Do you have someone you need to forgive?
Have you been putting it off because it’s just too hard?
Forgiveness is a tricky thing. We all know we’re supposed to forgive others. Jesus says we can’t be forgiven until we ourselves forgive. We’re called to do this even when we’ve been wronged or it’s not deserved.
But forgiving is hard! You don’t have to tell me. Sometimes you just can’t bring yourself to forgive. You feel like you’re condoning bad behavior or excusing it. Often it seems like forgiving sends the message you’re okay with being treated badly or that it just wasn’t a big deal…but it was.
True forgiveness and 4Given
If you’ve ever felt that way, I have good news. True is none of those things.
It’s also more than:
- accepting what happened
- ceasing to be angry
- being neutral toward the other
- or simply making yourself feel better.
We put together a course on learning how to forgive without losing yourself in the process. It’s called 4Given: A Catholic 4-Step Model of Forgiveness.
The course is based on the work of Catholic psychologist Robert Enright. He developed a practical, 4-step process that’s helped people from all walks of life learn to forgive. Sometimes you just can’t come out and forgive because you’re just not there yet. The 4Given process can help.
The 4Given process of forgiveness
Enright outlines a four phase process of forgiving.
This involves confronting the nature of the offense and uncovering the consequences of having been offended. Oftentimes you’re unaware of these consequences. Through prayer and self-reflection exercises, 4Given participants determine what happened and come to terms with the unfairness, anger, and other manifestations.
Forgiveness is ultimately be a free choice. You must make the decision to forgive. In 4Given, we discuss the benefits of forgiveness and look at the testimonies of others who decided to forgive.
Here you get into the actual work of forgiving by identifying concrete actions for developing an accurate understanding of the offender. This re-framing helps to see the offender and offensive situation in a different light, which can even lead to positive feelings toward the offender…eventually even empathy or compassion.
In this phase, people using this process have found release from the emotional prison of unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment and anger. As the ability to forgive deepens, they find meaning in their suffering and a new purpose in their lives for having suffered unjustly. Sometimes they find the need to ask for forgiveness from others.
Forgiving offenses is a work of mercy and an old Lenten practice.
In a Lenten sermon, St. Augustine talked about fasting from unforgiveness in addition to the food you fast from during Lent.
“What can I now say about that work of mercy [forgiving offenses], where nothing is doled out from your storerooms, nothing from your purses, but where something is let go from the heart, something which becomes more of a liability to you when it stays with you than when it leaves you? I’m talking about anger against somebody, stored up in the heart. Now what could be sillier than to avoid your enemy outwardly, and retain a much worse one in the depths of your heart?” Sermon 208
Why should you forgive? It’s not necessarily for the offender. It’s also for you.
Sometimes people get mired in their anger and resentment. It becomes part of who they are and starts eating away at them. That causes all kinds of bad things like anxiety, fear, dissatisfaction in relationships, and even hypertension.
As St. Augustine says, unforgiveness can be a bigger inside enemy than the outside enemy you try to avoid.
Enright has numerous examples of people who experienced emotional freedom through forgiving. So why not give up unforgiveness this Lent?
“So if anger has boldly and shamelessly persisted in the breasts of any of you up to these holy days [Lent], at least now let it beat a retreat from there, so that your prayer may proceed without an anxiety or worry.” St. Augustine, Sermon 208
By forgiving, you set yourself free…free to heal, free to love, free to be happy.
Do you need help forgiving? I think we could all use some practical skills in how to forgive without losing ourselves.
Check out the 4Given courses we’re offering this Lent. Four locations begin the week of February 22:
- Coronation of Our Lady: Mondays, February 22, 29, and March 7, 7:00-8:30 pm
- St. Bridget, Pleasant Hill: Mondays, February 22, 29, March 7, and 14, 7:00-8:30 pm
- Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception: Tuesdays, February 23, March 1, 8, and 15, 7:00-8:30 pm
- St. Matthew: Thursdays, February 25, March 3, 10, and 17, 7:00-8:30 pm
Come learn this proven process and start your journey through pain toward personal healing.