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It was time to move on. I should have been worshipping, but instead I sat in church seething in a stew of bitterness. I’d tried for more than a year to move on, but every time I saw my offender I was back at square one. I didn’t just dislike her—I couldn’t stand her! Truth be told, I despised her!
I changed churches, but the resentment came with me. So, I kept my heart and gifts to myself. Bitterness prevented me from developing real connections. I mastered giving things, but was tight-fisted with my vulnerability. I had a new cutting attitude that mowed down everything in its path.
Life is lived from the heart, and if you want to have your best year ever, forgiveness is non-negotiable. I won’t tell you to forgive and forget, because true forgiveness has a memory. It’s just that the memory no longer matters. Years later, it can still sting when I think about how I was mistreated in a place where I expected to find healing. But choosing forgiveness keeps me free.
My journey to being a forgiving person was tough; it still is. But here are some tips to help coach yourself through the process:
1. Who Has the Power? Forgiveness is the refusal to be tied down to the pain of the past. It is not about the other person’s actions. They don’t have to earn or deserve your forgiveness. So, take your power out of your offender’s hands and own it! Your soul’s health is at stake. Don’t allow someone else’s actions to determine your heart’s position. Feeling forgiveness is tough, but remember it is a decision, not an emotion. Depending on the nature of the offense, sometimes this step represents the only physically, or emotionally, safe step you can take in the process.
2. I Forgive — What’s Next? Once you forgive, sometimes the next step is to reconnect. You can’t reconcile unless you give your offender a clear opportunity to address the issues. It would be ideal if your offender came and asked for forgiveness and you didn’t have to confront them. But they may not even be aware of the pain they have caused you. Sometimes people don’t change because no one calls them out on their stuff, or requires it. You are not responsible for their response, but if you know confrontation is a part of your personal process then take that necessary step.
3. Why Isn’t It the Same? The road back to normal can be a difficult one. There are times when you’ve forgiven and confronted, but the relationship has suffered. Rebuilding trust is difficult, and opportunities for misunderstanding abound. Both parties must have reasonable expectations. The offended can’t keep putting the past in the present, and the offender must accept the fact that they have to earn trust that was once theirs. Clear guidelines for expected behaviors keep both parties from engaging in emotional manipulation.
4. Destination Restoration? You can get back to where you used to be. In fact, you can be better. The road to restoration is unique to each relationship. But, if time and patience are invested in living out steps two and three, your relationship can live again.
For me, my offender refused reconciliation. But, my decision to forgive freed me to thrive!
Live It! If there is any resentment in your life, courageously delve into your heart to identify where you are. Find where you fit in the process and be vigilant about freeing your heart from the poison of non-forgiveness. Join me next week as we discuss step three in shaping your best year!
Recently named the 2012 “North America’s Next Greatest Speaker” by eWomenNetwork, Felicia T. Scott is a Certified Empowerment Coach™ who shares transformational truths with practical wisdom, humor and insight. Follow her on Twitter.