Forgiving is a beautiful choice when you can make it, but I think that we have a lot of baggage associated with the word, the concept, and the action. There are so many definitions of what it means to forgive–and what it does not mean to forgive. I just barely use the word any more.
So, when I feel wronged now–and I’ve thrown my fair share of pity parties!–this is pretty much how I handle it:
I often shield myself if I still feel vulnerable. Otherwise, I simply remind myself of my connection to God. [Using the Protect & Ground method described on this post.]
I sometimes follow this with various ideas of why the person might have acted that way, trying to accept that a person simply may not have the resources to have behaved better. I also look at my responsibility in the matter and what I could have done differently.
So, for instance, yesterday a child pointed at my daughter and laughed, nudging her friends to join in. Is this because my daughter has wronged her by having difficulty with walking and moving her body? No, most likely it is because the girl has seen or experienced being teased for being different. In a certain way, mocking others is a protection for her.
Here’s another example. I write an email to someone and don’t hear back. Is it because I’ve offended her or because she simply didn’t have the time/thoughts/space to respond?
Oprah opened my eyes to this, actually. She was talking about a scenario like this with Sarah Ferguson–that Ms. Ferguson assumed a non-response meant she’d done something wrong. But Oprah said, “It’s not always about you!” I found that shocking and offensive until Oprah explained that sometimes there are other things going on in a person’s life that interfere with or interrupt what otherwise might occur in a relationship. Good point! It isn’t always about me [or you]!
Then I pray for the other. The first time that I undertook this, it was really hard! Someone had been deeply hurtful to us for many years. We committed to a daily prayer for one month for her, and we could hardly think of anything to say. I literally posted on a Facebook page asking for help. Someone–a stranger–suggested that we pray that the person be lifted up out of fear. That made sense, that fear is basically the basis of harmful choices [including the overdose given to my daughter, BTW!]. So we started there — that the person be lifted up out of fear and eventually added that she would be able to open her heart.
My go-to prayer, then, is something like this, “God, please lift this person up out of fear and open her heart so that she might fully know the joy and love of Your presence in her life.”
Finally, sometimes we need this prayer for ourselves!