It’s never, ever easy to forgive. We’ve all been hurt, betrayed, bothered, purposefully maligned. And when those things happen, life careens and our hearts ache like no tomorrow.
Today I want to offer you a helpful tool in your journey of forgiveness. This comes from the excellent book: As We Forgive by Catherine Claire Larson. The acronym REACH is pioneered by Everett Worthington Junior and helps us all deal with issues of forgiveness in a clear, simple way.
To forgive, we must REACH.
Recall the hurt (don’t deny or minimize it). Forgiveness is NOT forgetting. It’s remembering the pain, then making a choice to forgive anyway. That’s what makes forgiveness powerful and difficult. We can’t forgive what we’ve stuffed. We must open the wound, own it, and admit that it hurt like crazy.
Empathize with the person who hurt you (try to see it from their perspective). This is not easy. I learned to do this with the boys who molested me, remembering that they who victimized most likely were victims themselves. Hurt people hurt people, the cliche goes, but it’s true. Finding a way to jump into the shoes of the offender is important. It helps you see them not as monsters but as human beings.
Altruistic gift of forgiveness (Remember when someone forgave you). What helps us forgive is remembering a tangible experience where someone offered us forgiveness. Remembering this altruistic gift helps us to know how to offer it. If you can’t recall a time when someone outrageously forgave you, consider Jesus’ amazing forgiveness of you.
Commit publicly to forgive. It’s one thing to say it in your journal. It’s another to share your desire to forgive with a close friend. Determine to forgive, but tell someone else about it. That kind of accountability helps you when you don’t feel like forgiveness. Once your desire is “out there,” you’re committed.
Hold on to forgiveness. This is the hardest for me. I choose to forgive, but then I do takebacks. Or the emotion of the situation attacks me again. Or another infraction blares into my life. It takes tenacity and grit to continue to choose to forgive. It’s not an emotion; it’s a choice.
What about you? When has it been easy to forgive? When has it been excruciating? What has helped you the most on the journey of forgiveness?