Steps for When It’s Tough to Forgive

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Many celebrated their love for each other with gifts and gestures of kindness. So, why talk about forgiveness during a month that is dedicated to love? Because forgiveness is important in our relationships with others and with God. Love and forgiveness are close relatives to building up our relationships.

While performing research for this post, I came across an article by Steve Yohn about how we live in a “mostly forgiven” world. And isn’t it true? There are times when we find it hard to give and times when we find it hard to receive forgiveness.

Yet, from the earliest days recorded in the Bible, we see forgiveness in action. In Genesis, Chapter 50 verses 15 – 18, we witness the fear of Joseph’s brothers who had sold him into slavery. After their father’s death, they send messengers ahead to beg for Joseph’s forgiveness. Joseph weeps when he hears their pleas, and his brothers soon follow, kneeling down and saying, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph tells them not to be afraid and agrees to care for them and their families.

When Peter asks Jesus if he should forgive his brother up to seven times, Jesus responds, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22) And if we seek to be closer to God’s image, mustn’t we also be willing to forgive our brothers and sisters? Jesus didn’t say to those He met, “I forgive you, but…” God didn’t send Jesus to die for our sins and then say, “You are forgiven, but…” Forgiveness is given wholly and freely, which is why it can be so hard to offer and accept. It comes without conditions. And it stems from the love we have for ourselves, for each other, and for God.

Charles Swindoll wrote a series of “Steps to Forgiveness” that I would like to share with you.

First, realize that forgiveness is risky. Even a repentant offender is likely to fail again, perhaps in the same area.

Second, rely on God. Cry out, “Lord, I lean on You for the grace and strength to love this one who has hurt me and to work for what is best for him.”

Third, actually cancel the debt. Through prayer, express to God that you relinquish the right to collect debt on any level and to release your bitterness.

Fourth, evaluate whether you should tell the offender what you have done before God.

Fifth, if appropriate, verbally offer them forgiveness. If they repent, your relationship can resume. If not, the relationship cannot be resumed; but with forgiveness offered, good can be returned for evil (Romans 12:21).”

When it comes to forgiving yourself, which I find especially hard, here is a set of tips I’ve found at I have left out some of the detailed explanations, but you can look up the entire article here.

Step #1, be honest with yourself

Realize that down deep inside, you’re not happy with the person of your past. If you are in denial, then forget trying to treat the root of your problem. You need to see the problem before you can apply the solution. It might even be helpful to list all of the things that you hate about your past, and one-by-one, give them to the Lord and release yourself from each failure.

Step #2, you need to realize that your debt has been PAID

The only way that you can beat yourself up, after Jesus has paid your debt, is if you aren’t accepting the gift that He has given you. If He’s paid the debt, and you keep denying that fact, then you are rejecting the very gift that God has given you! You need to accept what Jesus has done for you by faith.

Step #3, allow the Holy Spirit to heal your soul

You need to let God heal you… as long as you keep holding something against yourself, you are blocking the Holy Spirit’s power from entering and healing that area of your mind and life! You need to open up your heart, and allow the light of Christ to shine into the darkness of your soul.

Step #4, begin to see the “new creature” of Christ within you

You are not seeing yourself as you really are. If you’ve repented of your past, and sought God’s forgiveness, then you are forgiven or justified (which means “just as if I’ve never sinned”). It’s not that you should try to forget what happened (don’t remind yourself of it either though), but the important key is to see your past through the Blood of Jesus. You need to see your past as “paid in full” by the work that Christ did for you on the cross! Seeing things with this perspective changes everything! You need to begin seeing yourself through the blood of Jesus.

Through prayer and perspective, forgiveness will come. Invite it in.

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