Over the last several months I have been on a personal journey of forgiveness. Prodded by various issues, both personal and professional, I have thought much more deeply about this virtue than ever before, and I have made intentional moves to live it out. The professional aspect for me (and by that I mean a studied examination of the topic) started when Dr. Everett Worthington, Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, spoke in chapel on Christian virtues, and one day presented a five-step method that people can use to forgive others. This really caused me to think about how I approach forgiveness. To that end, here are three practical observations which have helped me immensely on my journey:
- There are always “mitigating” circumstances in any person's interactions with another. It’s easier for me to forgive when I recognize those, perhaps stating them and thinking about them out loud, from the other person's perspective.
- Forgiveness for me is a process, not an event. I always fail in forgiveness if I think about it as a "once done, always done" event. Instead, I walk in forgiveness when I realize that it is an ongoing process which forms me daily, changing my attitude and outlook.
- Forgiveness accepts the other person for who they are, and does not require that they be something else. Forgiveness will fail when it is based on what people might become, instead of who they are at present. In this sense forgiveness is caring and loving, free of unreasonable demands.