4 Stages of Forgiveness

Forgiveness does not come naturally. It is supernatural.

To forgive a past hurt is difficult. With these steps of forgiveness, you can identify and express the hurt. Then, with God's power, you can forgive.

Forgiveness does not come naturally. In fact, it is supernatural.

It is God's way—His idea.

Let me suggest a fairly straightforward process to forgiveness. This process consists of four simple stages.

1. Hurt: Identify, experience and express your feelings.

Label them as specifically as you can. Think back to what gave rise to these feelings.

  • Who did this to you?
  • When did it occur?
  • Where did it happen?

2. Hate: If you have been hurt, you hate.

It is not wrong to hate; in fact, we are supposed to hate what God hates.

  • Hate sin, not the sinner. Make this distinction to be sure your hate is directed toward a permissible target.
  • Unconfessed, persistent hatred often leads to depression.

3. Hook: Acknowledge the deceptive feeling of control.

Refusing to forgive provides a feeling of power, but this feeling is deceptive as it is really a cover for your own sense of hurt and vulnerability.

  • Refuse to be a victim.
  • Cancel the debt.
  • Move on with your life.
  • Allow God to be the justice maker.

Revenge feels good for a time; but ultimately, it does not work. The pain you give can never cancel the pain you have received. Get out of the way and let God take care of this.

4. Heal: Forgiveness is both an event and a process.

  • Giving forgiveness to an offender is an event.
  • Finding relief from your own pain is a process.

It takes time.

You must keep opening your hurt heart to God, and you will experience healing over time.

Completing the Stages of Forgiveness

One day you will wake up and find yourself thinking differently about the one who hurt you. You may never like or trust this person, but the intensity of your hurt will diminish. One day you will find yourself praying for your offender. Soon you will realize you are free. Forgiveness is the road to freedom. But it makes little sense unless seen in the context of Christ's forgiveness toward you.

"And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ." — Eph. 4:32 (CSB)

Are you forgiven? Then you can forgive.

The truly forgiven ones can become truly forgiving ones. God began by forgiving us. He invites us to forgive others.

Your willingness to participate in the process of forgiveness is a measure of just how much you appreciate being forgiven by God.

Stuart Rothberg is teaching pastor, Sagemont Church, Houston, Texas. Adapted from a previously published article, used by permission.