Someone harmed you, wronged you, took advantage of you or someone you care about, and it hurt, but you have chosen to forgive.
Now that the question of whether to forgive has been resolved, you are faced with the challenge of how to forgive what he, she or they did.
It could be sexual abuse or lies or theft or a million other things. If you're having a hard time forgiving, I'm not going to question that it's a legitimately terrible thing that was done to you.
For me, it's about a lady who sold my wife and I a franchise business with a heaping bowlful of outright lies.
10 years later, we're still paying the price for the financial harm that did to our family, and we're going to be continuing to deal with it for the foreseeable future.
We were young and inexperienced and she was happy to line her pockets with our gold.
She sent us friend requests on social media years later and acted like she had never done anything wrong.
She wilfully harmed us, and it's had a huge impact on our lives and affected our kids. She's never offered any kind of apology.
I have no doubt this experience pales in comparison to experiences suffered by others, but this has been a painful one for me, so waving my hand and saying, 'I forgive her' isn't really going to cut it.
Forgiving a painful experience is going to take more than waving my hand and saying, 'I forgive you'.
But I believe I should forgive her. I've talked about why I believe that elsewhere.
But where do I start, and how can I actually fulfill this decision (if not desire) to forgive?
1- Focus on the forgiveness God has extended to you.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a story of a King who forgives a servant who is in a great amount of debt. That servant, in turn, refuses to forgive the much smaller debt of another servant. The first servant then suffers the consequences of his own debt on account of his refusal to forgive.
The point of the story is clear: if we don't forgive other people for sins against us, God will not forgive us for our sins. That terrifies me.
I can either choose God's mercy or his judgement for myself, and the way I chose is by what I give others: mercy or judgement.
The easiest way I find, therefore, to give others mercy, is to spend time appreciating how much I am in need of God's mercy. How much forgiveness I require from him on a regular basis.
The easiest way to give others mercy is to spend time appreciating how much I am in need of God's mercy.
Once I know how deeply I need that forgiveness, I am afraid to withhold it from others. It is, paradoxically, in my own interest that I choose to forgive others.
2- Pray for that person
When I am ready to offer that forgiveness, I find it is important to start with prayer. If you're a far better person than I am, perhaps you're immediately ready to include step 3 with your prayer for that person.
I am petty and self centered, so my process usually starts with the prayer, 'God I want to forgive that person, please help me to do so.'
Next, I pray for the person in question. "God, may that person know and respond to your love. Bless them and draw them to yourself."
3- Forgive them
Forgiveness is choosing not to hold a debt against another person. Choosing to scratch off the amount in the red and say instead, they do not owe me anything.
Andy Stanley does a great job of exploring this concept in the book Enemies of the Heart.
When you forgive someone, you are making the choice to no longer hold it against them.
This doesn't mean you act like it never happened. If you were in a violent relationship, forgiveness does not mean you go move back in with him or her.
When you forgive someone, you are making the choice to no longer hold it against them. This doesn't mean you act like it never happened.
Forgiveness is choosing not to consider that person in your debt any longer.
4- Forgive them again, and again, and again
Here's the thing, once you genuinely and honestly forgive them, you're going to have to do it again. Because you'll wake up one day (maybe the very next day) and still be mad at them. Still be hurt by what they did. Still want justice - and by the way, you're supposed to hunger and thirst for justice - which means you're trusting God to provide it instead of trying to make it happen yourself.
So when that happens, not if, you need to reaffirm your choice to forgive them.
It will take time for your heart to get on board with what you have decided in your head. This is normal and natural. You're not a terrible person.
When Peter asks if we should forgive someone seven times, Jesus blows up his paradigm by saying, you need to forgive seventy times seven, which was a figure of speech for 'infinite times'.
It's easy to read that and think we need to forgive once for each offense done to us, but for the big ones, we may need to forgive that person seventy times seven just for the wrong(s) we are choosing to forgive.
I want to commend you for choosing to forgive and putting forth the hard work it requires. I also know that all that hard work is actually helping you to become a healthier person. You're integrating the fuller, more abundant life Jesus talks about into yourself.
This hard work you're doing is an investment into yourself and a better, more joyful future.
So even though it's hard, you're going to gain, not lose in the end.
Even though forgiving is hard, when you do it, you're going to gain - not lose - in the end.
I pray that God shows the woman who harmed my family his great love for her and that she responds to it. I know there is room in the Kingdom of God for her, because it had room for me.
May we be known as a people who are not defined by what has been done to us, but rather by the way we respond.