The Process of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do, but it is also one of the most important. Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. So the mandate is clear, but how do we arrive at forgiveness after we have been hurt?

Dr. Gayle Reed has been working on forgiveness research at the University of Wisconsin for more than 21 years, and is part of the team at the International Forgiveness Institute. She stopped by The Drew Mariani Show™ to explain the importance of forgiveness, and what the process of forgiveness looks like.

“I love to talk about forgiveness,” said Dr. Reed. “It has such healing power.”

Dr. Reed acknowledged that although hatred, anger, and resentment may feel better at the moment, the only person you are hurting by holding onto your anger is yourself.

“If you spew hatred, you’re not hurting the person you’re spewing about as much as you’re hurting yourself,” she said. “Hatred hurts the people who hate. When you’re hurt, you’re tempted to do that, but forgiveness can turn that around.”

Dr. Reed also pointed out that in her years of research, she has seen that forgiveness is healing to not just the spirit, but also to the mind and body.

“We’re mind, body, and spirit all connected,” she said. “And so when your spirit feels better it informs your body and your mind to feel better. We see people not having anymore anxiety, depression, PTSD, hopelessness, low self-esteem. They get a purpose in life and they do all kinds of wonderful things.”

However, forgiveness does not mean that the pain you experienced was OK, or that the person who hurt you was not responsible. It means you are no longer allowing that person to control your life and steal your joy.

Dr. Reed said, “I often tell people that you shouldn’t have had this happen to you. No way. It was wrong, the person was responsible, and you should not have had that happen to you. But if you forgive, you’re going to be better than you were before it happened. This is a way to joy. The cost of forgiveness is so much less – it’s still hard work -but it’s so much less than staying angry.”

So how does Dr. Reed and her team start the process of forgiveness? She explained, “We help people go through an ‘uncovering’ process, where we look at the pain, the anger, the fear, the loss. And sometimes people say to God, ‘Help me to want to forgive, like You did. I need Your help to want to forgive.'”

“Then we go through the process of dealing with the pain,” she continued. “Anger has pain underneath it. And we help them process the pain without passing it back to themselves, onto other people, or the wrongdoer.”

Dr. Reed also pointed out that we always have someone with us on the path to forgiveness. The One who died and rose so that we could all be forgiven. “Jesus is there to bear your pain,” she said. “It’s one of the things He did on the Cross.”

Listen to the full conversation below:

The Drew Mariani Show airs weekdays from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. Eastern/12:00 – 3:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.