Forgiving someone can be one of the hardest things to do. Typically if someone hurts us we want them to earn our forgiveness. The problem is forgiveness cannot be earned, only given.
Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Here are 5 steps to let go of grudges and experience true forgiveness.
1. Pray for them. Do not pray that they will apologize or that they will come to their senses. Pray for their well being. Pray for peace in your life and in theirs. Pray for mental and emotional healing. You might even start with, "God, this person really hurt me and I don't want to forgive them. Please begin to soften my heart."
2. Don't Gossip! It is healthy for you to talk about your hurts. It is unhealthy to tell everyone you know and bash the character of others. The more you talk bad about the person that hurt you the more negative your feelings will be towards them, and the harder it will be to forgive. If you don't have anything nice to say...
*Steps 3 and 4 are only necessary if you plan to restore and continue a relationship with the person you are forgiving.*
3. Make positive contact. Until you're ready to fully forgive, begin making small, positive contact. If you see this person on a regular basis, start by smiling and politely saying hello. Make quick small talk. If you don't see them often, send a quick e-mail, text, or hand written card. Call to quickly ask how they are doing or simply to wish them a happy birthday or nearest holiday. Whatever you do, make it quick and positive.
4. Apologize. I know what you're thinking. "He/She is the one who should be apologizing!" If you want to be free from the bondage of bitterness then you have to make the decision to let go. When the time is right (you'll know) apologize for something (not everything) that you have done that may have hurt them. Possibly apologize for the negative feelings that you had towards them. Again, make it quick and positive. DO NOT expect anything in return. Your forgiveness cannot be contingent on their apology.
5. Be Patient. Every situation has a different time frame but eventually your heart will be prepared for forgiveness. It may or may not be appropriate for you to tell the person that you have forgiven them. You might tell them in person or send a letter or e-mail. If it is someone you don't wish to or can't reconnect with you may want to write a letter to them expressing your forgiveness and then bury it, burn it, or keep it somewhere. Forgiving someone is saying "You no longer have control over my feelings but I love you and want the best for you, regardless of the hurt that you caused."
Remember, no one deserves forgiveness. Not even you. To forgive someone is to cancel a debt that cannot be paid. They cannot undo the hurt that was caused. This is what makes it so difficult and so special. Forgiveness cannot be earned, only given. Do you have someone you need to forgive?
...forgive us of our sins, as we also forgive those who have sinned against us...
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Seven times? Jesus answered, "Not seven times, but seventy-seven times." Matt. 18:21
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matt 6:14-15
I know it was a long post. Thanks for reading!