“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV)
There are a lot of misconceptions about what forgiveness is and isn't. Some choose to not let go of past hurts thinking that somehow they are letting someone get away with something while others continuously allow others to hurt them, believing that forgiveness is completely allowing someone back into your life. So what is forgiveness and how do we approach it?
Rick Warren on his blog "Daily Hope," outlines 4 steps to forgiveness, which I believe are apt steps and I encourage you to implement these steps into your own life.
The first step Rick says in the process of forgiveness is recognizing no one is perfect. When we understand that everyone sins, makes mistakes, has faults, and needs forgiveness it reminds us of our humanity. Bitterness and hate can lead to dehumanization and resentment, but reminding ourselves that all people need forgiveness places us all in the same boat. The Bible reads, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT, second edition). We’re all imperfect and this is a necessary place to start.
The second step that Rick suggest for forgiveness is to relinquish your right to get even. In Romans 12:19 the Bible reads, “Never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it." We could easily seek out revenge and at times can justify our negative responses, but God asks us to choose otherwise. Rather than avenging ourselves, he asks us to trust him as God to bring about justice.
The third step Rick offers for forgiveness is to respond to the evil with good. Our natural inclination may be to fight back, gossip, slander, and ensure that someone is hurt as much as us. However, God asks us to love, rather than hate. To pray for someone, rather than spend our words tearing them down.
The fourth step is to refocus on God’s plan for your life. When you turn your eyes towards God and allow him to connect with you, encourage you, and solidify the calling in your life, the past hurts slowly begin to impact you less and less. This isn't to completely forget, but rather to remember that God still has a plan for you and wants to use your life to bring reconciliation, healing, love, and peace to those around you and ultimately to have you experience the same.
If you continually think about how someone has hurt you, that person has control over your life. Unfortunately, if you don't let go of the hurt, you may begin to become like the one who hurt you.
So don't spend another day in resentment, but release it to God, put these four steps into action and allow God to help you step into the future.