It is essential to understand forgiveness, but it is critical to go beyond that to applying and verifying forgiveness.
Step 5: Apply Your Decision (Change the Dressing Regularly)
Consider the scars on your body. They are memorials to healing!
There are some significant scars on my body from a skiing accident, a near-death experience, and two back operations. Those situations were extremely painful – at the time – but they are not painful now – they are healed!
If I had some lousy thinking, I could look at those scars, remember the pain, and put myself back into the pain and difficulty of each situation. But why would I do that – those situations are over, and the scars are proof of the healing. Wouldn’t it be better to see the scars and remember that the situation is over and that I am healed?
That is why we believe in FORGIVE and REMEMBER. Once you have experienced the power of forgiveness, you will have multiple healed scars rather than open wounds.
Forgive and Remember helps for old as well as new wounds. When you remember or reflect on any old “wound,” you can remember that it is now a scar – healed – and there is no need to reopen it. You can remember the scars and healing from the old wounds when you have a new wound. That will help you consider forgiving again, maybe even now.
Unfortunately, without forgiveness, we leave the wounds open, and they turn into bloody messes. Not what God wants for you!
Once you have forgiven, whatever you can do to remember the forgiveness, do it because, in the heat of emotion, it is easy to forget. You decide to forgive in Step 4. You have committed to new thinking – no longer revenge – instead, letting it go. Now memorialize that thinking with an action and a date. Think of this step like baptism is for us. Baptism does not save us but is a testimony, a memorial to the most important decision you and I will ever make – trust God for eternity.
Here is a good application and remembrance exercise. Write down the name of the person you want to forgive and what is being forgiven on a small card or piece of paper. Take the card and go to a quiet place. Kneel and place the card in your hands, palms up. Hold the card up to heaven. Pray to the Lord what you have written on the card in your words, and tell Him you are forgiving them and you want Him to take this event from you. Pray anything else you desire about the event, and when you finish, write the date and time on the card. Put the card in a safe place to remind you that you have forgiven the person, or throw the card away if there is a chance the person might see it. But remember the date somehow. Now you have a date, a memorial to remind you that you forgave them.
Step 6: Validate and Verify Your Decision (Look for signs of infection)
Satan and your sin nature are not happy with forgiveness. There will be many opportunities to move backward toward vengeance and bitterness – the next time you get into an argument, the next time you feel slighted, or the next time you see, hear, smell, taste, or touch something that reminds you of what happened. Anytime you start “Flashing your ME” with them, you may return to bitterness. Most likely, immediately after forgiving, the event will cross your mind. Satan, through your sin nature, wants you to “pay attention to” it, to go back to life before Step 1.
So, how do you deal with these thoughts about what they did to you? You say you forgave, but the thoughts keep coming up. It depends on the answer to one essential question. Before you ask the question, consider these options:
- OPTION 1: You did not forgive when you said you did
- OPTION 2: You did forgive and need to forgive again
- OPTION 3: You did forgive and need to validate your forgiveness
All three options need this question.
Did I forgive them when I said I did?
The answer to the question is either YES or NO. If you answer MAYBE, consider that a NO because you will need to take the same action as a NO. Forgiveness is about freeing you from the bondage of their offense to you. MAYBE does not help, so the only two valid answers are YES or NO.
Now, ask that question about the wrong the person did to you. “Did I forgive them when I said I did?” YES or NO?
If your answer is NO, that’s option one above. Ask the Lord to help you understand forgiveness and prepare you to forgive. Go back to Step 1. You either want to be free or stay in bondage – which is it? You either want to seek revenge or give it to God – which is it? Do you want this wound healed or open to drain your energy and life – which is it? It is your choice.
But your answer could be YES. You know you forgave, remembered the date, and used the application tool in step 5. But here is the problem, you let your lousy thinking and emotions control you, resulting in using the offense against them. You may have wanted revenge in your thoughts or had a moment of anger and spewed nasty words to them about how bad they are for doing “that” to you. That is option two above. You are “paying attention to” or have “marked” the location of the “weapon” and have started using it again. The solution – go back to step 1 and forgive again. It would also help to confess to the Lord and the other person that you have sinned against them for letting bitterness and revenge control you.
Finally, your answer is YES, but you continue thinking about what happened. Your thoughts are not toward revenge or bitterness; it is just that you remember it and the pain of going through that event. You do NOT need to go back to Step 1. Do these three things:
- Use the power of 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. The end of verse 5 says, “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
- Hand the thoughts to Jesus Christ, saying, “Lord, I know that I forgave, that I didn’t lie about the forgiveness, and You know I did not lie. You deal with the thoughts and remove them from me.”
- MOVE QUICKLY TO STEP 7.
As you continue to subject those thoughts to Christ, you will struggle with them less, and the wound will heal.
Step 7 Enjoy Freedom & Healing
If you have not forgiven, doing what this step requires will be extremely hard. If you have, this step speeds the healing.
Louie had a severe break in her left arm at the elbow that required a metal plate and screws to give her use of the arm again. Not long after the surgery, the doctor prescribed working with a physical therapist to rebuild the muscles and maximize the flexibility of her elbow. That therapy was not fun; it was painful, but it was necessary to maximize her arm's healing and use.
Step 7 is like working with a physical therapist. What they ask you to do may be challenging, but it is imperative if you want freedom and healing. Here is what this step requires:
- Praying for God’s blessing upon them
- Encouraging them
- Pursuing their best by finding ways to serve them.
When you come through step 6 and verify that you have forgiven, this step will help you continue to move forward. Without this last step, it will be easy to let the memory of the pain of what they did to you pull you back toward vengeance and bitterness. There is immense power in this step.
You may be mumbling, “You have got to be kidding! You are asking me not only to let the offense go but now you are asking me to pray blessing upon them!"
Yes, I am because it is what Christ did. This step follows the marvelous example of Jesus Christ.
We participated with the people of Jerusalem in the crucifixion of Jesus. He was beaten and tortured and then hung on the cross. As Jesus was on the cross, He asked His Father to forgive the people of Jerusalem and us. He then died, rose again, and appeared to many people. Then He did something we want to imitate.
And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me… But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. – Acts 1:4, 8
Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples to bless Jerusalem, the people who did Him wrong! Blessing people who have harmed you is impossible without forgiveness. Until we forgive those who have wronged us, we cannot pray God’s blessing upon them, encourage them, or pursue their best. And until we do that, we will not experience the freedom and healing God wants for us.
Ensure your healing – pray for them, bless them, and find ways to pursue their best. Enjoy the FREEDOM!