How to Forgive

People agree on the power and benefits of forgiving others and themselves. The question which they face is how?  A lot of people and friends I encounter in Christian Counselling share the same sentiment.  “I thought I have forgiven but I realize that I am still angry. Have I really forgiven the person?”

First and foremost, do not feel condemned for feeling this way. People feel that their act (or attempt) at forgiveness isn’t genuine because they carry the misconception that forgiveness is a singular act that leads to instantaneous results. It is actually not; unless you are The Son of God.

Your sins are forgiven by Jesus Christ.

Secondly, realize that in psychology everything is learned through exposure and repetition.  Forgiveness is a process consisting of an attitudinal change that involves a shift in Cognition (what we think), Affect (what we feel) and Behaviour (what we do). For this change to happen within us, we can’t just forgive a person once and expect all ABC’s to change immediately. Following the theories of learning and attitudinal change, we have to forgive the very same person for the very same act seventy times seven times on a daily basis.  Just to paraphrase what The Lord said in Matthew 18:22, we ought to be forgiving one another ALL THE TIME.

You no longer have to convince yourself on whether to forgive or not, we have already passed that stage. You will just have to remind yourself (again and again and again) these 8 simple words that I share with my counselling clients:

“I am forgiven and so I forgive you.”

Take note that repetition and exposure leads to learning. Repetition and exposure leads to internal changes. In the name of Jesus: forgive that person again and again and again; seventy times seven.  Say it out (bahaviour), think it (cognition) and cry it out (affect). Use your language centres as an entry point to the rest of your brain and to the rest of your being.

Do not do this robotically as how I prayed the rosary in Catholic school. It is better to declare it meaningfully once as compared to mindlessly chanting words a hundred times. Say it again and again and mean it.  DO THIS ON A DAILY BASIS.

“I am forgiven and so I forgive you.”

Your emotions will follow as your mind consolidates these words.  It will take time for the mind to digest spiritual things so do it persistently and believe without wavering. Soon you will start understanding that you have been truly forgiven by Jesus Christ and this truth will empower you to understand and forgive others who have hurt you.


End Note:

If going through the process of forgiveness distresses you, then this exercise is not yet for you. Take 2 steps back and ask again:

  1. Do I really want to forgive this person? (or am I still seeking justice?)
  2. Do I have to forgive this person? (can I continue hating him/her?)
  3. Do I forgive this person? (Yes/No)

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The truth will set you free.  This truth is that your sins have been forgiven you.