Question: How do you respond when you feel offended?
Do you assume the worst and turn the offense over and over and in your mind, replaying the incident and reliving the hurt?
Do you catalogue other offenses committed by the person in question, adding fuel to your resentment?
Maintaining healthy relationships requires a willingness to forgive when we are offended.
This is especially true in marriage.
Humans tend to respond in less than healthy ways when we feel wronged by another.
And if we are not careful, the smallest offense can plant seeds of bitterness that grow and strangle the heart.
That is why forgiveness is so important.
Our ability to forgive may or may not impact the offender. But real forgiveness always has a positive effect on the person doing the forgiving.
Try these Five Steps to Forgiveness the next time you feel angry, sad, or bitter toward someone who has committed an offense toward you.
Step #1: When you feel offended, stop and examine your own heart.
Has an offense actually been committed? Or have you taken something the wrong way? If you are not sure, the wisest course of action may be to believe the best about the other person and not take up an offense where none was intended. Let it go and move on.
Step #2: If you still feel have been wronged, take those feelings to God.
Pour out your anger, frustration, and hurt. Receive the comfort God is always ready to offer. Ask God to show you any part you may have played in the situation and receive forgiveness if you have contributed to the offense.
Step #3: Choose to forgive the person who has offended you.
You might pray something like this:
“God, I forgive this person (and name them) for doing this (name the offense) because you, God, have forgiven me and ask me to forgive them.”
Forgiveness is an act of will. Rarely do we feel like forgiving when we are offended. But God instructs us to forgive as we have been forgiven. This simple, specific prayer is a choice, and an act of obedience.
Step #4: Release any anger or judgements you hold against the offender.
If you find yourself thinking “She always….” or “That’s typical of him…”, you may be holding onto something that is causing you to lean into bitterness. Ask God to help you release those attitudes. Real forgiveness requires humility.
In marriage, ongoing forgiveness is an absolute must. As Ruth Bell Graham famously commented, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”
Step #5: Pray blessing on the person who offended you.
Pray for their health and well-being, time with family, prosperity in work, safety in travel, and anything else God brings to your mind. It is hard to stay angry at someone when you pray for them.
Finally, realize the person who offended you may or may not ask for your forgiveness.
But depending on your role in the situation, you may need to ask for their forgiveness when the time is right.
And if the person who offends you does ask for your forgiveness, be ready to say the words “I forgive you” with joy. You might offer a hug or a handshake, or some other physical reassurance of your sincerity.
If your heart is already prepared, saying “I forgive you,” and meaning it, won’t be difficult.
Note: In dysfunctional relationships characterized by one person continually seeking to harm another physically or emotionally, safety requires healthy boundaries. Forgiveness may be offered by the offended person as they release hurt and bitterness to achieve wholeness and healing. The offender is not necessarily involved.