Out of all the explanations given by the oxford dictionary for the word forgive, the one i feel best about is this; to no longer feel angry or resentment towards a flaw/mistake/etc. This is probably because unforgiveness usually breeds or stems out of anger which eventually leads to hatred. In Matthew18: 21-22, Jesus tells Peter that he should forgive his brother seventy times seven. Jesus did not mean that we should literally forgive someone 490 times but He meant that we should do so over and over again. Repeatedly. Continuously. No clause attached. The issue that i personally struggled with for quite some time is how we should forgive. For more than a decade, i never really knew how i was to go about forgiving someone. I definitely saw the need to but questioned the mechanics of it. To provide a little background information, my forgiving someone was not borne out of a minor disagreement or a workplace scenario or something of that nature. It was borne from more than two decades of verbal or physical abuse from people i loved. Yes, people. Not person. So my unforgiveness resembled a towering mountain which i dreaded to climb.
The first thing to do is to acknowledge your hurt and anger. Put all your ego and pride aside and acknowledge that you have been hurt, out loud. Either to someone close and even to God. He is after all, our best friend. Worse come to worse, speak to a mirror. That way, you can tell yourself, you have been hurt. Humbly ask God for some time to cool off your anger and hurt, however long that may take. But understand that time does not heal; Jesus does. So do not think that you could wait out the process of forgiving and everything will magically disappear. During that time, do not replay everything said or did over in your head like a bad black and white horror movie. That would not be of any help at all. Steam for some time; in my case, it was years. Talk to God. Cry out to Him about the injustice and unfairness of it all. Repeat Psalm 22 or 55 if you have to. Beat your chest while you are at it. Yes, i did. i was very dramatic. God understands that we are human and we need to express our anger, so long as we do not sin in anger. Once you have calmed down and your mind starts to rationalise the situation, take the next huge step forward. Pray. Pray not for the other person to change or that he/she will repent. Instead, pray as you would a loved one. I had a whole list of people who had scarred me for life. Picture a full robed priest unrolling a scroll! So one by one, i prayed for them. I prayed for their health, finances, career growth, family members. I prayed for God to protect them. I cursed the Devils evil plans for them. I prayed for their house, their pets, for their children’s studies, whatever i could think of. It was a huge step of faith that i took on my part. Mind you, it was certainly difficult. Sometimes, while praying, the rage in me would threaten to boil over and i would break down weeping. But i would grit my teeth, dig my heels and force myself to pray for them daily or whenever i saw or thought of them. In doing so, do not forget about yourselves. Ask God to assist you in forgiving yourself. Some of us may be a little hard on our own actions, choices, decisions or attitude. So throw yourselves into the mix lest you forgive everybody but yourself! Eventually, praying for them came with a little ease. God would start to change your heart. Referring to oxford, you would no longer feel angry and resentful. It took me a full ten years to forgive. Without me even realising it, God had drained all my rage away. I did not know where all my anger went!
When the last of the anger, rage, hatred, resentment have vanished, you will then receive the courage from Him to take the final step forward which is to love. Loving does not immediately mean hugging, kissing or slapping each other on the back while guffawing at some inside joke about an elephant and a rhino. For me, it was to smile at them. Tentative at first but then it grew to a large teeth-showing one. Possibly even a wink! Eventually, hugging and kissing did come but it came with all my heart and spirit in the right peaceful state which emphasises Romans 12:21 which says not to be overcome by evil but to overcome evil with good. I wish you readers God bless as you learn to forgive one another.
Side note: Look out for my sequel on why you should forgive!
By Nitha Nathan