8 Practical steps to Forgiveness[i]:
Twice in the last several months, the passage that I preached on has led to a discussion on forgiveness. This past Sunday, due to time constraints I was not able to give all 8 practical steps, so I offered a sample.
Listed below are 8 practical steps to forgiveness that I hope is a good reminder to all of us how to forgive.
1) Ask yourself, should you just drop it? (sometimes the answer is yes!)
If you think everything is important, you have a sensitivity problem. This is found way too often in our society today, including within our churches.
If you think nothing is important, you have a problem. You’re a doormat.
If you think you never do anything wrong, you have a pride problem. One sign of a pride problem is if you rarely or never ask someone to forgive you!
2) Next, examine your life according to Matthew 7:3-5
“3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.“
Are you sensitive to this issue because it is actually a habit of yours? I’ve found that most people who are the most sensitive, are usually the most insensitive towards others. Examine yourself first. Is this something you need to confess? Is it a plank in your eye, but only a speck in the offenders?
3) Go directly first, then only if necessary keep the circle small
Combat the ever-present temptation to blab to others about the offense. In Mathew 18:15-17, Jesus teaches that we go directly first. If restoration doesn’t happen in the first conversation, take 2-3 others next, and only if steps one and two don’t work, take it to the church. (aka take it to the pastors).
If your step one is making the circle big, it is a sign of an immature faith. This too is far too often found in churches.
4) Forgive first, then go
Before you confront someone, you have to forgive them first. For a Christian, the goal of confronting someone about a hurt is restoration. If you forgive first, you will be able to seek restoration. If you refuse to forgive, the goal of your confrontation will be revenge. Always forgive before you go & confront.
5) Be prepared to ask forgiveness yourself.
Forgiveness is seldom one-sided or simple. You may go to confront someone who hurt you only to discover that you owe them an apology too.
If you’re the offender, ask for forgiveness in an unqualified way. Never ask for forgiveness with the expectation that they will too.
Never ever ever use “if” in an apology. For example, it is not an apology if you start with “If I hurt you, then I am sorry.”
6) Chose the time, place, and your words carefully.
Go when is most convenient for the other party. Speak with grace, not out of anger.
7) Go with modest expectations.
Jesus never promised that the other party would always be repentant or will always accept forgiveness or offer forgiveness.
You are only able to control your own reaction. You can’t control anyone else. So do not expect them to forgive or ask for forgiveness. If you go with an expectation, and it is unfulfilled, this will likely lead only to more hurt, not less!
8) Last, if the person has passed away or is completely out of your life/unreachable, pray your forgiveness to God.
Confess to God your need to forgive that other person.