Forgiveness is a process where the one who hurts or offends repents. Adam Hamilton writes that there is a process of repentance, awareness, regret, confession and change. Awareness means you begin to have a sense your actions are wrong. Regret means you have a feeling of guilt or remorse for your actions. Out of awareness and regret you confess to the person or group you have wronged. Admitting you have wronged them. Change follows these as you work to not continue the behavior causing harm. Once this process is done, the offended person can offer forgiveness by mercy, giving up their emotional want to retaliate. If we operate out of retaliation or retribution or the “eye for an eye” mentality we perpetuate the cycle of hurt and pain.
In order to stop the cycle of pain, does the person who inflicted the pain need to go through this process in order for forgiveness to be effective? Sometimes that is not possible as the person may have died, the person is not repentant or contact has ceased to protect against abuse or further harm. Does the person who was hurt carry around the burden, just because the other can’t apologize or repent?
Forgiveness, when we put down the burden of wanting to seek retribution or retaliation, frees lives. Releases our lives; letting the hurts, pains and the growing need to seek retribution or retaliation control our lives. So part of the process is freeing of our lives of the bitterness, violence, and agony that might define our lives. As Dr. Jones writes in Embodying Forgiveness, we stand in a posture of forgiveness. In the stance of forgiveness we begin to let go so that forgiveness defines our lives and is always ready to offer mercy when that time comes.