Steps To Forgiveness…lets start with a workable definition
The late Lewis Smedes once declared that “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
You might be thinking,
“Sure, Dr. Smedes. I can capture the idea you’re trying to convey, but just how in the hell am I the prisoner? The individual I resent is cruel, violent, and hurts others – and worst of all, they hurt me! Is not my resentment justified?”
A Lack of Forgiveness Is A Lack of Freedom
What if I told you that you willingly sealed yourself into an emotional cage, gave whoever you resent the keys, and made them prison warden over your spiritual life?
Would you believe me?
Moreover, what if I told you every day your bitter heart plots its escape, designing sophisticated maneuvers to bring about justice and vindication.
Only day in and day out you find yourself exercising in the spiritual prison yard, committed to your self-imposed life sentence.
Would you believe me that you make this choice daily?
Making Sense Of Forgiveness
What’s the motive in this real-life Shutter Island-like scenario?
Who would willingly subject themselves to this nightmare?
In other words, what’s the real intent behind this type of bitterness?
If we are to understand Dr. Smedes we must first understand the hidden assumption within resentment.
This article will explore the fundamental steps to forgiveness.
These steps are actually powerful insights to shift your map of reality and set you free.
In the end you’ll discover that all change is merely a series of insights and epiphanies.
Insight #1: Your Brain Is A Damn Tyrant!
The hidden assumption behind resentment is the desire for TOTAL control.
You might ask, “What am I trying to control?”
“Why must that be?”
I’m glad you asked!
Understand, you’ve developed a belief system that demands your well-being and emotional contentment be contingent upon the behavior of everything around you (people, places, things).
Therefore, ALL must be controlled.
Truthfully, almost no one would agree with that statement, inasmuch as it is the overarching demand of their belief system.
Nonetheless, an unforgiven heart is one dead set on the successful control of what is outside of them for internal happiness.
Additionally, this is the God awful philosophy our cultural pitches. It’s time to reverse the narrative.
Unfortunately, externals, especially other people, are outside the scope of one’s control.
You can suppress, oppress, and mentally finesse them but their internal domain is out of reach and thus they remain unpredictable
Consequently, this leaves the would-be-controller in a constant state of duress and insecurity.
Think of it like this: if you can not control others they will cease to do what you desire, which is, of course, a recipe for a bitter heart.
Similarly, as the old AA adage states, “an expectation is a down payment for a resentment.”
Insight #2: Your Mind Is A Society, Understand The Laws That Govern it.
Let’s call these anarchic law-breakers who fail to meet your desired expectations “improv actors” or “script-deviatiors”.
Secretly, these subtle expectations imply a script or screenplay.
You can think of it as a law or standard by which to set expectations.
But just how does one come about acquiring this law?
Is it reliable?
Can it be trusted?
Does the person with the resentment who is enforcing this law even know the basic tenets of it?
It would appear that the unexamined life lives by a law and it knows not what that law is!
Let me illustrate: Imagine living in a land that enforced its law diligently yet had no idea what the law was.
It would be sheer pandemonium; total chaos.
Imagine the fear?
It would be off the charts.
Now, this metropolis is your mind.
So in terms of an internal law, one must consider recovery as REFORM.
The reform is a mental legislative overhaul.
Cleaning the slate and clearing the records, or for the sake of this article, forgiveness.
Reform brings about the new law or the rebirth as the great religious traditions termed it.
The old law by which the previous transgressors were condemned no longer exists.
Therefore, the resentment can no longer rationally exist.
In this way forgiveness is not some emotional exercise, though it does take immense courage, it’s really the outcome of rational assessment and practice.
In short, forgiveness is the raw material in which a new internal life is molded.
The following are excellent resources on forgiveness:
Total Forgiveness by R.T. Kendall
The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World by Desmond Tutu