over and over? a) yes. b) no. c) I’m holding a grudge.
  6. How often do you think of the hurtful instance? a) hourly b) daily. c) weekly d) monthly e) annually f) never.
  7. How much time have you invested in replaying the story of what was done to you? a) an hour or less. b) several hours. c) over the years, dozens of hours. d) I’m not sure.
  8. In what frame do you think about it? a) lesson learned the hard way. b) pain and agony. c) opportunity for spiritual growth.
  9. How do feel when you think of the situation now? a) peaceful. b) anxious, angry and depressed.

Step 3. Choose to Forgive

Forgiveness is not saying that you weren’t hurt or that the event was fair. It is not finding a redeeming quality to make the person worth forgiving.

Forgiveness is an emotional choice you make to give the person over to God and allow Him to handle the situation.

Blessed are the merciful,  for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7

If  the person you need to forgive is not alive or is unapproachable, your forgiveness will be a work in your heart. Allow the Holy Spirit do His healing work.

If  the person you need to forgive is alive and approachable, you need to take action:

  • Address the situation. Acknowledge  something is wrong and needs to be fixed.
  • Discuss where the relationship veered off course and what wrongs may have been committed (remember to have a soft voice).
  • Apologize. Accept responsibility for your actions and seek forgiveness.
  • Do not accuse, or blame, or defend. The goal is to reconcile, not argue.
  • Allow the Holy Spirit do His healing work.
  • Ask, “What can I do to correct this problem?” Be willing to do what is requested.
  • Invest your time, energy, and love in restoring the relationship.

What if They Aren’t Willing to Forgive You?

Have you sincerely apologized? Do you have to keep asking for forgiveness? Do you need to beg? What if they say they forgive you but continue to bring up the problem or the sin?

What if you get angry because they didn’t forgive you? This can be a vicious cycle, resulting in a serious circle of bitterness. Here are the steps to take:

  1. Forgive them for not forgiving youPray that God will open their eyes and their heart. They will reap what is sown (bitterness and unforgiveness). If you have truly forgiven them you don’t want them to reap these things. Pray for them.
  2. Be patient. Recognize that you have no direct control over the other’s thinking, feeling or behavior. It is natural and human to feel offended, mad and resentful when you try to mend differences and the other person won’t respond. This may be something you will have to give to God daily.
  3. Let it goDon’t continue to apologize, as long as you have done so sincerely. Don’t play it over in your mind; it only stirs up anger. Find it in yourself to demonstrate love, concern, and the desire to improve the relationship.
  4. Focus on God’s perfect forgiveness. Psalm 103:12 says It is possible for the Lord to look at us without seeing our sins because when he forgave us, he removed our sins as far as the east is from the west

Step 4. Take Every Thought Captive

The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have, and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity. (2 Corinthians 10:3–6 The Message Bible)

How do you take thoughts captive? Through prayer, focusing on God’s forgiveness, and  focusing on God’s Word.

  1. Pray: When Satan attempts to seduce you into scheming revengeask God to help you take the thought captive by  praying for God to fill you with His love.
  2. Focus on God’s Forgiveness: As soon as you are tempted to replay the offense in your mind or to plot revenge, stop and focus on the things God has forgiven in your life. Its a humbling step. When I recall the depth of grace and mercy God has shown me, its hard to focus on their  sins.
  3. Focus on God’s Word: Read the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-45), the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15: 11–32), and the parable of the debt (Matthew 18:23–32). Memorize any or all of the verses below:

Ephesians 4:32 – And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

2 Corinthians 2:5–7 – But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such as one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.

Colossians 3:12,13 – Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

Luke 17:3 – Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him: and if he repent, forgive him.

Matthew 18:21 – Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times: but until seventy times seven.

2 Chronicles 7:14 – If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Print these verses out and have them handy when temptation strikes.

Step 5.  Continue to Forgive

God forgives perfectly– forever.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:11,12).

For us, forgiveness is a process.

I have been forgiving someone for over thirty years, over and over, as memories of events come to my mind to remind me of the hurt.

Thirty years later, the person deceived my children by lying about the original offense.  The people who could verify the truth were no longer alive.

My flesh went into action. Do me wrong and I get angry. Try to turn my children against me and a new creature is formed (imagine an infuriated mother bear).

At first I quenched my anger. I refused to think about it–not realizing it was boiling inside.  This new insidious pain brought back all the original pain, a hundredfold.

A few weeks later I finally exploded. I attempted to reason with an unreasonable person. It was useless. It only made things worse.

I wasted three days of my life wallowing in the pain again—and I don’t have three days to waste. I finally realized how stupid unforgivness is and followed the steps above. I released the person again to God and asked God to fill me with His love.  God softened my heart. I was able to view the person as someone who was hurting instead of someone who hurt me.

breaking freeWhen I am weak (especially tired or ill), Satan whispers tempting thoughts. I try to remember Paul’s words:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9,10)

The first offense was horrible; the second was scandalous, but all of it brought me closer to God with a new realization of His grace and mercy.  I can now agree with Paul’s words “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Keep your eyes fixed on the Lord, He is faithful and will carry you through.

How about you? Any unforgiveness taunting you? How do you handle it?

About Robin Sampson

11 comments

  1. Received this privately. Would anyone like to respond?

    I have no doubt that Christians should have the spirit of forgiveness, or willingness/being ready to forgive…but since the prerequisite for receiving God’s forgiveness is repentance and a turning away from past behavior, it puzzles me that Christians should have a higher standard than the Lord’s.

    We cannot be reconciled to God without His forgiveness….so how can an earthly relationship be reconciled if the offending party fails to admit or repent of ‘divisive behavior’ aka ‘sin’. When an erring person is loving confronted, and it’s someone very close to you like your husband, and it results in no admission, no sorrow, no repentance and no change, how can the relationship be reconciled?

