Forgiveness—the key to healing

It’s probably true to say that most of us have been hurt in someway in our childhood. Too often we remain, to a greater extent, bound and oppressed by the resulting negative emotions and feelings from the past. These arise from our memory of the hurts that may be stored in our conscious or subconscious. So we have difficulty in living in peace with ourselves; and when we marry we may both bring this “baggage” of anxiety, rejection, anger, inferiority or low self-image into our relationship, with often disastrous results, and probably without knowing why.

Yet Jesus’ claim and invitation to us all is inner peace. “Peace I bequeath to you my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you” (John 14: 27). How can we acquire his peace for our wounded memories and broken relationships? The answer is by inner healing or the healing of memories—a process dependent on reconciliation, forgiveness and prayerful discernment through which Christ brings his healing and peace.

For inner healing we need a pastor or Christian counsellor who will lead and guide us through the following stages:

  1. The awareness that we have been hurt in the past. This may he by gentle questioning or by some simple prayerful technique drawing from our subconscious those painful memories stored there.
  2. The realisation that if we have been hurt, we have been left wounded, and where we have been left wounded, we will judge and harbour resentment and anger towards the ones who inflicted the wounds, knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally.
  3. The further realisation that the wound and the resentment will stay and maybe even grow; making our lives miserable, relationships difficult, and causing us to have many negative feelings and emotions like rejection, anger, inferiority, guilt etc. Together, possibly, with physical illness associated with stress, such as arthritis, overactive thyroid, cancer, diabetes, ulcers, asthma and allergies (as resentment and unforgiveness are potent stress inducing agents).
  4. The understanding and belief that to remove our wounds and to heal them, we need to give unconditional forgiveness to the persons remembered as causing the wound.
  5. The belief in turn, that we must ask pardon and forgiveness from the person who hurt us, because we have judged them, and because of our anger, revenge, or resentment against them in thought, word or even deed, and also for withholding our love from them.

When, by being helped through these five stages in counselling, we become aware that we are suffering from our childhood woundedness, and it is both our conscious and subconscious selves which need to be freed, for there is an inner struggle or tension between the two. Our conscious searches back into the “memory bank” of our subconscious, to recall all the forgotten details of these specific hurts in our past. Our subconscious gives freedom as it were to the conscious self to give pardon or forgiveness to the recalled memories. So if we are forgiving our “father” or “mother” or some other person, it is the memory of that person that we are dealing with, which has been stored in our subconscious for years. This is the psychological dimension of reconciliation.

  1. The spiritual dimension however is to forgive and receive forgiveness through the power of Jesus, because through him comes all the healing of our woundedness. So an essential element of inner healing is, that after the two–way forgiveness, we must ask Jesus for wholeness and healing of our woundedness, and then ask for this whole area of our past life to be washed clean and purified by his Most Precious Blood.

At this point we need to look at what we mean by forgiveness. Unconditional forgiveness, is a decision, a definite act of the will, and not a feeling. The following steps summarise what we need to do to forgive:

  1. Step out in faith and make the decision to forgive.
  2. Pray to the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance.
  3. Make a commitment to God that we are forgiving the offender.
  4. Make a decision that we will never ever bring up the subject of the offence again, make this commitment to God.
  5. Make the decision to pray for the offender.

When we make the decision to forgive, it does not of course mean our emotions automatically go along with that decision.

If the subject of the hurt arises again, or for a variety of reasons we feel the hurt again (and this is inevitable from time to time), we must pray for the offender. We cannot hold unforgiveness and pray for a person at the same time! If the hurt persists, or we feel bitterness welling up again, we must continue praying, and if necessary cry out to God for help.

  1. We must pray to God for grace to heal our emotions, to harmonise them with our decision to forgive.
  2. If we keep to our commitment to forgive, the hurts will subside in time.
  3. We must seek forgiveness from God, and the one who has offended us, for our negative thoughts and/or actions against them.

The test of forgiveness is this: can we pray to God for the good—yes, maybe the conversion—of the person who has injured us?

It may now be helpful to illustrate an example of the two-way forgiveness that lies at the heart of inner healing. Let us take Mary, a girl unwanted by her parents (who were hoping for a boy), rejected, neglected, and constantly put town as a child, and also physically abused by her mother. Now as an adult, she has been helped through the stages of inner healing to where forgiveness is called for (stage 4). She is invited to speak to her mother (that is the memory of her mother in her subconscious) she is asked to recall her as she was when she was a girl, and from he present (her conscious self) addresses her in the presence of Jesus and in his strength. “Mother I forgive you for everything hurtful you did to me, especially… (mentioning here specific occasions, hurts and situations). I realise you must have been very wounded and were yourself still hurting when you treated me the way you did. No doubt you unconsciously transferred these feelings on to me without realising it. I ask you to set me free from these feelings today, and I forgive you everything, through Jesus, without any conditions or reservations…”

Importantly, forgiveness must now be asked for in turn, through Jesus (stage 5).

“…Mother I must now ask you to forgive me unconditionally for judging you, and the thoughts and memories I have held against you for all these years, my anger, resentment and bitterness, and lack of love. Please forgive me…”

Mary is now asked to respond to this (to say what she might expect her mother to say). “…Mary, my daughter, I ask you to forgive me for all my cruelty to you, which I did because of my unhappy background, without fully realising what I was really doing. I forgive you for judging me, and for your feelings against me, which were only natural in the circumstances, and I give you full permission and freedom to be your true self.” This completes the two–way unconditional forgiveness essential for inner healing.

There remains however an extension to this reconciliation and healing, and this is to broaden the forgiveness to all those “authority figures” who took the place of the person who caused the original hurts, in fact or imagination. This could be teachers, relatives, principals, supervisors, and managers etc., who were not liked for one reason or another. Each must be dealt with in the same way as with the mother, giving and receiving unconditional forgiveness. This is stage (5A).

Once forgiveness is asked for and given in this manner, in the presence of Jesus and with his power, there remains the final stage (6). Jesus is asked to wash away with his most Precious Blood all the memories of the original wounds and hurts received in childhood, the negative feelings associated with them, and also the memories of wounds and hurts received from those authority figures who had symbolically taken the place of the parent or parents.

In addition to healing memories of our childhood, this two-way unconditional forgiveness can bring healing peace from current upsets when perhaps we have been hurt by an unkind remark or action by someone face to face reconciliation is not always possible or indeed desirable in all cases, so the best and quickest way to be reconciled is in our heart, in the presence of the Lord. So we speak (in our imagination) words of forgiveness to the person who has upset us, and in turn seek their forgiveness for our own thoughts against them. Then (again in our imagination) we hear their seeking forgiveness from us for what they did to hurt us. This opens us up to freeing ourselves from the crippling negative feelings that so easily build up in our hearts. We then ask Jesus to heal us and the other person involved, with his Most Precious Blood and set us free. We will then thank him for giving us his peace in our heart.

Further reading:

“Hidden Springs to Healing” Sr. M. Usha