Offending and Forgiving
There exists a continuum between two extremes of offenses. On one end of the scale is something as minor as bumping into another person. On the other end the offense might involve a major betrayal such as adultery or abuse. All offenses fall somewhere between these two extremes. Taking time to acknowledge the offense is a major step toward healing and restoring the relationship and both the hurt person and offender should acknowledge the offense. There is a process of forgiving that promotes healing and inner peace, allowing you to become free from anger and resentment.
Forgiving requires an ongoing decision to get rid of an offense against you and to continue to give up the inclination for vengeance, retribution, and entertaining negative thoughts toward an offender.
Steps for acknowledging an offense:
1.Take full responsibility for what you did and admit “I was wrong”. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
2. Invite the offended person to tell you about their pain or hurt without argument or excuses from you. “If your brother sins against you go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” Matthew 18:15 3. Repent of the offense. Understand and acknowledge that you have caused the other person pain or hurt. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10 4. Ask if there is anything you can do to make the wrong right within reason, and make restitution for your actions as much as possible.
5. Allow the offended person time to process the offense and be willing to forgive.
6. Accept and live with the consequences of the offense
Keep in mind this is not just a checklist of statements to make, but an expression of the condition of your hear.
Steps for Forgiving a major offense:
1. Identify and label the offense and the offender. Who did what?
2. Acknowledge your pain and anger to your offender if they are willing to hear it. Clarify the offense through open and honest discussion. If they take responsibility for the offense it will make the process much easier and quicker. “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” Matthew 18:15 3. Identify and grieve any losses you have experienced. Write down how you responded to those losses in your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, physically. Don’t rush this porocess as it can minimize the offense. Forgiveness can be a journey 4. Revisit the document over, adding new information to it whenever it comes to the surface. Continue to grieve the losses.
5. God has a way of taking that which is broken and repairing it. He turns our sorrow into joy. That is redemption. One reality of losses is that there are sometimes gains that can be realized as a result of them.
6. Sometimes forgiveness comes in pieces or stages. Break it down and forgive whatever aspect of the offense you find easiest to forgive, and then move on to the next area. You know you have forgiven a person when you no longer want to make them hurt or pay for the offense, when you can think about the offense but not ruminate on it. Forgiveness means you have relinquished the right to use the offense as evidence against the offender.
Chris Augustine, MA, LPC
Desert Streams Therapist
Desert Streams Christian Counseling
2019 Rambling Road
Kalamazoo MI 49008
Look us up at www.desertstreams.org
-This article is reposted by permission from the Desert Streams Monthly E-Newsletter.