Forgiveness

Forgiveness: To excuse for a fault or an offense; Pardon. To renounce anger or resentment against.

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Some verses that address forgiveness…

Matthew 14-15 (The Message) “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”

Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV) “Then Peter came ot Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Luke 17:3-4 (The Message) “Be alert. If you see your friend going wrong, correct him. If he responds, forgive him. Even if it’s personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says, “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.”

Galatians 6:1-2 (The Message) “Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.”

Unresolved conflict can fester hurt and pain. There are major hurts and minor hurts that can be created through conflict. What are some minor hurts you have experienced?

What are some major hurts you have experienced?

We all deal with our hurts in different ways. Sometimes we internalize our hurts, occasionally we retaliate, and sometimes we choose to forgive. How do you deal with your hurts?

Forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a choice! Consider the following statement:

“We choose to forgive just as we choose not to forgive. Extending forgiveness or withholding forgiveness is a clear and deliberate choice. Forgiveness does not mean we feel better about what happened to us. Forgiveness does not mean the damage was not real or we will forget about what happened to us. Forgiveness means we choose to release our offender from what is owed to us. Once we have made a choice to forgive, the healing process is free to begin. Sometimes forgiveness brings instant relief. Often forgiveness takes time for our emotions to catch up with the action, which our will has taken. We must grant a judicial pardon to our offender for the healing process to take place”

What part of this passage about forgiveness catches your attention? How come?

Unforgiveness is like a prison. It is an attempt to control a situation or another person. To seek revenge on someone for causing you pain. The most interesting part is that the offender is usually far less hurt by unforgiveness than the victim. More times than not, the one who caused you pain does not know or care that you are holding a grudge. You have locked yourself in a prison and only you have the keys to escape. Escaping is a choice. Another metaphor of unforgiveness goes like this: A man comes along and stabs you with a knife. You lay on the ground bleeding to death. Others stop by and offer to help. You even have a first aid kit in your bag, and a cell phone to call 9-1-1; but instead, you insist on waiting for the man that stabbed you to come back and stitch you up. Weird. Why would you wait for that?

What will be you first steps to forgiving? Many people find it helpful to pray and verbalize the decision to forgive. Some people need to write letters to express their forgiveness. The following is an outline to a forgiveness letter that might help you to express yourself:

I) Why are you writing – what happened exactly, write down as many details as possible

II) Admit your feelings – how did this event make you feel (physically, emotionally and spiritually?) What has holding onto these feelings cost you? How did this event change your life? Do you see the world, life, yourself or relationships differently since the event? If so, how is it different?

III) Forgive and release the person – _________, I choose to forgive you for (name EXACTLY what you are forgiving the individual for, explain why you are choosing to forgive the individual and release them from what you feel is owed to you since the offense)

IV) Let go and move forward – Now describe the feelings that you will be replacing the former feelings with (ex: instead of anger and fear, I will be walking in peace and courage). How will you behave differently since forgiving and releasing the person and your feelings of bitterness? How will you see yourself differently? How will you see the world differently? How will you see the individual differently?

IMPORTANT NOTE: These letters do not, necessarily, have to be sent. If you feel that sending this letter would cause more damage to your mental health, or cause the receiver confusion, please carefully discuss whether or not to send this note with a mental health professional. I often write these letters with clients and we have a celebration during which we burn the letter as a sign of letting go and releasing.

Below is yet another Forgiveness Letter template. This one includes a bit more detail. Please use whichever helps your expression best.

Another Forgiveness Letter Template

Dear ________________,

  1. Tell why you are writing letter (ex: to forgive and let go of resentment and hurt, etc.) Be specific about the offense and the consequences and results of the offense. Describe when it occurred and how it occurred. If it was ongoing, describe the exact behavior(s) the person practiced that hurt you.
  2. I felt _________________ when you ______________. I’m choosing to forgive you because you hurt me; whether intentionally or unintentionally.
  3. Since this happened, I’ve felt ____________ toward you. Because of this (since this person offended you), I’ve felt ____________ toward myself and thought ______________ about myself. Even though it’s not true, I’ve believed ___________________ about other people and the world. (As we are hurt in life Satan will allow us to believe lies about ourselves, other people, and the world. For example: I must protective myself because people are always out to get me. Dig into what exactly you have come to believe about yourself, the world, and other people since the hurtful event occurred).  The truth is that I am ______________, people are _________________ and the world is ______________________. (Despite what lies we learn to believe due to hurtful events, God has truths that far surpass the power of satan’s lies. Ask God what His truth is that replaces the lies you have been believing about yourself, other people, and the world at large)
  4. As I choose to forgive you, I let go of the feelings of _________________________
  5. My life will look different now because ____________________________
  6. When I see you or think of you from now on, I will no longer dwell on _____________________ because I choose to forgive you. Instead, I will think about what you’ve taught me through this situation. I will act ________________ toward you. I will see you as ______________.
  7. Describe what you’ve learned and how you have grown through this situation.
  8. I forgive you and set you free. With this letter, I’m set free too.

Part 7 of grief & loss curriculum 

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