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Forgiving Those Who Hurt You



(Excerpt of CH 4 of "Healing Beyond Trauma")


When I educated myself on all of this, I reduced it down to one simple question. For me, to continue to hold onto old hurt, anger, resentment, and unforgiveness was to slowly poison myself to death, to sit idly by while my body deteriorated because of it. To forgive meant I could LIVE. It really all boils down to this one question, “Do you want to live, or do you want to die??” You decide. If you put this decision off and in the meantime are still holding on to unforgiveness, then let me point out that your lack of choosing is in fact a choice. You are choosing DEATH by inaction. Your life is in your hands. What will you do with it?

I know what you're thinking, "How could I possibly forgive them?? What they did was UNFORGIVEABLE!" Sometimes it feels as if we, the "victims," are having to do all the work, while those who hurt us get to waltz through life carefree without consequence. It seems that way, I know, but trust me...it's an ILLUSION. This is a false belief we often take on after being hurt which comprises most of the bars of the prison we live the rest of our lives in. UNLESS we can find the truth that is the key that unlocks that prison. If there is ONE truth that is the master key to freedom for you, let me tell you....FORGIVENESS is it!! There is no easy way around it. You cannot escape it. The only way to freedom is through it!

If only it were that simple....Simple it is, easy it is not. It is simple, in that it really is a choice you can make for yourself (not for THEM, but for YOU). You can choose to forgive, and in doing so unlock the prison you were placed in by your anger, hurt, and pain. Sometimes that is much harder than it seems. We just want to hold on to those deep, deep wounds with all we have. We want justice to be served and we think we can somehow control that. In holding on, though, you are not forgiving. Just like you can choose to forgive, you can also choose to stay imprisoned. But why would you?? If you know you have freedom just one step away, why would you refuse to take that step?? But people do just that, all the time. What will you choose to do?

For me it became a very black and white decision. I broke it down to life or death. I could choose to hold on to the unforgiveness, but in doing so I would be choosing my own death. Yes, sure, maybe I could live a few more years, but I would be miserable, lonely, angry, and bitter, isolated in a prison of my own making. What kind of a life is that?? OR, I could choose to FORGIVE, and in doing so I would be choosing to walk out of the prison into a life of freedom in which I could potentially experience peace, love, joy, and happiness like I had never known. And THAT would be truly living!! So, what to choose...life or death?? I chose life!!! And I have not, not even for one millisecond, ever regretted that choice. Instead I chide myself for putting it off and cheating myself out of the peace and happiness I now WALK IN DAILY for so long!

So how do you do this? You just do it! Everyone will develop their own individual process that works best for them, but I'll share my process with you and you are more than welcome to try it for yourself. I encourage you to do this your own way, though. As long as you don't skip important steps or gloss over it and not actually forgive! Trust me, I've done that, too!! When I got serious about this forgiving business, I sat down and methodically went back through my life and thought of every single hurt I had ever experienced. And it was a lot!! I had a notebook, and I filled up a few pages...just with the names of the people who had hurt me (not what they had done). Rows and rows of names. People who had rejected me, mocked me, abused me, betrayed me, lied to me, stolen from me, abandoned me.....you get the idea. ANY hurt at all, I wrote the name down on my list. And then I started going down the list, forgiving one by one.

I used a three-step process to forgive; I explain this in more detail in my book, “Healing Beyond Trauma,” but for the purpose of this article I will briefly explain. Forgiving is only step one: choosing to say, in your heart, mind, and spirit, “I forgive __(NAME)__________ for __(offense/hurt)_________ (you fill in the blanks).” The second step is releasing them to your Higher Power, God as you understand Him/Her, and letting go of the hurt, anger, and bitterness. The final step is a "test-step"….it is to ask your Higher Power to bless him or her. If you can truly, sincerely from your heart, ask for blessings for those who have hurt you, then you have forgiven and released them.

1. FORGIVE

2. RELEASE/LET GO

3. BLESS/WISH WELL

Once you have completed this step you should be able to think of the person who hurt you, the things they did that hurt you, and feel no real pain or anger at all any longer. It should be an objective memory without strong emotion attached. If you have not achieved that level of peace with it yet, then go back to step one and go through the process again. It may take a few tries to fully forgive. That is okay. What is not okay is giving up and continuing to hold on to the toxic unforgiveness, and choosing to stay in your prison. Fight for your freedom! You deserve it!

If you do find it difficult to forgive, a method often recommended is to “pray for your enemies” daily until you are able to forgive. If prayer is not something you practice, consider starting a new habit. Research shows that prayer is a protectant against depression and that it does aid in healing (Miller 2013). Dr. Lisa Miller, professor and director of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University conducted a study that shows that people who valued their religion and prayed regularly had thicker cortices in the brain which indicated a lower chance of depression (2013). Another study, conducted by Dr. William Harris of the Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, MO, demonstrated that patients who were prayed for over the course of one year had eleven percent fewer heart attacks and strokes than patients who had not been prayed for (1999). So prayer appears to have value and effectiveness even in the scientific and medical communities. Why not give it a try?


"Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others" (Colossians 3:13 NLT).


Sample prayer of forgiveness:

Dear Heavenly Father,

I forgive ______________ for hurting me by _____________. I forgive him/her and ask You to forgive him/her, too. I release them into Your hands, for You to do as You see fit. I let go of all the pain, anger, bitterness, and resentment I have toward them about this. I ask Your forgiveness for holding on to this hurt for so long. I also ask You to bless them, to bring them into right relationship with You, and to give them a good life.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.


REFERENCES:

Godwin, Kristi, Dr. Healing Beyond Trauma, Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2018.


Harris, WS, Gowda, M, Kolb JW, et al. A Randomized, Controlled Trial of the Effects of Remote, Intercessory Prayer on Outcomes in Patients Admitted to the Coronary Care Unit. Arch Internal Medicine. 1999;159(19):2273-2278. doi:10.1001/archinte.159.19.2273


Miller, L., Wickramaratne, P., Tenke, C., Weissman, M. (2012). Spirituality and Major Depression: A Ten-Year Prospective Sttudy, American Journal of Psychiatry, 169 (1), 89-94.




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