Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Archive for the ‘Forgiveness’ Category

How do you know when someone is truly sorry?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds.

Hosea 7:14

As biblical counselors, sometimes it’s hard to discern if someone is truly repentant.

Tears are often the language of the heart, but when one is crying in the counseling office, it’s important to hear what the person’s heart is really saying.  The apostle Paul speaks of two kinds of sorrow, worldly sorrow that leads to death and godly sorrow that brings repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).  As Christian counselors, it is crucial that we learn to distinguish between the two especially when we are doing couples work.

Worldly sorrow is a self-focused sorrow. It may contain great emotion, tears, and apologies, but the grief expressed is for one’s self. The person mourns the consequences of his or her sin and what she has lost. This may be a marriage, a job, a reputation, friends and/or family, or can even be one’s own idea of who they thought they were. Here are some of the things we often hear a person say when they are sorrowing unto death.

·         I can’t believe I did such a thing.

·         Why is this happening to me?

·         Please forgive me. – Implying, please don’t make me suffer the  consequences of my sin.

·         Why won’t he/she forgive me? (In other words, why can’t reconciliation be easy and quick?)

·         I’m so sorry (sad).

·         I’m a horrible person.

·         I wish I were dead.

·         I hate myself.

Judas is a good example of this type of sorrow (Matthew 27:3-5).  After he betrayed Christ, he was seized with remorse yet it did not lead to godly repentance, but self-hatred and suicide.

It is natural that we feel compassion for the person suffering such emotional and spiritual pain. However, it’s crucial that we not confuse this kind of sorrow with the kind that leads to biblical repentance, especially when we are working with both the sorrowing sinner and the one who has been sinned against.

Godly sorrow demonstrates grief over one’s sinfulness toward God as well as the pain it has caused others. John the Baptist said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8).

Below are eight things I have found that demonstrate those fruits of genuine repentance.

·         Accepts full responsibility for actions and attitudes, doesn’t blame others or situations.

·         Acknowledges sinfulness (instead of “I can’t believe I could do such a thing”).

·         Recognizes the effects of actions on others and shows empathy for the pain he/she’s caused.

·         Able to identify brokenness in detail such as abusive tactics, attitudes of entitlement, and/or areas of chronic deceit.

·         Accepts consequences without demands or conditions.

·         Makes amends for damages.

·         Is willing to make consistent changes over the long term such as new behaviors and attitudes characteristic of healthy relationships.

·         Is willing to be accountable and if needed, long term.

In my work with couples who have experienced grievous sin, I have found that it is not their sin that destroys most relationships. All couples experience sin. The destruction comes when we refuse to acknowledge it. It is our blindness to it and our unwillingness to humble ourselves to get help, be accountable, and repent that makes reconciliation and healing impossible.

Advertisements

Seven A’s of Confession

SOURCE:  Ken Sande

Many people have never experienced the freedom of repentance and forgiveness. Why? It’s often because they never learned how to make a sincere and believable confession.

Instead, they say things like: “I’m sorry if I hurt you.” “Maybe I was wrong.” “Let’s just forget the past.” “I know I shouldn’t have yelled at you, but you made me so mad.”

These worthless statements seldom trigger genuine forgiveness and reconciliation. If you really want to make peace, ask God to help you breathe grace by humbly and thoroughly admitting your wrongs.

One way to do this is to use the Seven A’s of Confession.

  1. Address everyone involved (All those whom you affected)
  2. Avoid if, but, and maybe (Do not try to excuse your wrongs)
  3. Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions)
  4. Acknowledge the hurt (Express sorrow for hurting someone)
  5. Accept the consequences (Such as making restitution)
  6. Alter your behavior (Change your attitudes and actions)
  7. Ask for forgiveness

See Matthew 7:3-5; 1John 1:8-9; Proverbs 28:13.

Your Family Voyage: Discarding Resentment

SOURCE:  Adapted from Your Family Voyage by P. Roger Hillerstrom

Some of the heaviest weight to unload is that of resentment.

The object of animosity may be a parent, sibling, authority figure, or some other significant person from your past.  You attempt to “get them back” by withholding love or approval, withdrawing, being uncooperative, ruminating on your anger, or severing the relationship altogether.  You may have denied or buried your anger so long that you aren’t even aware of your bitterness, but the emotion is expressed in a variety of ways:

Unmerited explosions of anger.

