Once you have acknowledged the truth of your pain, you must decide to forgive. What if you understand all the pluses but still don’t feel like forgiving? The first step is to state your truth aloud, even if it’s only to yourself. Put into words how you are feeling and what has been done to you. Saying the words aloud is a way to let them go.
You might also try these written exercises to help in your journey of forgiveness.
- Draw what forgiveness looks like with crayons or markers, or paste in representative pictures from magazines. This may be hard. You have lived with anger for a long time. It is more familiar to you. You may need to remember how you felt when someone forgave you and what that forgiveness meant to you. Express how that feels in your drawing.
- After drawing a picture of forgiveness, write a letter to someone who may have hurt you. This is not an actual letter to send, but a way for you to verbalize in a safe way the forgiveness you need to extend. Instead of a “You hurt me because” letter, which emphasizes the action of the other person, write an “I forgive you because” letter, which will emphasize the control you are taking back for yourself. You are no longer the object of the action but the initiator of it.
Forgiveness isn’t an act; it’s a process. Someone bumps you in the elevator and says, “Oh, I’m sorry.” “Oh, that’s all right,” you say. You’ve forgiven that person. But on a subconscious level, you looked at that person and judged the reason why they bumped you and the manner in which they apologizes before you assured them, “Oh, that’s all right.” Even though the time from their bump to your acceptance of their apology was very short, your forgiveness was still a process that took into account a variety of factors, not the least of which was how you were feeling that day. If such a small event requires evaluation, think what the process must look like when applied to the incidents of abuse and pain in your past.
Start with prayer. Forgiveness is a tall order, and the power and strength needed to forgive are formidable. But remember that nothing is impossible with God. He is able to give you the ability to extend forgiveness. He is, in fact, an expert at forgiveness: he extends it to us all the time.
While I firmly believe that forgiveness is vital to a successful journey toward healing, don’t pile additional burdens onto yourself if you are unable to give instant forgiveness to yourself or to those who are responsible for your pain. This isn’t a bump on the elevator. The process of your forgiveness requires time, perspective, and patience.
No matter how hard you’ve tried to suppress your anger, it’s very near the surface. Any chink in your armor, and it comes exploding outward. Forgiveness is deeper down, harder to get to. You’ll have to dig for it, like any real treasure.
And while you are working toward this gem of forgiveness, place your wounded heart in God’s hands for safekeeping. Allow him to provide you comfort and safety. At the start of each day, deliberately turn to God and not to your behavior with food.