Imagine this scene. You are fighting with your ex. There’s a crystal vase – a wedding present and reminder of the life and love you shared. In the arm flinging and yelling and trying to get a point across, the vase is swept from its resting place, smashing onto the floor. You pick up a piece of the glass and hold onto it. You yell at your ex, ‘See what you’ve done. It’s ruined. It’s broken like us. I will never forgive you for this.’ Your ex leaves and you sit holding the broken glass in your hands, crying from your loss, angry at the mess of the vase that represents your life together.
Years later that shattered vase is still on your floor. You run your fingers through the glass on a regular basis rehearsing your pain. You stomp and shout to your ex, (wherever they are), ‘I hate you for what you’ve done. It’s all your fault!’ As you grip the broken glass, empowered by your bitterness, you notice you are bleeding. The glass has cut you.
Forgiveness is letting go of the broken glass.
When you hang onto the broken glass, picking it up, turning it over in your hands, repeating your pain; you are the one who gets cut. Not your ex.
To heal from the wounds of your past, relate in a healthy way and be free to love again, you need to practice forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a process
Forgiveness is letting go of your urge to retaliate, to exact revenge. Forgiveness is an unnatural act1.
Forgiving others is not about them and what they did. It’s about you and moving on with your life. It does not excuse or belittle what happened. It does not make the other person right or mean you have to let them have the power to hurt you again. Forgiveness buys your freedom.
Forgiveness is a process not a one off event. It takes time. You forgive little bit by little bit, often repeating the process. It is not about how you feel or what you emotions say. It is the act of saying, ‘I forgive.’
Ever had a guest stay with you and you couldn’t wait to put them on the train and wave farewell? As you left the station you invariably felt lighter, less burdened and free to be comfortable in your own home. Picture forgiveness as a train. You put people on the train speaking your forgiveness to them and some of your emotional baggage goes with them as the train leaves the station. Then you think of someone else you need to forgive or something has triggered a memory so pain bursts into life again. Put these on the next train. Keep repeating the process and you will be the one who benefits.
The benefits of forgiveness
Studies have shown that forgiveness is good for your health, lowering blood pressure and heart rate and reducing pain. It will reduce emotional symptoms such as depression, anger and anxiety. It improves relational and spiritual health.
If you are curious about where God fits in with forgiveness click here.
Some ways to help you process
Here’s a list of ways you can try – some I use and some others have used:
- Write a forgiveness list. Begin with ‘I forgive you for…’ to each person or event on the list You could imagine the person sitting opposite in an empty chair and speak your forgiveness to them
- You could write a letter that you never post. I wrote letters in a journal so I couldn’t accidently post them
- Picture sending people and events out of your life as you forgive them. Put people on the train and visualise it pulling away from the station. Occasionally I float off on a leaf down a river people and events I need to release and stop regurgitating in my mind. Did I mention there is a waterfall on the river?
- Write notes and attach to balloons. Float the balloon away to symbolise the letting go
- Write notes and throw the paper into a fire
- You can contact the person and speak your forgiveness to them. It doesn’t matter how they react, it’s about you saying ‘I forgive’.
Whatever you do always be safe. For some people it is never safe physically or emotionally to have contact with an ex or other people who have harmed you, so choose a method where you don’t contact them
Find what works for you.
Don’t forget to forgive yourself.
Putting legs on it
Who do you need to forgive? Write a list.
Try one or more of the ways to process your forgiveness as you work through your list.
If you would like to know if divorce is the unforgivable sin as some churches have taught click here
- Yancey, P. (1997 ) What’s so amazing about grace, Zondervan Publishing House, USA
Photo Credit: Broken Glass Veeterzy stocksnap.io and White Flower Quion Al unsplash.com