Learning to forgive is vital to experiencing inner peace. Even if your head knows this to be true, why is it so hard for your heart to believe it? In this post, I show you how to forgive in Jesus’ upside-down way. You will heal your hurt forever and not just because your head says you “should” do it. When you succeed, you will be astonished at how light and at peace you feel.
When you are hurt by something someone did to you, the pain is real. When the spouse who vowed to love you ’til death do you part, betrays you, the pain and losses are devastating. Even on a day-to-day level, when a person repeatedly says they will do something (or stop doing something) and then doesn’t, you feel disappointed and increasingly angry by the umpteenth occurrence.
Underneath these hurts is a boundary violation. You put a part of your happiness in the hands of another person. When someone takes that away, your mind instantly sees these as “trespasses” and tries to make sense of them. First you check in with yourself. Did you do something to deserve this? If not, why would this person hurt you so badly?
Deep in your heart, you take the actions of the offender personally. Something bad happened and it has to be someone’s fault. Even the death of a loved one can be blamed on God. It is our human nature to want to assign responsibility to someone for what happened.
If you don’t blame the offender, you are only left with yourself to blame. Depending on how hurt you feel, this can be too much to bear. First of all, it makes no sense. You didn’t do anything wrong so how can it be your fault? Secondly, if you did do something he/she didn’t like, why didn’t they say something? It’s not like you weren’t willing to talk about it.
When you look with ruthless honesty in the mirror, you inevitably see that you own a certain share of the responsibility for what happened. Even a random act against a loved one leads to self-blame. You ask yourself, why did I go to that destination on that day in that car using that roadway? And so forth.
It is hard to see your own role in relationship troubles. For years, I had a cold, distant relationship with my father. It was only when I realized that by blaming him for it, I was giving myself permission to do nothing about it. It was “all his fault.” Once I came to this self-awareness, the Spirit revealed to me an upside-down way to forgive him and the courage I needed to do it.
This is what you do: You ask to be forgiven without asking in return for the same.
With traditional forgiveness, we are taught that we should forgive the other person. Furthermore, we want them to ask, and even beg for our forgiveness. We believe we are being magnanimous if we grant them their wish.
It is far more healing to ask to be forgiven from the very person who hurt you.
I did this with my father. I told him I wanted a better relationship. I acknowledged the positives I received from him without mentioning any negatives. I asked him to forgive me for my mistakes. I invited him to raise any further hurts he might have with me. He responded with tears and an admission of one recent hurt that bothered him. We hugged and I felt healed in that very moment.
He never apologized for anything to me then or later. Strangely, that did not bother me in the least. By the power of the Spirit, I was completely released from any ill-will or resentments. All I did was take responsibility for my own role.
This same thing happened to me with my ex-wife. I experienced complete healing by owning my role only, without asking her to take any responsibility for her role in the breakdown of our marriage.
Healing my relationship with my dad was crucial to my ability to later on have a healthy second marriage. I believe that my unresolved issues with him contributed greatly to the break-up of my first marriage. Unconsciously, my pent-up resentments with him deeply and harmfully affected the relationship I had with my first wife.
Why does this upside-down approach to forgiveness work?
- Firstly, the other person feels just like you. They only see how you hurt them. They rationalize, justify or simply forget how they hurt you. In their mind, you are only doing what you should have done all along.
- Second, when you take ownership of your own actions, you heal your inner self. You are taking care of you by no longer denying your own truth. Blaming others is a barrier to being true to yourself.
- Third, you set yourself free. Your self-worth and capacity to love and be loved are no longer defined by what the other person did or whether they took responsibility for it. That is between their conscience and God. If they do reciprocate, that will be a welcome bonus.
When you ask to be forgiven by the other person, you protect yourself from further hurts. You are accepting your role and you now know what you need to do differently in the future. When you want them to seek your forgiveness, you put yourself in a vulnerable position. You risk trusting them and letting them hurt you again. This is the fear that makes forgiveness hard to do. You remain fearful and vigilant. There is no inner peace when you do not feel safe.
You may ask, how can an innocent victim seek forgiveness from the perpetrator? For example, how does a woman randomly attacked and raped seek forgiveness for just being there? This is an existential question that goes beyond the scope of this posting. Suffice to say, this approach is best used in a long-standing relationship.
To learn more about Jesus’ upside-down way to have inner peace, read, “The First Rule of Inner Peace“. You can download the first three chapters for free. You can also learn to conquer hardships with love at Inner Peace Mission, my learning and coaching ministry for leaders and care-givers.