It’s an Inside Job to Learn About Forgiving
This is the fourth of six posts on Joy for this Christmas season.
If this topic makes you uncomfortable, you probably need it. Harsh? Well I am The Tough Old Bird, after all. Believe me I know a little about forgiveness. I know the resistance that comes to the surface whenever I’m faced with my need to forgive those who have hurt me. I can compare myself to the great ones who have forgiven huge, even horrendous wrongs and I feel like a shame-filled whiner. People like Corrie Ten Boon, Nelson Mandela, and members of the Amish community where five little girls were murdered are certainly examples for us all. And yet I know that when it comes to personal and deep heartfelt hurt from those we expect better it is extremely difficult to forgive.
“Forgiveness brings joy? Where did I come up with that, the skeptic might ask. Well, our forgiveness research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, since 1993, has shown that as people take the time to forgive others for deep injustices the following tends to happen for the forgiver: lower anger, anxiety, and depression, and higher self-esteem and hope for the future. Are these fancy psychological ways of saying, ‘My joy has increased’?”
You may be like many of the women I coach who have experienced child abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse. Before I go any further let me say clearly—forgiveness does not mean that you should restore association with the one who has harmed you. Forgiveness is about you releasing your attachment to the person.
One way that works for me is illustrated by this simple exercise.
Create an invoice. On the invoice write out just exactly what you feel the other person owes you. It may be a sincere apology. It may be money. Whatever the case I encourage you to write it out in detail. This may take some time. It may take days or longer. And it may be painful. Once you are satisfied that you’ve made it crystal clear:
- Go to a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.
- Place an empty chair across from yours.
- Imagine the person is sitting in front of you.
- Review the invoice aloud.
- Then tell the person who harmed you that you are no longer going to carry this burden.
- Tear the invoice to pieces. Then flush or burn the pieces.
I urge you to go through these steps, as strange as they may seem.
Afterwards ask the God to whom you pray to release you and to take the burden that you’ve been carrying.
Each time the thoughts come to your mind replay this exercise in your mind.
Let me know how this works for you. I’d love to hear from you.
I raised three children as a single mother before I remarried. I have experienced the potholes, pests, and perils of being the single head-of-household. As an educator in regular and special education for twenty years I know a great deal about child development and how to handle kids. I am the founder of SMORE for Women, a nonprofit whose goal is Single Moms, Overjoyed, Rejuvenated, and Empowered. I’m also a Certified Professional Coach and my stories have been published in several Christian books and magazines. My book, Living Learning Loving is available on CreateSpace, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble online.