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.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, anxiety or disordered eating, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and begin the healing process.
So many people hit their young-adult years believing control is all about saying yes to those things they were previously denied. I think it takes us a bit longer to figure out that often the best way to exhibit our control is by choosing to say no to those same things. I guess you could call this the difference between control and self-control. So often we think control is about finally making sure we get what we want. Self-control, however, is more about making sure we get what we need.
Self-control is not easy to come by, requiring the long view over instant gratification and initially appearing harsh, unpleasant, and virtually impossible to employ. It requires practice, patience, and perseverance. Self-control presupposes an intimate knowledge of self, knowing what is and is not good and appropriate for you. It’s the anomaly of the person who is able to put down work and go home at the end of the day, saying no to the urge to stay another hour (when you consistently find yourself – once again – being the last one in the office to lock up).
Self-control in Scripture is interesting and sometimes amusing. Here are some examples from the Old Testament that talk about what happens when you have self-control and what happens when you don’t:
Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. (Prov: 16:32)
The warrior says yes to the battle while the patient man says wait. Being able to control your temper can be more of a triumph than engaging in the battle.
Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. (Prov. 25:28)
Self-control is a valuable defense against all kinds of problems. If you lack it, you leave yourself wide open and vulnerable.
A food gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. (Prov. 29:11)
Giving full vent to anger or any excessity rarely produces the fruit you expect or projects you in a positive light. Anger may get you what you want, but it robs you of what you need, especially in relationships.
The New Testament is certainly not silent where self-control is involved. It is listed as one of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Its value is recognized and affirmed in 1 Thessalonians 5:6 and 8. Leaders in the church are to be self-controlled (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8; 2:5). Self-control is valued across the age spectrum (Titus 2:2, 6). Each person is instructed to exercise self-control (1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8).
it is obvious that self-control is a virtue and a value. It can also, sadly, be in short supply in life. You know it is good. You want to be able to exercise control over self. None of us want to admit we aren’t able to control ourselves. So how do you develop a better grasp of saying no? The answer, of course, lies within each person.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE, and author of 38 books. The Center creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others. If you or a loved one is struggling with past abuse, The Center is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.