Avoidance of certain individuals.

A strong desire for vengeance or retaliation.

A pessimistic or critical outlook on life.

Sarcasm, cynicism, or critical attitudes toward individuals or situations.

Over-reactions or under-reactions out of proportion to the current situation.

In harboring resentment you suffer more than anyone else – anxiety, tension, regret, and isolation as well as physical effects such as headaches, high blood pressure, and digestive problems.  The offending individual may not even be aware of or affected by your indignation.

The resolution of resentment is forgiveness.

When we choose to forgive another person, we receive the primary benefit – the freedom to choose our responses and commitments to others, to ourselves and to God.

Our model of forgiveness is God.

Each one of us has broken God’s laws and erected barriers in our relationship with him.  The offenses are ours, not Gods.  God’s forgiveness is not based on his denial of our sin; he is very aware of our offenses against him.  God’s forgiveness is not the result of his ability to pretend that we never committed any wrong.  The forgiveness our heavenly Father offers is based on his willingness to bear the cost of our sin.  Christ’s death on the cross was the payment for our sin.  Because of that payment, God is free to respond to us as a gracious loving Father rather than as a righteous judge.

When we decide to forgive someone who has offended us, we must choose to bear the cost of the wrong committed against us.  Once we forgive, we no longer require a payment for the offenses we experienced.  We cancel the debt by accepting the offense.  In essence, we pay the debt owed us.  We no longer punish the offending person through anger, silence, avoidance or criticism.  This process frees us from the burden of resentment and allows us to let go of troublesome patterns from the past.

If we are going to unload baggage from our past, it will be necessary to relinquish any bitterness we may harbor.  Forgiveness is necessary.  Without letting go of our desire for vengeance, we trap ourselves into the patterns of the past.

Does forgiveness mean I’ll forget the offense?  No.  Forgiveness isn’t a matter of blocking memories or denying the past.  You will probably always carry a memory of the offense, but your emotional response to that memory can change as you forgive.

How long does forgiveness take?  This varies a great deal.  Forgiveness is a process and seldom occurs instantly.  The process of forgiveness begins with a conscious decision.  Once you have decided to forgive, God can begin to work in you to heal your wounds and change your perspective.

How will I know when I’ve forgiven this person?  While the memory will remain, the experience of that memory will become a recalling of history rather than a current experience of anxiety, anger, or hurt.

How do I start forgiving?  Forgiveness begins with a decision.  Once you’ve decided to forgive, prayerfully ask God to soften your heart and broaden your understanding of this experience from your past.  As you sincerely look to him, he will be faithful to shape you into his image in this area.  Once you have confronted those painful memories, they lose their power.  When they “feel” real, you react emotionally.

Your painful memories may cause incredible and unpleasant discomfort the first few times you mentally walk through them.  But once you’ve confronted them, they lose their immediacy.  Conversely, as long as you expend effort trying to avoid a memory it will retain its vivid reality and negative power, even if in your dreams or in the far corner of the haunting attic you try to pretend doesn’t exist.

Loving the Prodigal Who Seems to Hate You

SOURCE:  Adapted from Letting Go, by Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert. 

The way we love sinful people must be patterned after the rugged love God has for us.

If you live with a prodigal, you know what it means to love someone. Love is a means of survival. Love is what gets you up each morning and inspires you to serve someone who acts like they hate you. Loving this way means duty, sacrifice, responsibility, and resilience.

But there is a side of love that’s difficult to face. You’ve had a taste of it already if you are persisting in hope that this person you love might change.

It’s loving a rebel, someone who isn’t trying to work it out and who doesn’t have your interests in mind. It’s loving someone who is enamored with their sin and does not care about the consequences—the pain and hurt it causes others.

Prodigals need more than tough love; they need a rugged love. A love that’s bold yet redemptive, forceful yet forgiving, gallant yet gospel-based. Think of it as love with teeth. For prodigals to change, those who love them must exercise a love that is courageous. They need to have conviction and a clear conscience. To love a wayward rebel, you need a rugged love that is rooted in the hope of God’s promises.

