If you are a single parent, there is no way you haven’t been hurt by someone or something. Whether it be betrayal, abandonment, maybe even God allowing a spouse to die, we have all been wounded in some way. We have good reason to be angry for what we have been through. Often, the idea of forgiveness isn’t something we even want to do. We know God tells us we should. We have heard it is the right thing to do. But no one can just flip a switch and act like nothing bad ever happened or was done. If you have struggled with forgiveness, we have found six steps to be helpful in working toward forgiving those who have hurt you.
Because this is often an emotional topic that can stir up feelings of resentment, anger and pain, it’s especially important to be grounded before we begin. Let’s take a minute to be still and quiet and reflect on the truth that God loves us and is for us and that He will walk with us as we journey into greater healing. Right now, our only step is to let Him be our comfort and guide as we consider areas in our life where we may be called to forgive. No action is needed. Just a heart attuned to Him, ready to receive His love and care which covers every action past and present that has been harmful or hurtful. Only from this place of complete acceptance and love are we ready to move any further ahead on the path to forgiveness.
Ephesians 3:17-20 says, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
First, let’s define forgiveness. Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they deserve your forgiveness.
Equally important is what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is NOT saying:
-You were not hurt by what the other person did.
-Your pain is gone.
-Life can now pick up where you left off or feel the way you did before, as if what happened never happened.
-You no longer believe the other person was responsible for causing harm.
-You excuse the other person’s behavior.
-You no longer view what happened as important.
-You share the blame for what happened.
-You can ever forget what happened.
Entering into forgiveness does not mean any of those things. Forgiveness does not deny hurt or pain. It does not excuse what happened or make you forget. It also doesn’t mean you are responsible in any way, nor does it mean you need to reconnect or stay connected to someone you need to forgive. Rather, forgiveness is a step that brings you greater freedom as you discover the grace to let go of the need to exact justice or vengeance, or to carry the weight of anger and pain any longer. Forgiveness allows us to take back our freedom and ability to move forward, lighter and with less pain.
There are many benefits to forgiveness. A John Hopkins study concluded the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress.
Forgiveness also benefits our kids.
They are watching – every action, every word you speak, every facial expression, every action is being seen by your children, who will eventually emulate millions of things you and your ex do. For their sake, we need to intentionally move toward healing. We need to take steps toward forgiveness. We need to be free of our anger and bitterness so we can leave a legacy of grace for them.
A significant reason for moving toward forgiveness is because God commands us to do it for our good. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Whenever God commands us to do something, it is always with our best interests at heart. His perfect sovereignty and knowledge of what we need to thrive as humans is rooted in His deep love for each one of us. If He calls us to do something, we can be confident He wants what is best for us and knows better than we do why it is important. And He doesn’t leave us alone to walk it out. It is His Spirit that empowers us to take each necessary step toward forgiving those who have hurt us. It won’t be by “might or power” that we are able to forgive but “by His spirit”, a foundational truth to stand on as we consider the steps we need to take to forgive.
So, how do we forgive? In talking this through with our solo parent team, and in researching the act of forgiveness, we identified six key steps.
Six Steps to Forgiveness
1.Recognize it is necessary. We must recognize the benefits and importance. Max Lucado says, “Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner.”
2.It is a deliberate move forward. Forgiveness is a conscious act of the will. And, remember, forgiving others is also a process. Forgiveness is a decision and one we continue to make as our healing progresses. It is rarely a “one and done” experience but rather an ongoing choice to not hang on to bitterness or a desire for vengeance or punishment for those who have hurt us. It’s a conscious choice to transfer our need for justice into God’s hands completely. It’s a willingness to let Him determine how and when He will set things right, trusting His way and timing more than our own control or hanging on to anger as a way of keeping score. We relinquish that role to God instead, trusting Him as righteous judge so we no longer feel the need to play that role.
3.Check expectations. In choosing to forgive, we must acknowledge that we are choosing to forgive even if the offending party doesn’t recognize their fault. In choosing to forgive, we are letting go of our expectation for an acknowledgment, apology, amends or recompense of any kind. Our decision is for us, by us, and will benefit US, even if the other person has no idea of our decision to forgive.
4. Pray for the offending party. While this seems impossible, a good place to start is in asking God to help you. Be honest and admit this feels impossible. Ask God for the willingness to be willing! Take it one step at a time and let God’s Spirit work in you as you release the process into His hands. “Lord, make me willing to pray for this person” is a good place to start. “Lord, help me take one small step toward forgiveness” is another. Be patient with yourself. God is patient with us too.
5. Be grateful for the path. While this might seem counterintuitive, gratitude opens the door to forgiveness. When we acknowledge our own sin, we recognize our own need for God’s forgiveness. As we respond with thankfulness to Him for the forgiveness we so desperately need ourselves, our gratitude can unlock the door to forgiving others. Acknowledging our humanity with thankfulness and humility is a gateway to offering that grace to those who have harmed us too.
6. Surrender. Let go of the outcome. As you step into forgiving others, remember that hardship helps us remember the beauty of dependency on God. Forgiving others is hard. We can’t do it on our own. We aren’t supposed to. We are meant to rely on Him. It is in His power and strength, and as an outgrowth of our own need for forgiveness and love, that we can step into forgiving others. As we surrender to God and receive His grace ourselves, from that overflow, we are then able to forgive. And, we can also surrender the outcome as well, trusting God to determine that perfectly as only He can do.
Forgiveness, ultimately, is about freedom. When we need someone else to acknowledge hurts, and to change their behavior for us to be okay, we end up as their prisoner. Without forgiveness, we’re shackled to anger and resentment for the harms done to us. In choosing to forgive, we unchain ourselves from the choices of others and we set ourselves free. In forgiveness, we can walk away and move forward into greater health and life, separate from bitterness or a desire for vengeance, leaving that in God’s hands. In doing so, we experience freedom, and our children see us walking in peace and love, confident in God’s ability to redeem past hurts on our behalf, apart from any other person’s needed involvement.
Forgiveness isn’t easy but we are called to it. And God won’t leave us alone in it. He is with us through each step and empowers us to do what we cannot do on our own.
Ephesians 3 talks about the depth and breadth of God’s love for us and continues with His power. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.” It is His power at work within us. Whatever He calls us to do, He equips us to complete, beyond what we can ask or imagine. In forgiving others, we can trust Him to show up for us with His power and help. We can count on that!
As you navigate the journey of forgiveness, we want to offer practical support and resources Join our Solo Parent Society community by participating in one of our online groups meeting every week. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@soloparentsociety). Subscribe to our weekly podcast via AccessMore or wherever you get your podcasts, and download our Solo Parent app FREE in the app store. We love to connect single parents to resources that offer hope and help. If you want to donate so we can reach more single parent families, go to www.soloparentsociety.com. Questions? Email us at email@example.com.