In the previous article, ‘Has A Grudge ever Helped You’, we said that forgiveness is setting a prisoner free and then finding that you were the prisoner. When we harbour resentful feelings against other people it often affects us more than it does them. In fact, they might not even be aware of what is going on in our heart! We are often held captive by the bitterness we feel against an ‘offender’ and end up with ulcers, hypertension, depression etc. It is natural to feel that an offender should pay for wrongdoing while forgiveness might feel like it’s an easy way out for them!
It is, however, very important not only for one’s mental and physical health to take the route of forgiveness, but it is also imperative to work on the restoration of a strained relationship. Relationship is what life is about – the quality of your relationships will determine your quality of life!
Strain in a relationship is usually caused by one partner hurting the other in some way.
How do we go about restoring a strained relationship?
The answer lies in the process of forgiveness. The offender needs to take the initiative to ask for forgiveness.
Have you ever felt grievously hurt and then having someone come to you and say – “Sorry”? That is not how we ask forgiveness because the offended cannot know whether the offender knows what hurt they caused or whether they really feel sorry for their hurtful behaviour!
Rather do it this way:
- Be willing to admit, “I am wrong” by saying: “I was wrong. I shouldn’t have done/said…”
- Be willing to say, “I am sorry” for example, say: “I am sorry I did… , and that I caused you to feel…”
- Be willing to repent by admitting: “I know that I have hurt you deeply, and I do not wish to hurt you this way”
- Be willing to ask for forgiveness by saying: “Will you forgive me for having done/said…?”
When forgiveness is asked in this way then the offended needs to grant forgiveness. Let us first look at what forgiveness is not.
Granting forgiveness is not:
- suppression or pretending that something did not happen, or that it did not hurt; conditional – “I will forgive you but only if…” to be truly free one needs to forgive unconditionally
- impossible – “I can’t forgive you” really means, “I am not ready to forgive you”, or “I won’t forgive you”
- an automatic cure for the hurt; it might take long to heal
- automatically forgetting.
Granting forgiveness is:
- an attitude of letting go of resentment or personal desire to get even;
- an action that must be expressed by word and deed;
- a choice to set your partner free from a debt or an offence that has occurred against you;
- the beginning of the healing process that leads to oneness.
How do we go about granting forgiveness:
- Do it privately first: “I am willing to forgive … for hurting me.”
- Do it specifically: “I forgive you for …”
- Do it generously: “Let’s settle this issue and get on with building our relationship.”
- Do it graciously: “I know I’ve done things like that myself.”
There is great freedom in forgiving and setting others free. Restoring relationships can or should never be a matter of simple apology or sincere intentions. It is getting on the other’s turf and loving them in deeds as well as words. When forgiveness leads to mutual two-way change, it opens the door to reciprocal and humble outreach on the part of both the forgiver and the one being forgiven.
“How good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity..for there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”
Recommended literature: The Freedom of Forgiveness by Dr David Augsburger.