The Bible teaches us that if we are to experience healing in our lives we must first forgive the people who have hurt us. This does not justify what they have done, but lets you move on with your life in a healthy way.
But how do you do that? How do you forgive someone who has hurt you? How do you let go of the pain so it doesn’t turn into a bitterness that poisons your soul?
Here are some steps you can take:
1. Recognize your pain.
Proverbs 14:10a says, “Each heart knows its own bitterness…” Don’t try to pretend everything is okay. Process what happened. Take time to grieve and feel your emotions. Admit to yourself that you were hurt.
2. Remember God loves both of you.
John 3:16a says, “For God so loved the world…” When someone hurts you it’s easy to demonize them. While what they did to you may have been wrong, don’t forget that everyone is someone Jesus died for.
3. Realize your part.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins.” We all sin. We all mess up. Before you address their part of the problem, you must own your part and make things right on your end.
4. Reconcile if possible.
If it is safe and possible to do so, consider pursuing reconciliation with them (see Matthew 18:15-17). Apologize for anything you may have done wrong and ask how you can make your part right. Lovingly tell them how their actions hurt you. Ask politely for a change on their end. Consider taking a trusted third party to go with you, such as a pastor.
5. Release their debt.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:19, “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord.”
Make a list of everyone who has hurt you and write out how they hurt you, whether they are living or dead. Keep this list somewhere safe. Once you’ve finished, get alone with God, go through the list one at a time and pray something like this for each person:
“Father, ____________________ has hurt me by __________________. What they did was wrong. It has caused me so much pain. Today, I release them and all the wrongs they did to you. Do whatever you wish to them. I put them in your hands. Help me to let go of the hurt and find rest in you.”
6. Readjust your boundaries.
Proverbs 27:12a says, “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to keep getting hurt. If it’s not safe or possible to reconcile, set boundaries to protect yourself. Minimize your time together if they won’t change. Change jobs, churches, neighborhoods, etc. Unfollow them on social media and block them on your devices. Avoid places you know they will be as much as possible – even family gatherings if need be.
If what they did to you was criminal, abusive, etc, call the police and find a safe place to stay. God doesn’t want you to live in an abusive or dangerous situation.
7. Rely on God and safe people for help.
Pray and meditate on Scripture (Psalm 119:11; 1 Peter 5:7). Ask God to heal your heart. Pray for God to change and bless those who’ve wronged you (Matthew 5:44). Reach out to family and friends you trust for help (Galatians 6:2). Get plugged into a good church. Join a small group and/or support group. Consider meeting with a pastor or Christian counselor. Remember: You don’t have to go through this alone (Galatians 6:2).
Forgiveness won’t happen in a day, but it can happen daily as you take these steps.