Love and Forgiveness: A Spiritual Practice for Forgiving
Gosh do I need to practice forgiveness lately! Maybe you do too. Jesus taught that we are to love everyone – even our enemies. But to love someone who has hurt you, you first have to forgive them! And that is not easy.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:43
Below is a spiritual practice to try. Set aside some time, get to a quiet place where you can think, and bring some paper and a pen (or your laptop if that is your style). You may need to do this practice over several days. Take your time.
- Start by praying. Ask the Holy Spirit to walk with you as you seek to forgive. Picture yourself wrapped up in the Spirit’s embrace.
- You are going to prayerfully write out the answers to three questions:
- What has the offender done that needs forgiving? Include why you think they did it.
- Have you done anything before, during, or after the offense that also needs forgiveness? Note: The answer may very well be that you haven’t done anything wrong. Don’t try to implicate yourself unnecessarily. Many times, powerless people will try to find fault in themselves so they can have a chance at fixing the situation, but it is unhelpful to blame yourself if you are innocent.
- What might God be able to teach you through this situation?
- Write out a prayer asking God to forgive the offender (and to forgive you too, if necessary). In this prayer, ask God to fill your heart with compassionate love for the other person. This does not mean you forget what they have done. It does not mean that you think what they have done is okay or that they should not be held accountable for the wrongs they have done. It means you are going to let God deal with them so that you are set free to act in love toward them rather than seek revenge.
- If appropriate, it is important to go and talk to the person – maybe share what you have written. This is how Christians have an authentic community centered on Christ. Note: Talking to the other person may not be appropriate. If the person might hurt you physically or verbally, if talking to them might cause the other person more harm than good, or if the person has asked you not to bother them, then it is probably not appropriate. It is absolutely possible to forgive someone whom you will never see again. Ask the Holy Spirit what is appropriate and wait for an answer before going to talk to the offender.
- Hold onto what you have written and reread it when/if you ever start to feel unforgiveness toward that person. Once and done, is not how it usually works. It is a process that takes time to heal. You may even have more insights as you reread your words later so update it as needed.