Proverbs 11:17 "The merciful man does good for his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh."
In his book ĎLouder than Wordsí, Pastor Andy Stanley explains that forgiving someone who has wronged you is really a gift to you more than to them: "We have a tendency to view forgiveness as a gift to the one who offended us Ė as a benefit to that person. For this reason, we are hesitant to forgive. Why give something to someone who has already taken something from us? That doesnít make any sense. After all, we are the ones who are owed. But forgiveness is not a gift for someone else. Sure, it may involve granting a pardon for an offense. But thatís just the beginning. The effects of forgiveness run much deeper. For the most part, itís a gift that was designed for us. Its something we give ourselves. Because when you consider everything thatís at stake, the one who benefits the most from forgiveness is the one who grants it, not the one who receives it." I want to offer you his 3-step, biblical solution for how to forgive another so that you can allow God to heal the wound in your heart.
Step #1: Charge the Defendant. Identify what has been taken from me (I know what the person did, but I donít know exactly what the person took). The problem: generalized forgiveness does not heal specific wounds. I may go through the motions of forgiving, but I wonít experience the release from the hurt. Forgiveness centers on canceling debts Ė so I must clearly identify the debt before I act to cancel it. Have I been blamed for something I didnít do? Have I been lied to? Has someone spread gossip about me that has stolen my reputation? Did my mother or father abandon me, or just never gave me the time I really wanted?
Step #2: Drop the Charges. Instead of pressing charges, I make the decision to drop the case. I must declare that the person who offended me doesnít owe me anything anymore. My key: Forgiveness is not a feelingÖitís a decision. I simply choose to cancel the debt. My joy: its between my Father and I - He is pleased with me (I donít need to share it with the one who hurt me). My temptation: to judge whether or not I have forgiven by how I fell toward the offender. But its not about me.
Step #3: Dismiss the Case. I decide that I will not reopen the case. My struggle: my feelings donít just automatically follow my decision to forgive, and my memory isnít erased (when those memories flood back in, my old feelings come back along with them). I must renew my mind all over again and face those memories when they come back (memories arenít my problem Ė its what I choose to do with them that determines their impact). But I mustnít reopen the case Ė go back to Step #1 and pinpoint again that thing that was taken from me. Then, praise my Heavenly Father for giving me the grace and strength to "drop the charges" and forgive, reminding myself that what I have against the offender is nothing compared to what He forgave in me. Donít accept the lie that I never really forgave Ė focus on the TRUTH that I made the decision to cancel the debt, so by Godís promises the debt was cancelled
What memories really are: opportunities to renew my mind with what I know is true and to rejoice in my own forgiveness. Truly forgiving someone doesnít always mean truly forgetting. But if I renew my mind, even painful memories become reminders of His goodness and grace and healing power in my life.
Ed Croteau is a resident of Leeís Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called "Faith: Substance and Evidence." He can be reached with your questions through the Leeís Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.