    Thanks, Robin………sincerely

  2. We have a “neighbor” who shares the property with us. Over the past year (since we moved in) he has stopped communicating with us, acted as though he was going to hurt one of our goats, cussed me out and, at one point, pulled a gun on a small goat (with me holding it). Unfortunately, his attitude has caused us to not want to go outside when he is there, which usually meant most of the weekend.

    The day after the gun incident we thought he was having a heart attack. He asked for my forgiveness and I ended up driving him to the hospital in his own vehicle to meet up with his wife and one of their sons. I told him I forgave him, and I have. During the couple of months after that incident he has given candy to our kids, meat to our family (he raises cattle) and was a bit more communicative. However, he started going incommunicado again and we just paid attention to his comings and goings. The property owner had been watching the situation, as well as the local sheriff dept., and eventually our “neighbor” was asked to relocate his animals elsewhere. Since that day, he has returned to his grumpy old inconsiderate self. We continue to call him when something is wrong with one of his animals and I would again help him, if he asked or needed my help with something. Many people would be spiteful and just let him find out he had an injured animal or was missing animals when he arrived. That’s not acting in a forgiving manner. A forgiving manner is acting as though the incident never happened.

    When we are instructed to forgive someone, we are not instructed to wait until they repent. We are simply instructed to forgive someone as many times as it takes. Yeshua said to forgive someone seven times seventy instances. That would imply for the same offense. ‘Teshuva’ is the word where we get ‘repent’ from. It means to run away from something never to return. Yeshua, as the son of YHWH, knew that we are fallible humans and are prone to repeat our sins, whether against YHWH or against another person. If we waited until someone repented before we forgave them, hardly anyone would be forgiven.

    When we sin, we are to ask forgiveness from the one/One we sinned against. That is part of repentance. True repentance means to not do the sin again, yet we somehow manage to fall down and repeat our mistakes. If we do, we keep asking for forgiveness and we continue to seek towards ‘teshuva’, and completely run away from that sin, never to do it again.

    Yet, the question at hand isn’t are we to repent, but rather are we to forgive without repentance. My answer is yes, based upon Yeshua’s words. In the final moments before He passed on the Cross, He said, “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do.” The people who were put Him up there, the people who condemned Him, the people that spat and threw rocks at Him didn’t know they were sinning against the Son of YHWH. They all believed they were following either a Roman law or a law of Torah. How could they repent for something that they didn’t know was wrong? I’m sure that many of them did repent after they saw the sun go dark and the earth shake, though.

    When the person that has sinned against us repents, they are doing as THEY are instructed. When we forgive someone, we are doing as WE are instructed. As we tell our kids, worry about yourself and the instructions you were given, not those given to someone else.

    — Mattit

  3. krista

    Boy, do I have experience with that!
    Here are my thoughts….
    First of all, forgiveness does not release a person from the consequences of an offense, whether the forgiveness comes from God or man. Sin=destruction. However, the ways of God leave room for reconciliation, whereas the world seals up the way.

    I read somewhere that refusing to and failing to forgive someone is to carry the sins of others to your grave.

    In earth-bound relationships, forgiveness in spite of unrepentance is exclusively for the forgiver, not the “recipient”.
    For the one choosing to forgive the unrepentant, it’s like saying, I release myself from the burden your sin has placed upon my spirit. I am shedding the seeds of bitterness, wrath, vengeance, hardness, anger, hatred, and so on, which are the fruits of unforgiveness. I am trusting in the LORD to make this right. I am ceasing striving for vindication. I am choosing to be obedient and trusting and resting on the promises of God. I am letting go, and letting God. I am taking a step toward spiritual growth and maturity. I hope you join me sometime. (none of this should actually be said to the recipient, but rather should be carried in a quiet spirit ;)

    We do not have to be right….only humble.
    The LORD gives grace to and exalts the humble. He opposses and debases the proud. (Matthew 23:12)

    The only right a Christian has is the right to give up her rights. -Oswald Chambers
    (1 Peter 5)

  4. PLorena

    Forgive because the Father has forgiven you, forgive because He commanded you to do so, and forgive to be in fellowship with the Father. To not forgive is to sin against our Father.

    He has stated in His Word clearly that if we forgive men their trespasses, He will forgive us ours and that if we don’t forgive men their trespasses, He won’t forgive us ours.

    Forgiveness is not based on a feeling; it is a deliberate act of your will. Forgive and be free.

    I stand in need of forgiveness, so I forgive others.

  5. Hello Robin! Thanks for the comment you left on my blog. However, I am so sorry to inform you that I am not aware of an action that lets you do what you asked. Maybe you wish to check out Studio Wendy’s store for such action. Or contact Wendy herself at Scrapbook Graphics. Good luck!

    By the way, thanks for this useful and timely post. I will surely bookmark your website. God bless you!

  6. Forgiveness truly may be impossible for those who are in the flesh. However, we are to walk after the spirit. Unforgiveness truly is toxic, deadly poison in fact. Without forgiveness, God will not forgive us according to scripture. May God bless all who share his word in spirit and in truth.

  7. This is really very awesome, the first to points seek GOD and examine your heart is the perfect one, As no one who do not listen his/her heart do not have power to forgive anything, forgive is not the thing but also forget the happening is the power which directly come from GOD. Thank you and very nice thoughts.

  8. keijo leppioja

    Is it wonderful message that be forgiven and forgive aruond us in alot cantact in life and share our faith for Christ that the lord will forgive sin and heal and fild us with the Holy Spirit and in power and wisdom and and in love to be victorious in Christ,thanks and bless and joy in prying,keijo sweden

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