Rugged love is the way God engages and reaches sinful people. We are all wayward, dead, and trapped in our sin. So the way we love prodigals must be patterned after the rugged love of God.

What is this rugged love? Love is rugged when it’s:

  • strong enough to face evil;
  • tenacious enough to do good;
  • courageous enough to enforce consequences;
  • sturdy enough to be patient;
  • resilient enough to forgive;
  • trusting enough to pray boldly.

Strong enough to face evil

Bonnie knows Stan is a serial adulterer, but she looks the other way. Walter believes his daughter is on drugs, but he won’t probe or ask her questions because he fears the truth. Zoe ignores the cruel and demeaning comments her husband makes about her in public and in front of the kids, hoping against hope that things will improve.

Though each situation is distinct and complex, they are all connected by a common compromise: Bonnie, Walter, and Zoe are all tolerating evil. If you ask them why, they say they do it all for love.

When someone you love goes wayward, the worst lies are not always the ones you hear from them. They are the ones you whisper to yourself.

Of course, many of these lies stem from not fully grasping the biblical understanding of love. Our own misunderstandings of what love should look like and how to love others affect our well-intentioned responses to sinful behavior.

Wayward people tend to pile up collateral damage like a tornado through a traffic jam. And that carnage of hurt feelings, broken trust, and fractured relationships can be so overwhelming that people like Bonnie, Walter, and Zoe just want to close their eyes and wish it away. They tell themselves that time heals all wounds. If they just ignore it and put it out of their minds, then surely things will eventually get back to normal. They hope to outlive the evil.

This lie masquerades as hope, and perhaps on some level, it really is a hope that God will do a miracle. But it’s a naive hope—one that traffics not in reality but denial. And the unwillingness to acknowledge reality only further encourages sinful behavior.

In calling us to biblical love, the apostle Paul says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil” (Romans 12:9). True and genuine love abhors evil. This means that we loathe and stand in opposition to it.

Abhorrence leaves no room for denial. It means that we have eyes to see evil and the courage to respond to it. Sin and folly are inhabiting the soul of the wayward like unwelcome squatters. If these vices are ever to be expelled, they must be honestly named and exposed, not ignored or hidden.

To abhor evil requires a single-minded devotion to accelerating its downfall. The most diminutive mom will strike with ninja speed and nuclear force if she sees a Nazi-loving skin­head threatening her small child. Her abhorrence in this case isn’t a mental exercise, it’s abhorrence in action, an unwavering commitment to eliminating the threat without hesitation or indecision.

God’s response to evil

The gospel does not deny evil. The gospel shows us God’s response to evil—He abhors it! “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18).

God’s wrath is His settled and determined response to injustice, sin, rebellion, and evil. He cannot tolerate it, and He will not accommodate it in any way. Christ did not come to earth to paper over our offenses against God. He was not here to spring God free from having to deal with the wickedness of the wayward. The gospel reveals the sinfulness of sin and showcases God’s hatred of evil.

God poured out His righteous fury on the only sinless man to walk the earth, who was stapled to a tree on a hill called Golgotha. And not just any man—His beloved Son, who willingly accepted His role as our substitute to free us from our enslavement to sin and reconcile us to God. Ascribed to Christ was our evil—”For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Jesus hung suspended, the sacrificial Lamb tarred by our wicked thoughts and actions, and received in His body the full gale force of God’s wrath.

Make no mistake; the gospel reveals a rugged love. When we look at this love, we see our sin and our hatred of God and are confronted by the truth that Christ suffered what we justly deserve. The nails were meant for us; the hopeless abandonment and spiritual separation from the love of God that Christ experienced was deservedly ours.

God’s love, displayed for all to see on the cross, was strong enough not only to face evil, but also to act against it. The cross reveals God’s abhorrence in action.

God’s response to evil is good news because it has a redemptive purpose, but the path to redemption requires that we come face-to-face with our sin and evil. God’s law, given to us in the Old Testament Scriptures, reveals our accountability before God and the rightness of His verdict against Adam and Eve in condemning them to death.

Naming our sin and evil is always the first step to experiencing grace and forgiveness. This step cannot be bypassed or skipped. Conviction should lead to repentance, which leads us to forgiveness in Christ.

 The key to rugged love

This gospel is good news because if someone you love is bent on evil, there is help. Repentance is the key that unlocks the power of grace and separates true grace from cheap grace.

