How do we forgive?
I seem to have forgotten because this past week I was triggered twice and found myself engulfed by emotions that had not been there 30 seconds before the incidents. And, I struggled by first reacting and then instinctively trying to push the thoughts out of my mind.
I knew I needed to forgive and wanted to forgive but the angry thoughts swirled in my mind and the more I tried to get rid of them, the more they kept resurfacing.
It was out of control, and I was not handling things well as I spouted off to my husband how I felt.
I thought I knew better and also believed I could handle these unexpected triggers. But obviously, I was wrong.
I immediately recognized that my emotions had a hold on me and were pulling me into an unhealthy state of mind. I asked myself, who was in charge at this moment?
Well, it obviously wasn’t me.
The Bible talks about our need to forgive, because our Heavenly Father knows that unforgiveness is unhealthy for us.
We do not do forgive for the sake of the other person, we do it because keeping ourselves in a state of unforgiveness is unhealthy and according to research it can potentially affect our physical well-being.
So we must keep ourselves out of unforgiveness. I knew this, but I was still struggling to forgive.
But I was finally able to break through and I want to share what I did.
Because I am a visual person, I find visual exercises helpful in getting a grip on my emotions. I want to be in charge of my feelings and not controlled by them.
So here is what I did. I stood up and did three actions.
First: FOR-give – I stepped FORward expressing my decision to forgive and to step away from the emotions that were lingering inside me. And, with my hands outstretched, palms up, in front of me, I acknowledged the feelings of anger, resentment and rejection that were stirring within me.
Secondly: I literally took hold of each of my negative feelings and one by one, I pulled them down with one hand and placed them in my other cupped hand. By doing this, I reinforced the idea that I was the one in control and not the incident that triggered me emotionally.
Thirdly: For-GIVE — Now that I had control over these feelings firmly gripped in my hand, I chose to GIVE them up by opening my hand and releasing them to God.
These outward acts were symbolic of the decisions I was making in my heart. I was acknowledging my problem. I acknowledged that it was ultimately my choice to forgive and I mentally and visually brought each negative emotion into check. I then took responsibility, forgave and then through a physical act emotionally released them to God.
I find this visualization helpful in reminding me of what I need to do.
Jesus even recommended a physical action in response to offense. Jesus told His disciples, if a person takes your cloak, then give them (an act of forgiveness) your shirt as well.