Just before Lent started this year, I wrote a post about my struggles to forgive those who hurt me. If you missed that post the first time around, you might want to read it now before you continue here.
I promised that after Easter I would report on my progress with learning to forgive, and I am several weeks overdue on keeping that promise. I began saying my prayer of forgiveness on Ash Wednesday. I made a routine of going into my bedroom every day after I put my toddler down for her nap. I knelt before my crucifix to help me remember that I am also in need of forgiveness, and then I said my little prayer out loud. That first day was hard. It made me cry to say the name of the person I had been struggling to forgive for so long. I had to choke out the end of the prayer, “I ask you to bless (Name).” But I did it.
The next day was a tiny bit easier, and so was the day after that. After about three weeks, I felt more peaceful, and I was inspired to add a second name when I prayed. By the end of Lent, I had a list of five names I was praying for. One of them was my own. As I loosened my grip on old hurts, I saw that I also needed to forgive myself for past mistakes.
Now, as I let go of some of the deepest pain from my past, I can see so much more clearly the smaller grudges I have been holding. Frequently, I will have a flash of insight that leads me to say my little prayer for yet another person. I feel as if I am cleaning out my soul, but there always seems to be more dirt to sweep away. That’s okay because I’m making progress. Isn’t that what this life is all about: growing every day toward becoming a better person?
Through this experience I’ve learned a couple of important lessons about forgiveness. First of all, forgiving someone doesn’t mean I want to have a personal relationship with the one who hurt me. I don’t have to want to be friends with someone who has betrayed me or abused me or insulted me. I do have to hope that that person will make it safely to heaven someday. That’s what it means when I pray for God to bless the person I want to forgive.
Also, forgiveness takes time. Even after 40 days of praying for this particular person, some of the pain he caused me resurfaces from time to time. When that happens, I take a deep breath and say my little prayer, and the pain dissipates. In fact, I just did that this morning.
While I’m still a work in progress, and I will be until I arrive in heaven, I have a little more peace in my heart each time I say this prayer of forgiveness. Here’s the whole prayer in case you’d like to try it yourself:
Lord, you know I have unforgiveness in my heart toward (Name). I don’t want this. I will to forgive, and I ask you to bless (Name).