In our current circumstanced with sheltering in place, we find that our limited access to our usual routines, self-care, and companionship have made us, well, a bit more cranky. For my household, we all find ourselves constantly apologizing and trying our best to stay clear of the resentment zone. We live in 1000 square ft house, so it’s hard to get away from one another! Many of our fights are being resolved by learning to apologize better (check out this great podcast on apologies) and chalking it up to quarantine-induced behavior. Apologizing isn’t the only thing needed, however, our willingness to forgive one another is also necessary.
We may find ourselves weary of all the apologizing and forgiving we may be doing already, so I propose three practices of forgiveness to be done on a regular basis that ready our hearts to both offer forgiveness and receive it.
Sometimes the hurt that others have caused us lingers because we partially blame ourselves. Practicing forgiveness for oneself is crucial in our ability to forgive others. Even if you carry little to no blame, we still somehow end up blaming ourselves. Practicing self-forgiveness is about changing the way you talk to yourself about areas of pain. For this practice, find a scripture or affirmation that you can speak to yourself when you find yourself alone, whether in your quiet time with the Lord, or when simply getting ready in the morning. Take a few moments to meditatively repeat this phrase to yourself. Few suggestions could be:
I am willing to forgive myself.
Then neither do I condemn you - Jesus declared Read the whole passage from John 8:1-11
Practicing self-forgiveness is very much the same as practicing self-compassion. Be kind to yourself as if you were talking to a close friend who is hurting. What would you say to comfort her? Speak that to yourself. Make space for yourself to feel good again!
One of my favorite mental health tools is Brene Brown’s Shitty First Draft or SFD. When I am at my lowest or most angry, I open up a blank Google Doc and spew all my nasty, hurt feelings all over it. These documents are (of course) for your eyes only and are really meant for us to process your thoughts visually. This has been tremendously helpful in releasing pent up anxiety, anger, or pain. Most of my SFD’s are aimed at people who have hurt me, but there are times they are aimed at myself. The simple act of writing or type helps me channeling my hurt in its raw form.
What I am proposing is a second writing exercise, which I am now calling Shitty Forgiveness Follow-Ups or the SFF. For my SFF’s, I am not going to write a “letter” or speech I plan to recite, I am simply going to write how I forgive this person. I may make it a bit more general, perhaps even addressing God more than the actual person. I will see what comes out where I get there:
Here are a few things to remember before you begin your SFF:
Forgiveness does not always mean reconciliation. If that person is just downright bad for your life, then forgiveness is just going to have to happen from afar, and if it’s really traumatic, likely with the guidance of a professional counselor.
Forgiveness can happen in layers. Practicing forgiveness is an ongoing process, rarely a one time exercise. To stretch your forgiveness muscles may be layered forgiveness. Meaning, if you are only able to forgive one thing at a time, you should give yourself permission to forgive, layer by layer.
Forgiveness frees us from resentment. When we harbor resentment, we are poisoning our very souls. It keeps us from fully healing and instead, has us reliving the offense over and over again, playing out what we should have said or have done. Resentment keeps us stuck but forgiveness, even in tiny doses helps us to move forward.
Listen to God’s Forgiveness
Using all our senses when practicing spiritual disciples helps us create and strengthen different connections in our brain. We have talked about speaking forgiveness to ourselves and writing forgiveness for others. The last practice I would encourage you to engage in is listening to the forgiveness of God through audible scripture. This has been a habit I have used on and off ever since I got a fancy smartphone and the Bible App is great for this. Another app to consider is Dwell. This app is specifically designed for meditating on scripture and is by far my favorite resource that has been released lately. It’s 2.99 per month but maybe worth trying it out for just this practice. With the Dwell app, you can listen to sections of scripture repeated with different music and voices to narrate – t even has women’s’ voices!
Whether you use the free Bible App or decide to download Dwell, here are a few starting passages I would recommend listening to:
Forgive as the Lord Forgives
It is a high calling for us to forgive as God forgives but it is possible with the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us. I remember the first time I got fired from a job. I was barely 21 and burned out on overseeing a child with special needs through Campfire Boys and Girls. I kept asking for a new position but it never happened. Eventually, I crossed a line and called the parents of the kid, basically begging them not to have their son go to the outdoor camp which was an annual event. My boss got word of my phone call and not only was I fired on the spot, but I was also escorted out of the building! My anger towards her burned like a California wildfire for months. I felt totally trapped by my pain and couldn’t see my way out. Despite my lack of desire to move in any direction of forgiveness, I decided to start praying and attempting to forgive her. To my surprise, the anger went from a roaring fire to a slow burn. It didn’t completely extinguish (though in time it eventually did) but I wasn’t smoldering in resentment anymore. I actually felt the freedom to own my part in the situation and was able to move on.
The practices above, I hope will enable us to stay postured to forgive and to be forgiven. My prayer is that we will all grow in our knowledge of God and of his character through practicing forgiveness over this next week of the Practices of Resurrection. The following week is the last week of Eastertide in which we will be discussing the spiritual practice of hospitality. If you haven’t grab your free Practice of Resurrection printable to do below and join us in diving deeper into these spiritual disciplines.