Have you ever thought you forgave someone and then had a picture pop up on your phone or Facebook with a memory you would rather forget? How did that affect you? Did you swallow hard with a lump in your throat? Did you relive that bad memory—the words, the lies, the event? Or did you trash the photo and try to act like you didn’t see it? Did seeing that photo change your mood? Cause an outburst?

Sometimes your life can be changed forever as the result of a traumatic event, or a series of traumatic events, as in the case of physical, verbal, emotional or sexual abuse. If the traumatic event is a severe illness or accident or death of a loved one, you may view that as a turning point in your life. Do you relate everything to Before the Event or After the Event?

Whatever it was, you can learn to respond and not react and go into a downward spiral. There are several things that play into this.

  • One: the incident itself.
  • Two: your thoughts about the incident.
  • Three: the emotions that come from how you think about the incident– a person or event.
  • And four: the reaction that the emotion fueled based on your personality and life experiences.

Let’s look at an example. The policeman has seen many accidents. He is calm, impersonal, detached, determining who is at fault. The doctor has also seen many accident victims. He, too, is calm but compassionate. He looks for any life-threatening injuries and tries to be encouraging and reassuring. The person who has recently been in an auto accident is visibly shaken and crying.

For all three, it is the same event—a car accident. Most people make decisions based on how they FEEL. The same is true for you.

You’ve heard the question, ‘Are you a half-empty or half-full glass of water person? This question implies that there’s more than one way to look at something.  I am a half-empty person. But you know, Romans 12:2 says I can change (transform) the way I think about something–and so can you.

 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,…”

Let’s go back to our example. The first time the policeman came upon an accident victim, he was upset. And the doctor’s first accident or trauma victim upset him, too. But over the course of time, they both learned to think differently about accident victims. And based on their thinking, they no longer reacted to them, but they were able to respond and help instead.

Let’s go back to that photo memory that popped up. Instead of reliving the past, dwell on the good that resulted from that circumstance. When you do, you are changing your thinking.

  • Thank you, God, that you were with me through this tough time.
  • Thank you, God, that you showed me the truth about that person, and he/she is no longer in my life.
  • God, I don’t understand why this happened, but I know you only want good things for me. Help me trust you more.

Forgiveness is a one-time decision that is a choice you make apart from emotions. Emotions are part of what you experience, but emotions lag behind the truth. Next time, you’ll learn what your emotions and being chased by a bear have in common. If you want to learn more about forgiveness,  check out our bible study, “Why? for single moms.” Download Lesson One now. We also love the book, “Forgiving What You Can’t Forget” by Lysa TerKeurst.