You had a disagreement with another person and in your mind you forgave. You were able to forgive them because you ended your relationship with them. But did you really forgive them or did you just forget them?
The answer to that question will be revealed next time you unexpectedly run into them in a location you weren’t prepared for, such as your local grocery store. If your heart jumps and your stomach feels anxious, then the injury of the conflict hasn’t subsided and, frankly, you focused on the forgetting but not the forgiving.
So what do you do when you come across that person?
Here are some options, not all of them recommended.
1. Turn around and pretend you didn’t see them.
2. Take your shopping cart and bang into the back of their legs pretending you didn’t see them.
3. Walk by them as if they were invisible and pretend you didn’t see them, or
4. See them.
As uncomfortable as it could be, facing a person who injured you is a response coming from a stance of self-empowerment. Avoiding them or lashing out at them will reinforce for you that you were on the losing end of the conflict. Instead, take a deep breath, open your eyes, and see the person in front of you. What you discover might surprise you about them and yourself.
Now, for the awkward moment. Does seeing them include speaking? Maybe. But on your terms and not theirs. You can say hello, or nod your head and give a small smile (but not the smirk smile) and keep walking. If they initiate a conversation, such as, “how are you?” say, “I’m great!” (You are great, so be honest about it!)
So. the moment has passed and you SAW them, what do you do next to FORGIVE them?
Here are some steps that may help you with the process of forgiveness.
1. Write the person a letter stating exactly what they did that hurt you.
Journaling is a therapeutic process which can help you “read your own mind.” Journaling does not have to be limited to words. Incorporating art or other visual modes are just as effective in processing your feelings. (Do not send that person the letter, but it might help to read it to another supportive person who can keep a confidence.)
2. Pray and meditate on the concept of forgiveness.
Sometimes, we can’t pray for that person, but we can start the process by quieting the thoughts that racket around like they are on a handball court by focusing on the theme of forgiveness.
3. When you are ready to move to the next stage, pray for good things for yourself and that person. Some people will leave out the part about praying for good things for themselves, but you deserve good things, too.
This action is empowering because it gives you control. When you start, you don’t have to be sincere (and you probably won’t be sincere), but over time you may find yourself hoping each of you receive the gift of a great life. After all, hurting people hurt others.
4. Understand, the role of forgiveness isn’t to change that person as change may never happen, but it is there to heal you and give you a better quality of life.
Even if the other person tried to steal your quality life in a long ago incident, they don’t have to keep stealing it.
© 2018 Brenda Henning