This post is Part 3 in an 8-part blog series on forgiveness. (If you missed the first post, you can find it here.)
In Part 3, I want to talk to you about the difference between making a decision to forgive and experiencing emotional forgiveness. Sometimes I talk to people who are upset because even though they want to forgive someone, they still feel a lot of hurt, anger, or sadness about what happened.
This is completely normal. There is a difference between making a decision to forgive and experiencing emotional forgiveness. Making a decision to forgive is a commitment to work toward forgiveness. It is a commitment to not take revenge, and instead treat the person more positively and less negatively. A decision can be made in an instant. However, emotional forgiveness is a process that involves a change in emotion toward the person who hurt you. Your emotions become more positive (e.g., compassion, empathy, love) and less negative (e.g., anger, fear, sadness). Emotional forgiveness doesn’t usually happen right away. It is a process that takes time. (And that’s okay.)
If you are a Christian and are struggling with what God requires of you regarding forgiveness, I believe God wants us to make a decision to forgive. However, I think God understands emotional forgiveness is a process that takes time. There may even be certain situations where full emotional forgiveness isn’t possible. I think this is okay, and God understands we are limited in our ability to experience emotional forgiveness. So try to take the pressure off yourself in that regard. Perhaps a starting point would be to make a decision to forgive, and make a commitment to work through the forgiveness exercises in the upcoming blog posts.
Action Step: Consider the person you would like to forgive. Write out a description of what the person did to hurt you. Be as detailed as you can in your description. Next, consider your emotions toward the person who hurt you. Rate your emotions on a scale from 1-5 (1 = strongly negative to 5 = strongly positive). Don’t judge yourself for your current level of emotional forgiveness. Negative emotions toward the person who hurt you are normal and probably serve to protect you. Next, consider whether you might want to make a decision to forgive. Remember, this is only a commitment to work toward forgiveness. If you are ready to make a decision, write out a statement of your decision in a journal. Sign and date the decision.
Click here to read Part 4: Recall the Hurt in a Neutral Way