It isn’t uncommon to decide to forgive someone only to realize by our mood that we haven’t fully forgiven them. This awareness can hit us suddenly and without warning when we feel a rise of indignation when someone does or says something to bring the injustice back into our minds.
Even movies, stories, or books can remind us of the hurt that we thought we forgave and a sudden ache flood through our chest and changes our mood.
Triggers are no fun, believe me, I know, but they are reminders that we’re still stuck. It takes work and effort to forgive, let go, learn from our experiences, and move forward.
Last week we talked about the ravages of resentment and how this dark emotion can affect our mood and health in negative ways if we allow it to fester and grow. Forgiveness as a remedy was mentioned, but today I want to talk to you about the commitment of forgiveness.
Yes, it takes an intentional commitment to achieve this difficult task. Commitment and persistence for true forgiveness.
Because one cannot move beyond resentment without forgiveness, and forgiveness cannot be achieved without committing oneself to the task of forgiving.
It’s one thing to say it with our lips, another to think it with our minds, but to truly forgive takes much more effort.
A Quick Check
One way to test and see if forgiveness has taken hold is to examine your reactions. Do you get triggered a lot, become angry, and brood over injustices? If you have truly forgiven someone you will begin to have more positive feelings and experience less triggers in relation to the event or person.
It’s not fair
It might feel like if we forgive completely, we’re giving that other person a free ride to hurt us again, or even saying that the injustice never happened. Not so. Forgiving someone doesn’t dissolve the event but allows us to dump that burden and heal all the bottled up hurt and pain. We are the winners. According to Deepak Chopra, when we forgive, we give ourselves an amazing gift.
We all need boundaries and not castle walls around us. Healthy boundaries teach others what is and isn’t okay when relating to us. Walls keep us alone inside the fortress we have built and keeps everyone else outside the walls. Humans were never meant to live in such solidarity, physically or emotionally. We need each other, but we need healthy boundaries.
According to the American Psychological Association, harboring ill feelings can affect our heart and trigger a stress response, as well as immune disorders. Our bodies want to heal, and forgiveness helps us do just that.
The commitment of forgiveness helps us work through the process of forgiving someone for a hurt or injustice. We cannot learn anything instantly, and forgiveness is no different. It takes daily practice to walk through the process of truly forgiving someone, even yourself. It's a journey. And that expedition takes commitment.
Sometimes we can work through the process on our own, but if we’re stuck, we can reach out to a friend or a counselor to help us locate the anger and identify the triggers. Gaining understanding of how unforgiveness has affected our lives can be the push to forgive and move forward with the process.
For detailed information on the delicate process of forgiveness, I recommend Everett L. Worthington Jr’s book, Forgiving and Reconciling: Bridges to Wholeness and Hope. Another resource is Forgiveness Is A Choice. by Robert D. Enright. Ph.D.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (NIV)