But true repentance doesn’t come through denial or accommodation.

The pretending must end. The delusion that one can indulge evil behavior with no costs must be exposed. Biblical grace is not a license to sin. As the apostle Paul says in Romans 6:1-2 “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” It is never loving or gracious to forgive someone simply to accommodate further sin.

Loving like this is not simple or easy. To get here, you need to experience this love yourself, a love so sturdy that it enables you to face your biggest fears—your dread of a loved one leaving you, your anxiety over the unknown, or your unspoken suspicion that this situation indicates you’re one humongous failure.

Showing rugged love begins by receiving the rugged love of God and holding fast to the promises of the gospel, knowing that our Lord and Savior will never leave us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5) and that He is truly with us until the end (Matthew 28:20).

Our love becomes rugged as our motivation moves from “peace for me” to “help for them.” Rugged love faces human messiness head on.

Are you facing the evil?

Let’s face it—anyone embracing rugged love faces huge emotional hurdles. It feels like we are piling on, like we saw a drunk fall down in the street and decided to go over and kick him to teach him a lesson. But if we’re serious about helping people enslaved in deep patterns of selfishness, we will find faith to think honestly and deeply about the gracious grit of real love.

Doing so could make a dramatic difference in the life of the one you love.


Front Cover

Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean You Have to Trust Someone Again

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

“I know I’m supposed to forgive,” a woman said to me at a recent seminar. “But, I just can’t open myself up to that kind of hurt anymore. I know I should forgive him and trust him, but if I let him back in, the same thing will happen, and I can’t go through that again.”

“Who said anything about ‘trusting’ him?” I asked. “I don’t think you should trust him either.”

“But you said I was supposed to forgive him, and if I do that, doesn’t that mean giving him another chance? Don’t I have to open up to him again?”

“No, you don’t,” I replied. “Forgiveness and trust are two totally different things. In fact, that’s part of your problem. Every time he’s done this, he’s come back and apologized, and you have just accepted him right back into your life, and nothing has changed. You trusted him, nothing was different, and he did it again. I don’t think that’s wise.”

“Well,” she asked, “How can I forgive him without opening myself up to being hurt again?”

Good question. We hear this problem over and over again. People have been hurt, and they do one of two things. Either they confront the other person about something that has happened, the other person says he’s sorry, and they forgive, open themselves up again, and blindly trust. Or, in fear of opening themselves up again, they avoid the conversation altogether and hold onto the hurt, fearing that forgiveness will make them vulnerable once again.

How do you resolve this dilemma?

The simplest way to help you to organize your thoughts as you confront this problem is to remember three points:

1. Forgiveness has to do with the past. Forgiveness is not holding something someone has done against you. It is letting it go. It only takes one to offer forgiveness.

2. Reconciliation has to do with the present. It occurs when the other person apologizes and accepts forgiveness. It takes two to reconcile.

3. Trust has to do with the future. It deals with both what you will risk happening again and what you will open yourself up to. A person must show through his actions that he is trustworthy before you trust him again.

You could have a conversation that deals with two of these issues, or all three. In some good boundary conversations, you forgive the other person for the past, reconcile in the present, and then discuss what the limits of trust will be in the future. The main point is this: Keep the future clearly differentiated from the past.

As you discuss the future, you clearly delineate what your expectations are, what limits you will set, what the conditions will be, or what the consequences (good or bad) of various actions will be.

Differentiating between forgiveness and trust does a number of things:

First, you prevent the other person from being able to say that not opening up again means you are “holding it against me.”

Second, you draw a clear line from the past to the possibility of a good future with a new beginning point of today, with a new plan and new expectations. If you have had flimsy boundaries in the past, you are sending a clear message that you are going to do things differently in the future.

Third, you give the relationship a new opportunity to go forward. You can make a new plan, with the other person potentially feeling cleansed and feeling as though the past will not be used to shame or hurt him. As a forgiven person, he can become an enthusiastic partner in the future of the relationship instead of a guilty convict trying to work his way out of relational purgatory. And you can feel free, not burdened, by bitterness and punitive feelings, while at the same time being wise about the future.

 

Five Things Forgiveness Is Not

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do” (1 Corinthians 13:5b CEV).

