When I was growing up, I was taught the importance of forgiveness. I can sum up what I believed as:
- I was supposed to ask for forgiveness.
- I was supposed to forgive others (especially those I am close to, like family).
- Jesus made it so I could be forgiven if I believed and asked.
- Forgiveness was the “golden ticket” I was supposed to be looking for.
Since I’ve always been a rule follower and I wanted my ticket (or was scared not to get one), I made sure to pray every night that I be forgiven and that those who sinned against me also be forgiven. I would then rest a bit easier knowing I did what I was supposed to do.
This seemingly worked for a long time. But eventually, I had to admit that saying the words did not mean I felt them. I gave my 20-30 seconds every night, and then I moved on. And, as I grew older, I found times in my relationships where I could not move forward. I found myself hung up in the past and on the lookout for where I may be wronged again.
About a year ago, a close counsel of mine suggested that my relationship issue (read multiple relationships) was really a forgiveness issue. He advised me to find a good way to let out my pent up anger and then to come back and he would challenge me to try really forgiving just one person I care about.
When I came back, here is what he told me: In Matthew 18:22, Jesus replies to a question on forgiving by saying, “You must forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven.” So in this practice we do just that:
- Pick one person you feel you need to forgive or with whom your relationship feels stuck.
- Write and fill in the following in your journal: (Name), I forgive you for (insert your grievance here)
- Repeat this 70 times a day for seven straight days.
- Feel free to repeat yourself if nothing new comes to you, but don’t stop just because you don’t have something new for your list.
- If you miss a day, start over again at day 1.
- When you complete day 7, take time to reflect and maybe even share with someone you trust.
Ever since that experience, I have found a new power in forgiving. Those four original views were not wrong, but my interpretation was. I followed those views as tasks and even as obligations. I saw a “reward” I would be granted if I just followed the formula.
Now, instead of obligations I see a path I am invited to follow. The golden ticket I found was my joy, right here and right now. In the act of forgiving, I let go of baggage I had carried for years. I also learned that my resentments were because I didn’t set good boundaries and I didn’t love myself well and wanted others to do it for me. So, in forgiving others, I found where I needed to forgive myself too. The deeper I go on this path the more open I feel to the joy all around me.
Today, I invite you to try out this practice of forgiveness. Remember, though, there is no magic formula for forgiveness. So do what works for you and make sure whatever you choose, it includes a practice of forgiving. There is power in forgiveness that we are all invited to enjoy!
By Greg Hawkins
Greg completed his initial weekend in 2014 and is a graduate of our Two-Year Transformational program. He believes in the power of being vulnerable to foster authentic and courageous lives. He is a husband, dad of two girls, yogi, blogger, and is a director at an industrial supply company. His favorite activities are dance parties with his girls, getting outside with his dogs or horse and date nights with his wife.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Shutterstock.