According to Dr. David Stoops (Forgiving the Unforgivable), when we are dealing with an offense that is seemingly unforgivable, the answer is that forgiveness is both a process and a decision. Forgiveness is like grieving. It’s a process that takes an indeterminate amount of time, perhaps several years when dealing with an offense that feels unforgivable. It also involves the actual decision to forgive at a particular point in time.
Dr. Stoops makes the following points regarding our decision to forgive:
1. It’s one thing to talk about forgiving and quite another to actually take the step to forgive.
2. When we do decide to take the step, we should establish some kind of ritual to mark the event and be something we can point to- for example, reading a letter of forgiveness out loud and then burning it.
3. The act of forgiving always comes before we think we are ready. That’s why we need a trusted friend who has the wisdom to tell us when the time is right. Although we might not feel ready, in retrospect we’ll realize we were ready to forgive.
One final point- once we have forgiven, we no longer can use that offense against the offender in any way. We may remember the offense, but we will not remember it against them.