Forgiveness as a cognitive behavioral supertool


Like a lot of people, I recite the Lord’s Prayer more often than any other prayer. I don’t always put too much thought into the meaning. But I noticed that there is only one expectation put on us in the whole prayer, all the rest is on God. Here it is, with the part where we are expected to act in bold.

Our Father, Who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom Come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses. As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil.

So that’s easy – right? Well, I think we make the mistake of trying to begin to by thinking we have to forgive the biggest hurts and betrayals we have suffered. Lets not be drama kings and queens off the bat.

Better to start small with this forgiveness thing, perhaps? So it being Lent, I have been praying more lately and thinking about repentance and whatnot at times when I usually don’t.  I notice I am particularly challenged at my son’s soccer games by the temptation to sin. I want to scream in frustration and I have on many occasions. It is not nice. I have been trying to stop. But I was thinking about the Lord’s prayer at a game the other day, and how it only asks one thing of me – to forgive. So as silly as it may sound, and it felt silly to do it, I decided to forgive the next player on our team who made a poor play. I said under my breath, ” I forgive you.” And I started to lighten and laugh at myself, which to me signified that God was forgiving me for my crazily critical  mindset in the first place.

So be like God, by forgiving early and often, and you will expose yourself to the forgiveness that you need. You will be putting yourself  in a position to repent. I never knew that repenting could involve giggling at myself, but it did.

This prayer works, and it only asks you to do one thing – forgive. God does the rest. He will show you what to do if you take that first step. And recall, just before God asks you to do something in the prayer, that  one effort you have to make, he gives you your daily bread. Bread is symbolic of everything you need. You have everything you need unless your air supply is being cut off. You can forgive this one time, until the next breath, and you can forgive again.  

So, obviously, you and  I will forget to do this in about 30 seconds. Recall what God has already done as described in the prayer – forgiven us our trespasses. He knows you are going to mess up ahead of time, that is why he put his forgiveness of you before asking you to forgive. Expect to forget, remember you are forgiven, and keep forgiving people.

I have found that forgiving regularly, including stuff I don’t even feel I even have a right to be upset about, and even when I am behaving worse than the person I am forgiving, helps all situations. It also helps to remind myself of God’s grace in the lines before the commandment in the Lord’s Prayer. It has helped me reduce cognitive distortions, deconstruct wild assumptions I make, calm primitive emotional reactions, and overall help me be more selective about how I behave. That’s why I call it a cognitive behavioral supertool.

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