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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Working through forgiveness

Forgiveness is a process that can take a great deal of time. Here are the steps:

1. Uncovering
We examine our psychological defenses and confront our anger over being injured so it can be released, not harbored. Admitting our hurt and shame, if appropriate, we become aware of our depleted emotional energy and realize that our injury may cause permanent, adverse change.

2. Decision
We recognize that the ways we are dealing with our hurt and anger aren't working. Stuck in bitterness and resentment, we are unable freely to move on with life and become willing to consider forgiveness as an option. Slowly, we commit ourselves to forgiving the one who hurt us.

3. Work
We reframe the way we see the offender. We try to see him in a new light, seeking to understand the forces and situations that may have moved him to his actions. In short, we try to see the person as a human being, not just someone who hurt us. Feeling empathy and compassion toward the offender, we accept our pain and give moral gifts to the offender.

4. Deepening
We find meaning for others and ourselves in the struggle of forgiving. We recognize that we aren't alone: Others have been injured, and we, too, have needed others' forgiveness in the past. As we do, painful emotions (anger, bitterness) decrease, while positive feelings increase toward the one who hurt us. We may see purpose in life because of our injury.


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