We have probably heard the teachings on topic of Forgiveness numerous times. So we are not ignorant regarding the importance of forgiving another and some of us have been living a lifestyle of forgiveness as a Christian. We are probably familiar with the numerous verses in the Bible that talks about forgiveness. Verses like
Matthew 6:14-15 – For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
Mark 11:25 – Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.
Forgiveness set us free. It is also an act of obedience, because the Bible tells us to forgive. Many even prayed to God for help to forgive others who have sinned against them. Whatever is our conviction about forgiveness, we must understand that forgiveness is not a sickness or a condition. Forgiveness is a choice. It is a choice that we make with our free will, a gift from God. Some believers have to keep making the same choice over and over again over the same person and same incident. A sign that unforgiveness is still residing in us.
We have all heard the advice to “give it time” to heal and we will be able to forgive. However, as much as there is a chance that we may find it easier to forgive as time goes passed, there is also an equal chance that the unforgiveness builds up inside us and eventually turned into bitterness. So the hypothesis of “Time is the best medicine” does not apply to every situation.
Let us then try to explore what unforgiveness does to us and how, from a practical standpoint, we can start to forgive even when it is too hard.
THE EFFECT OF UNFORIVENESS
1. Medical study showed that Unforgiveness causes our body to produce a chemical Cortisol. Cortisol is also known as a fuel for stress. Stress lower our immunity system and medical research suggests that up to 90 percent of all illness and disease is stress-related.
2. Over a period of time, Cortisol will cause our brain to shrink causing severe headaches and many neurological problems including strokes and ALS. A shrunk brain will become slower affecting our ability to reason and memory.
3. Unforgiveness is a selfish choice. An unforgiving person will have difficulty showing kindness and genuine care. They are incapable of giving unconditional love therefore they often have problem maintaining healthy relationship. Their insecurities often make them very possessive and often need the security of sex to feel safe in a relationship. If they have any relationship at all it is usually built upon hypocrisy.
4. Unforgiveness is of the flesh. It is a self-centered
attitude that makes us feel that others do not care about us and are avoiding us. Therefore we often feel lonely, being sidelined or abandoned. This often led to unreasonable demands in relationship causing stress in friendship.
5. An unforgiving person slips into depression and anxiety constantly.
6. Unforgiveness and stress cause skin problems making us age faster and develop sicknesses easier.
HOW TO FORGIVE
There are 2 keys that could help us to forgive someone, even when it is hard.
Key 1 : Dying to self
Neuropsychological research tells us that unforgiveness involve 3 parts.
- An expanded sense of self.
- Self preservation – Sensitive to the behavior of others.
- Memory of the event in order to link that injury to the offending person.
The sense of self is located in the area of the Limbic system that deals with our emotions. That is why unforgiveness always involve strong emotions. The first key in forgiveness is dealing with or taking away the “self” part reducing the emotional attachment to the event, making it an experience and memory only. After that, even when we remembered the event, it will not arouse the emotions that were involved, which is an accurate assessment of forgiveness.
Therefore, if we want to forgive someone, take ourselves out of the picture. Sometimes whatever happened was not personal. It is not always about us. We call this attitude “dying to self”.
Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Key 2 : Empathy
Neuroscientists now know the part of our brain that deal with forgiveness. This part is situated near to another part of the brain that deals with Empathy. Studies shown that when the Empathy part of the brain is active, it affects the surrounding portions of the brain, including the part that deals with forgiveness.
Empathy is the “identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.” Sympathy has a connotation of intellectual understanding and pity while empathy implies deeply personal identification on an emotional level. Compassion is the action side of empathy. We feel empathy and show compassion.
Hebrews 2:17-18 : Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.
So the 2 keys of forgiveness are dying to self and empathy. It is amazing that the Word of God although written at least 2000 years ago talks about this 2 keys repeatedly. It further proves the greatest of God and His unsearchable wisdom and power.
STEPS TO FORGIVENESS
There are 5 steps to forgiveness.
Step 1: ACCEPT
James 4:6 – But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
First we have to accept the fact that we have been hurt. It could be our closest friend or someone we looked up to, it could be anyone. Then we also have to accept the fact that we have tried but are still unable to forgive. We have to stop lying to ourselves that everything is okay. Finally we must understand that we need to deal with that unforgiveness.
Step 2: KNOWING
John 8:32 – and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
Know that Forgiveness is far greater than the need to be right. Unforgiveness will kill us both physically and spiritually. Our unforgiveness will hurt people around us especially those we care and love most.
Step 3: STOP RE-TELLING
Proverbs 10:19 – When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.
The more we tell the harder to forgive due to PRIDE. When we tell we are reliving the incident again and again, the hurts will get deeper and deeper. It pollutes the thoughts of those we told creating hindrances to their Christian walk. If you have to tell, change the way the story is told to promote reconciliation.
Step 4 : GET OUT QUICK
“Do not call to mind the former things, r ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new …. I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
ACCEPT that there were legitimate reason(s) that drove the other person behaviour. Use the 2 keys of forgiveness mentioned above, dying to self and empathy. We must also ACCEPT that there were many reasons why we behaved that way. It matters how we think and act from this moment onwards. The past is over. It cannot be changed. Only the future can. We determine our future.
Step 5 : ACTS OF LOVE
Romans 12:18 – If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men
Actions that follow the decision to forgive helps to heal and rebuild what has been damaged. It helps in our forgiveness process and gives us the drive to move forward. In performing the acts of love remember always not to procrastinate be the first one who initiate communication. If you are the transgressor, apologize and ask forgiveness and for guidance in making amends. Yes making amends, it really helps.
If an apology was offered be ready to accept the apology, and offer forgiveness.
If nothing seemed to be happening in a meeting apologize using “If I have sin against you ……”.
Repeat step 1 to 5 if the result is not ideally what you hope to achieve.
In conclusion, forgiveness is beneficial to us. Unforgiveness can cause serious health issues to us affect our immune system, intelligence and the ability to relate to one another. There 2 main keys in a forgiveness process. First involve the removing of self in the whole matter which actually mean dying to self and the other is empathy, putting ourselves into the offender’s shoe. Forgiveness is a process. The choice of forgiving someone is only the beginning. Constant acts of love help us to put things in prospective and help us to heal and move forward together. Finally, before we decide to do anything, the bible says in Philippines 4:6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Always pray before we decide to do anything and the grace of God will accompany us.