Doctors Frank Minirth and Les Carter are Christian counselors who have written an excellent book on forgiveness entitled The Choosing to Forgive Workbook. This workbook is informational as well as application oriented. It includes numerous questions and checklists to help one work through the process of forgiveness and think well about what it means to forgive.
I enjoyed reading this book thoroughly and working through the questions and checklists. I think it is a great resource for anyone struggling with forgiveness and also makes a great resource for pastors to give out to congregants who are struggling with forgiveness.
The authors outline twelve steps to forgiveness, which they explore in detail throughout the book:
- Step 1. Openly recognize wrong deeds to be wrong deeds.
- Step 2. Recognize that your anger is not only normal, but necessary.
- Step 3. Realize how ongoing bitterness will ultimately hurt you.
- Step 4. Learn from your problems by establishing better boundaries.
- Step 5. Refuse to be in the inferior position and resist the desire to be superior.
- Step 6. Avoid the futility of judgments, letting God be the ultimate judge.
- Step 7. Allow yourself permission to grieve.
- Step 8. Confront the injuring party if appropriate.
- Step 9. Find emotional freedom as you let go of the illusion of control.
- Step 10. Choose forgiveness because it is part of your life’s mission.
- Step 11. Come to terms with others’ wrong deeds by recognizing your own need for forgiveness.
- Step 12. Become a source of encouragement to other hurting people.
Here are a few choice quotes I jotted down:
- “Even if you can point to your own failings, you will still need permission to admit the depth of your anger or hurt or disillusionment. To do so is not a denial of your own faults. Rather, you can recognize that your feelings about someone else’s mistreatment are a separate and distinct issue that deserves attention. Forgiveness can occur only as you first let yourself admit the extent of your hardship.” – pg. 5.
- “By clinging too strongly to a victim status you are certain to remain stuck in a troubled way of life. You will find balance, though, when you realize you are, indeed, a victim but are not obliged to live forevermore in defeat and futility.” – pg. 7.
- “Choosing to forgive will not be authentic until you first allow yourself to wrestle with the question of why you should forgive.” – pg. 14.
- “You’re setting yourself up for failure if you assume that you’ll be able to be as complete as God is in the forgiveness process.” – pg. 24.
- “When trying to forgive, many people make the mistake of assuming that all anger should be removed. That is neither possible nor desirable. Bitter anger…needs to be resolved, but some anger may remain and that can be okay.” – pg. 25.
- “Your desire for vengeance may need to be removed. Perhaps you will even need to accept the fact that wrongdoers may go unpunished. Forgiveness will help you in such instances. But your forgiveness will not require you to let go of your values. Hold on to them. Yes, you may need to monitor the intensity of the emotion accompanying those values, but let’s not throw morality away.” – pg. 35.
- “Inherent in our definition of forgiveness is the willingness to leave ultimate justice to God. Forgiveness does not require you to suppress your feelings, to shrug at the wrongs dealt to you, or to become allies with your antagonist. But forgiveness does require that you hand over the ultimate consequences of another’s wrongdoing to God.” – pp. 52-53.
- “While you cannot change the attitudes and feelings others have toward you, your task can be to monitor your own behavior to determine if you are unwittingly enabling others to persist in their insensitivity.” – pg. 63.
- “While all humans are inferior to God’s standard of perfection, no human was ever intended by the Creator to be held in higher or lower esteem to another human. God’s plan is for equality among individuals. While we each differ with respect to skills and achievements and gifts, we each hold a similar core value in His eyes. The apostle Peter struggled with feelings of superiority over the centurion Cornelius. But finally as God showed how He loved them both Peter concluded, ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality’ (Acts 10:34).” – pg. 90.
- “…you may be operating on the assumption that the sooner you can pronounce forgiveness, the less you’ll have to deal with the lingering effects of the wrongful deed. In truth…this reasoning only increases your emotional healing time since you are only storing up emotions that grow more intense and more negative with time.” – pg. 124.
- “There are also two good reasons to confront: (1) To establish self-respect through an improved understanding of your needs, or (2) To potentially restore (or establish) a relationship.” – pg. 148.
- “You’re never going to forgive if you cling to the wish that you could make them believe correctly as you do. I’m not suggesting for a moment that you should drop your convictions. That would be irresponsible. But I am suggesting that you not be stuck in an emotional dungeon that results from falsely thinking that somehow you might be able to control their decisions. Forgiveness begins as you recognize their freedom to be who they are, even if they choose the wrong path.” – pp. 170-171.
- “Don’t assume that your struggle makes you abnormal. Rarely is forgiveness the easiest or most natural path to take, particularly when the offending person is unrepentant.” – pg. 187.
- “At the core of every personality is the characteristic of pride, the preoccupation with one’s own desires and preferences.” – pg. 209.
- “Your heartfelt gratitude for the mercy of God will be the single most important ingredient in your journey to offer forgiveness toward others. As you claim that mercy, you will want to give it to others. If you feel you have no need for mercy, you likely will not feel compelled to offer to to those who have wronged you.” – pg. 222.