Sometimes we have truly been hurt by another person. And we can know in our head that we have to forgive, but our heart still aches and wants to lash out. So if you are having difficultly forgiving someone, use the Lenten season to pray for a forgiving heart.
First, acknowledge that the hurt is real. You don’t have to figure out what you did wrong or make excuses for the other person. Pretending like you shouldn’t feel hurt does not make the hurt go away. At best, it buries it.
Ask God to give you the desire to forgive. You might not want to forgive. But God can accomplish big things if you invite him. So a good starting point is to want to want to forgive.
Ask God to help heal your wound. You might carry your pain for some time. Remember that Jesus still had scars after his resurrection. Just ask St. Thomas! But God can help lessen your pain. And perhaps you can also find a resurrection of sorts. Ask God to reveal if He can turn any part of your wound into something good.
Remember that forgiveness is not the same as friendship. You can forgive the other person, but you don’t need to spend time with him or her. Forgiveness is wanting what is good for another person, but not necessarily liking him or her, or their behavior.
Try to understand your reaction to the pain. Sometimes when we are hurt, we transmit our pain to others. You might have tried to hurt the person who hurt you. Or you might have lashed out at somebody completely unrelated to the situation. Try to understand your reaction. If necessary, forgive yourself for anything you regret.
Remember that holding a grudge only hurts yourself. Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. They might not even be aware of how the hurt is consuming you. But you are spending time and energy and thoughts on it.
Ask God to help you let go of the past. Refusing to forgive is like looking at the past and expecting a different outcome. You cannot change what happened. But you can loosen your grip on it so it will stop controlling you.
When the desire to forgive comes, ask God for the strength to forgive. Ask to see what is good in the other person. This can be painful and difficult. We might not want to see any goodness at all. But ask if God can reveal any good quality. That can help us forgive.
Forgiveness is a decision. When you decide to do it, invite God to help you. Realize that you cannot expect to do it on your own. But you are not alone. Jesus is with you. He understands pain and desire for mercy.
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