Practical Forgiveness – Practice 1
Forgive what you can.Forgiveness is a process that can unfold quickly or, as in a case of deep wounding, very slowly and with difficulty. You can practice letting go of hurt and anger in small ways even as the Spirit is still working to change your heart. Perhaps all you can manage today is to keep yourself from gossiping or saying harsh things about the person who hurt you. Decide where you can start to forgive, and then with God’s help do it. Be patient but resolved to daily surrender your conflict to the Spirit’s healing influence.
PonderOh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! (Psalm 32:1)
PledgeWith God’s help I will take that first healing step toward forgiving.
Practical Forgiveness - Practice 2
Seek forgiveness from others.We are more likely to forgive others when we realize how selfish and hurtful we ourselves have been. All of us say and do things we later wish we could take back. The discipline of seeking and accepting forgiveness from others frees us from false pride and the need to pretend we are perfect. To receive someone’s forgiveness motivates and empowers us to be similarly generous with those who need our compassion and mercy.
PonderSo if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. (Matthew 5:23-24)
PledgeWith God’s help I will humble myself and ask forgiveness from those whom I have offended.
Practical Forgiveness – Practice 3
Pray for your offender.Jesus tells us it is not enough to let go of malice toward our enemies. We must go the next difficult step as well and cultivate benevolence. We are truly practicing forgiveness when we can honestly endorse whatever is good and healing for the person who caused our suffering. To bless and not curse, to pray for rather than to condemn, shows a heart that is surrendered to the rule of love.
Ponder“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45)
PledgeWith God’s help I will not only set aside my vengeful desires but will ask God to show favor and goodness to this person who hurt me.
Practical Forgiveness – Practice 4
Speak carefully.The gift of language is a serious responsibility. Our malicious words can sting and cripple worse than the proverbial sticks and stones. On the other hand, kind and forgiving words can encourage people and restore relationships. Our careful use of language can be especially powerful in conflict situations, where anger and insults may be expected. God will use our obedient mouths to speak love into the lives of those who need to hear it and restore damaged hearts in ways we cannot see.
PonderSome people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing. (Proverbs 12:18)
An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars. (Proverbs 18:19)
PledgeWith God’s help I will respond with gracious and life-giving words even to those who offend me.
Practical Forgiveness – Practice 5
Encourage peacemaking.As we approach the season of advent, we honor the Son who is called the Prince of Peace. For us, becoming like Jesus means living into peace and forgiveness as our preferred ways of handling relationships. Christ establishes his kingdom of peace through our daily encounters by infusing our ordinary deeds with God’s extraordinary grace. Because of Christ we can offer patience, kindness, love, and mercy to a world that expects judgment, bitterness, and retaliation for an injury suffered.
PonderNever pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. (Romans 12:17-18)
PledgeWith God’s help I will resist the temptation to strike back when I’ve been hurt but will pursue the ways of peace instead.
Practical Forgiveness – Practice 6
Commit to honesty.Truth provides the only solid ground for rebuilding a damaged relationship. Refusing to acknowledge the truth about a hurtful event may seem protective at first but in the long run only postpones healing. Although full disclosure may not be necessary, we can make sure that the words we do speak are truthful and tempered with patience, gentleness, and respect for the person who receives them.
PonderTeach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong. How painful are honest words! (Job 6:24-25)
PledgeWith God’s help I will remember to think before I speak and avoid the temptation to lie or speak half-truths in order to deceive.
Practical Forgiveness – Practice 7
Humble yourself.God’s grace is available to all but can fill only those who are emptied of themselves. Pride is an attachment to self that breeds jealousy, selfish ambition, and discord. A humble heart, on the other hand, is shaped by godly wisdom and seeks peace, good works, and fellowship with others. The humble are blessed because they know how to offer and receive forgiveness.
PonderIf you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. (James 3:13)
PledgeWith God’s help I will notice when pride is causing trouble in my relationships and preventing me from seeking God’s wisdom and help.
Practical Forgiveness – Practice 8
Imitate Christ.We honor Christ when we follow his example and do good to those who harm us. When the world expects an evil response, goodness and love shine all the brighter, sometimes enough to pierce the toughest armor. We show kindness and generosity not because our adversary deserves them but because goodness is part of who we are in Christ. An important practice of forgiveness is to see through an offense to the person behind the behavior and ask, What good can I do for this person? No one needs grace more than a person who does not deserve it.
PonderBeloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. (3 John 11)
PledgeWith God’s help I will make a point of doing something good and kind for someone who deserves my censure.
Practical Forgiveness – Practice 9
Love because God loves.When we surrender our relationships to the rule of love, God transforms our perceptions of the people who hurt and betray us. Instead of seeing enemies, we recognize fellow humans suffering in traps of sin and self-deception, much as we ourselves have suffered. God advances the kingdom of heaven through our offerings of love and forgiveness, especially to those who have set themselves against us. Instead of retaliating with harm as the world expects, we learn to soothe and heal and restore relationships with redemptive and holy love that flows through us from God’s own heart.
PonderBut to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. (Luke 6:27-28)
PledgeWith God’s help I will allow God’s love to transform my anger into compassion and my bitterness into understanding and the desire to bless those who have harmed me.
Practical Forgiveness – Practice 10Depend on God.
Forgiveness has been called an unnatural act. We humans instinctively hunger for justice that balances a wrongful deed with punishment that fits the crime. To forgo our right to vengeance seems to work against our very nature, yet it fits God’s nature perfectly. When we seek to be like Jesus, the Spirit reshapes our desires with a new, divine nature that makes forgiveness and loving our enemies possible. God never calls us to an unnatural task like forgiving without giving us the grace and means to obey him.