“We struggle with forgiveness because we prefer revenge or because we are afraid that justice will not be served,” claimed Paul A. Bryant, a retired pastor and Family Ministries leader at Patmos Chapel in Apopka, Florida.
In his Zoom presentation to viewers of the Bermuda Conference in February, Bryant admitted that forgiveness can be difficult and requires effort, but is possible, even if reconciliation was not.
To understand the essence of forgiveness and why it is so critical, Bryant suggested following seven crucial steps to move from hurt, blame, and punishment to peace, pardon, and emotional, physical, and spiritual healing.
Step 1: Understand the nature of forgiveness. Bryant said forgiveness is the willful process in which the forgiver chooses not to retaliate but responds to the offender lovingly, letting go of a record of wrongs. It does not deny that something happened; it does not excuse the offender, but it does not allow the experience to control attitudes and behavior.
Step 2: Acknowledge all of your emotions. This is important because “suppressed emotions hurt and deny the peace and healing needed. Aroused emotions can escalate and become destructive.” Bryant suggested we often have burning hate for people who do us wrong. “When we admit our hate, anger, or negative emotion, we can forgive.”
Step 3: Choose to forgive. God said, “Nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6). Choose to forgive the offender for each wrong, and then say, “I choose to stop hurting myself for what you have done or are doing to me. I choose to forgive and restore a healthy flow of love. I cancel my demand that you should change as a condition for me to love. I am holding you responsible for your thoughts and actions. I take back my freedom and power to love and express love.”
Step 4: Get a change of memory. “One reason it is difficult to forgive is that the hurt lives on in our minds. We photograph those things that are associated with emotions. Unclogging those memories requires changing the channels of our minds.” Bryant encouraged getting a memory change by (a) changing your companion(s), (b) changing your expectation that life should be fair, and (c) separating the person from the hurt.
Step 5: Look to the Cross of Calvary. Using the parable in Matthew 18:23-27, Bryant said, “If we act like the unforgiving servant and refuse to forgive, God will act as the king and take back His forgiveness.” Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, CSB). “Christ forgives us for hurting Him, and we must ask God to empower us to forgive the one who has hurt us.”
Step 6: Use loving confrontation. “It is difficult to forgive until we face the offender squarely and say, ‘You did me wrong, and I feel hurt because of it.’” Bryant suggested speaking to an empty chair to build up the courage to confront the offender. “When confronting, state the facts; express true feelings; say what ‘I’ want, and use ‘I’ statements.”
Step 7: Experience the healing benefits. Forgiveness has substantial emotional, physical, and spiritual advantages and frees both the offender and the victim. Bryant concluded that forgiveness “aids digestion, improves the immune system, lowers blood pressure, aids in providing a restful sleep, increases energy, creates awareness, and sharpens the intelligence. It also provides relief from resentment and depression, reduces stress, creates a more positive outlook, restores self-esteem, and ultimately creates peace of mind and happiness. Keep on praying; keep on desiring to forgive, and God will give the ultimate victory.”
“How to Forgive When You Can’t Forget” was presented by the Family Ministries department and hosted by Ulric Hetsberger, Bermuda Conference Family Ministries leader and pastor of the Midland Heights and St. David’s churches.