Have you ever thought of forgiving as a spiritual discipline? Spiritual disciplines are habits or practices designed to develop our inner being and help us to become more like Christ. We can certainly make it our regular practice to forgive rather than hold on to offenses. Let’s face it, people regularly say or do things that hurt us or make us angry. However, we can refuse to allow the offense to have any control over us by forgiving the offender and leaving the issue between them and God.
Once I began to seek Christ’s healing of my emotional wounds and forgiving those who had caused trauma in my life, I found freedom and a profound inner peace. I can’t even begin to describe how good it feels to be able to remember hurtful and harmful events and realize they no longer have any power over me. I so enjoy my freedom and peace that I diligently guard it! I made a decision a long time ago that I would not longer allow hurt, anger or bitterness to rule my heart or occupy my mind. In order to do so, I have to make it a practice, or habit to forgive. I’ve already made the decision that I will forgive anyone and everyone who will hurt me before they ever commit an offense.
I won’t tell you it is easy. When someone hurts my feelings, I usually rehearse what happened over & over in my mind in the hours after the event because my emotions are in turmoil. But because I have already determined before the person hurt me that I will forgive, I start working through my thoughts and emotions immediately. I start by asking myself some questions, such as, “Is there any truth in what they said?” Or, “Why did the other person do what they did?” “Have I done something they are reacting to?” What I am trying to do is determine if there is anything I need to take responsibility for. Are there things I need to admit to myself and make some changes?
After I take responsibility for any part I play in the problem, I start dealing with my emotions. Having negative emotions is not wrong, but God never intended for our emotions to control us. We have to manage them. In Ephesians 4:26-27, Paul admonishes us to not let the sun go down while we are still angry so that we don’t give the devil a foothold. I don’t want to give the devil any entry into my life to disrupt my freedom and peace again, so the truth in this verse gives me the motivation to work through my emotional turmoil. Getting a handle on my emotions usually involves talking about my feelings to God and allowing the Holy Spirit to minister comfort, as well as give me counsel as to how I should proceed.
And finally, I have to line up my thinking with Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. And Christ has told us to forgive others as we have been forgiven. I have to make a choices. I have to choose to forgive and release the offender into God’s hands. I have to let go. What we focus on grows, so I have to choose to turn my focus on forgiving rather than rehearsing the offense over and over and focusing on how I have been victimized. I practice taking my thoughts captive by paying attention to what thoughts are going through my head. When I find myself thinking about the offense, I stop and take a moment to pray for my offender. After all, Jesus says to pray for our enemies! I have found that it is really difficult to stay angry with someone if I am genuinely praying for them.
This practice has helped me continue walking in peace and remain spiritually and emotionally healthy. I hope you find it helpful. I encourage you to watch our Facebook live as Cherry and I discuss forgiving as a spiritual discipline. And if we can be of help or pray with you, join the conversation in our Facebook group, She Rises.