There’s a lot of faulty thinking about forgiveness. The act of forgiveness gets watered down. It gets abused. It gets cheapened.

What is forgiveness really? Take a quick test by answering “true” or “false” to the following statements:

  1. People should not be forgiven until they ask for it.
  2. Forgiveness includes minimizing the offense and the pain that was caused.
  3. Forgiveness includes restoring trust and reuniting a relationship.
  4. You haven’t really forgiven until you’ve forgotten the offense.
  5. When I see someone else hurt, then it is my duty to forgive the offender.

If you study the Bible, you’ll discover that all five of those statements are false.

Before we talk about what forgiveness really is, we have to talk about what it is not. Here are five things forgiveness is not:

1. Forgiveness is not conditional. In other words, it’s not based on somebody else’s response. Real forgiveness is unconditional. It’s not earned. It’s not deserved. It’s not bargained for. It’s not paid for. It’s not based on some promise that you’ll never do it again. If you say to someone “I’ll forgive you if . . . ,” that’s not forgiveness. That’s called bargaining.

2. Forgiveness is not minimizing the seriousness of the offense. There is a big difference between being wounded and being wronged. Being wounded is something that is accidental and does not require forgiveness. When you are wronged, someone intentionally meant to hurt you, and that requires forgiveness.

3. Forgiveness is not resuming a relationship without changes. The Bible teaches that forgiveness and restoring relationship are two different things. Forgiveness is instant. Trust must be built over a long period of time. Forgiveness is your part in reconciliation. But for a relationship to be restored, the offender has to do three other things that are unrelated to forgiveness: Demonstrate genuine repentance, make restitution whenever possible, and rebuild your trust by proving he or she has changed over time.

4. Forgiveness is not forgetting what happened. It’s impossible to try to forget something. When you’re trying to forget something, what are you focusing on? The very thing you want to forget. And whatever you focus on, you tend to move toward.

The key isn’t forgetting. The key is learning to see it through the lens of grace and God’s sovereignty and discovering how he can turn even bad things into good in your life if you’ll trust him and respond in the right way.

5. Forgiveness is not my right when I wasn’t the one that was hurt. Only the victim has the right to forgive. You can’t forgive people who haven’t hurt you.

There is always a cost to sin. And there is always a cost to forgiveness. That’s why you have to understand what forgiveness is not before you can look at what forgiveness really is.

5 Ways to Deal with Your Past

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

I’m a huge proponent of moving forward. I’ve never been a fan of remaining in the past.

This could be because I’ve had some past I’d rather not remember.

It could be because I am very forward-thinking.

Either way, and it’s probably the first, I’d prefer to reconcile the past, make the most of it, and get on with my life.

Bottom line, however, is that there are really a few choices when it comes to dealing with your past.

Here are 5 ways to deal with your past:

Forget it – If you choose to and you are really skilled, you can block all memory of the past from your mind. In extreme settings, I have seen people do this naturally, but I must admit, it’s rare. And, because I believe we learn from mistakes, I wouldn’t even recommend it.

Misuse it – You can twist the past for your benefit – gain sympathy, make people feel sorry for you, and use it as a personal advantage. You could be a martyr. The people who choose this option, in my experience, are usually as phony as the story they share. It’s often hard to trust them.

Ignore it – You can pretend your past never happened. You can make up your own version of your past, make it prettier and live in a false reality. With the people I’ve seen do this it seems you never really know the true person behind the stories they tell. They are always hiding a part of themselves.

Excuse it – You can blame every bad decision you ever made on someone else or every future mistake you make on your past. After all, it was “his” fault”, right? I’ve known people with this excuse who never own up to responsibility – and they always seem to find a reason for not doing so. They never take ownership of their actions.

Use it – In my humble opinion, as one with plenty of brokenness in my story, the best way to deal with your past is to use it for a greater good. How could your story benefit someone else? How could God use your brokenness to bless others? What have you learned, which others need to hear? Let your past help build your — or someone else’s — brighter future.

I’m not pretending this will be easy. It will probably involve hard decisions and choices such as forgiveness, confession, and being vulnerable with people. But, the reward for allowing God to use your past for a greater good and being freed from the weight of your past will be worth it.

Tag Cloud