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Posts tagged ‘forgiveness’

Healing From Infidelity

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SOURCE:  Michele Weiner-Davis, M.S.W

Life certainly has its challenges, but little compares to the monumental task of healing from infidelity.

As a marriage therapist for two decades, I’ve heard countless clients confess that the discovery of an affair was the lowest, darkest moment of their entire lives. And because affairs shatter trust, many seriously contemplate ending their marriages.

However, it’s important to know that, no matter bleak things might seem, it’s possible to revitalize a marriage wounded by infidelity. It’s not easy- there are no quick-fix, one-size-fits-all solutions- but years of experience has taught me that there are definite patterns to what people in loving relationships do to bring their marriages back from the brink of disaster.

Healing from infidelity involves teamwork; both spouses must be fully committed to the hard work of getting their marriages back on track. The unfaithful partner must be willing to end the affair and do whatever it takes to win back the trust of his or her spouse. The betrayed spouse must be willing to find ways to manage overwhelming emotions so, as a couple, they can begin to sort out how the affair happened, and more importantly, what needs to change so that it never happens again. Although no two people, marriages or paths to recovery are identical, it’s helpful to know that healing typically happens in stages.

If you recently discovered that your spouse has been unfaithful, you will undoubtedly feel a whole range of emotions- shock, rage, hurt, devastation, disillusionment, and intense sadness. You may have difficulty sleeping or eating, or feel completely obsessed with the affair. If you are an emotional person, you may cry a lot. You may want to be alone, or conversely, feel at your worst when you are. While unpleasant, these reactions are perfectly normal.

Although you might be telling yourself that your marriage will never improve, it will, but not immediately. Healing from infidelity takes a long time. Just when you think things are looking up, something reminds you of the affair and you go downhill rapidly. It’s easy to feel discouraged unless you both keep in mind that intense ups and downs are the norm. Eventually, the setbacks will be fewer and far between.

Although some people are more curious than others, it’s very common to have lots of questions about the affair, especially initially. If you have little interest in the facts, so be it. However, if you need to know what happened, ask. Although the details may be uncomfortable to hear, just knowing your spouse is willing to “come clean” helps people recover. As the unfaithful spouse, you might feel tremendous remorse and guilt, and prefer avoiding the details entirely, but experience shows that this is a formula for disaster. Sweeping negative feelings and lingering questions under the carpet makes genuine healing unlikely.

Once there is closure on what actually happened, there is typically a need to know why it happened. Betrayed spouses often believe that unless they get to the bottom of things, it could happen again. Unfortunately, since the reasons people stray can be quite complex, the “whys” aren’t always crystal clear.

No one “forces” anyone to be unfaithful. Infidelity is a decision, even if doesn’t feel that way. If you were unfaithful, it’s important to examine why you allowed yourself to do something that could threaten your marriage. Were you satisfying a need to feel attractive? Are you having a mid-life crisis? Did you grow up in a family where infidelity was a way of life? Do you have a sexual addiction?

It’s equally important to explore whether your marriage is significantly lacking. Although no marriage is perfect, sometimes people feel so unhappy, they look to others for a stronger emotional or physical connection. They complain of feeling taken for granted, unloved, resentful, or ignored. Sometimes there is a lack of intimacy or sexuality in the marriage.

If unhappiness with your spouse contributed to your decision to have an affair, you need to address your feelings openly and honestly so that together you can make some changes. If open communication is a problem, consider seeking help from a qualified marital therapist or taking a communication skill-building class. There are many available through religious organizations, community colleges and mental health settings.

Another necessary ingredient for rebuilding a marriage involves the willingness of unfaithful spouses to demonstrate sincere regret and remorse. You can’t apologize often enough. You need to tell your spouse that you will never commit adultery again. Although, since you are working diligently to repair your relationship, you might think your intentions to be monogamous are obvious, they aren’t. Tell your spouse of your plans to take your commitment to your marriage to heart. This will be particularly important during the early stages of recovery when mistrust is rampant.

Conversely, talking about the affair can’t be the only thing you do. Couples who successfully rebuild their marriages recognize the importance of both talking about their difficulties and spending time together without discussing painful topics. They intentionally create opportunities to reconnect and nurture their friendship. They take walks, go out to eat or to a movie, develop new mutual interests and so on. Betrayed spouses will be more interested in spending discussion-free time after the initial shock of the affair has dissipated.

Ultimately, the key to healing from infidelity involves forgiveness, which is frequently the last step in the healing process. The unfaithful spouse can do everything right- be forthcoming, express remorse, listen lovingly and act trustworthy, and still, the marriage won’t mend unless the betrayed person forgives his or her spouse and the unfaithful spouse forgives him or herself. Forgiveness opens the door to real intimacy and connection.

But forgiveness doesn’t just happen. It is a conscious decision to stop blaming, make peace, and start tomorrow with a clean slate. If the past has had you in its clutches, why not take the next step to having more love in your life?

Decide to forgive today.

You Don’t Have to Forget

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”

(Romans 8:28 NIV).

You’ve heard this phrase over and over: “Forgive and forget.”

There’s only one problem with it: You can’t do it. It’s impossible!

You really can’t forget a hurt in your life. In fact, you can’t even try to forget it. Because when you’re trying to forget, you are actually focusing on the very thing you want to forget.

Forgetting is not what God wants you to do. Instead, he wants you to trust him and see how he can bring good out of it. That’s more important than forgetting, because then you can thank God for the good that he brought out of it. You can’t thank God for things you forget.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

It doesn’t say that all things are good, because all things are not good. Cancer is not good. Disease is not good. Death is not good. Divorce is not good. War is not good. Rape and abuse are not good. There are a lot of things in life that are evil. Not everything that happens in this world is God’s will.

But God says he will work good out of the bad things in life if you will trust him. When you come to him and say, “God, I give you all the pieces of my life,” he will return peace for your pieces. He gives you peace in your heart that comes from knowing that even if you don’t understand the hurt in your life, you can still forgive, knowing that God will use that pain for good.

You don’t have to forget the wrong thing that someone did to you. You can’t do it even if you tried! But God says you don’t have to forget it. You just have to forgive and then see how he will bring good out of it.

Does Forgiveness Mean Instant Trust?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Can I Trust You?

Sometimes the burden to trust again has been unfairly placed upon the shoulders of the betrayed person and linked with forgiveness. The thinking goes like this: if you forgive me, then what happened between us is in the past. We don’t need to discuss this anymore and trust should be automatically restored.

But that’s not true.

We can genuinely forgive someone and still not trust him (or her).

Forgiveness is something we do because God calls us to do it, not necessarily because someone is sorry, repentant, or is genuinely interested in rebuilding trust. However, reconciliation of the relationship, including trusting again, requires forgiveness but not just forgiveness. It also requires the one who broke trust to show genuine repentance as well as make efforts to rebuild broken trust.

Typically we think of broken trust, especially in marriage, only in the sexual realm. However below are three additional areas where trust can be broken and must be rebuilt if a relationship is to be restored.

1.  Authenticity: People immediately mistrust someone who feels false. When you are married to someone, work with someone, or are close to someone who has one persona in public and another in private, you intuitively do not trust him, even when you have no specific reason not to. You don’t trust his public persona (i.e. great guy), because you also bear witness to his or her hypocrisy elsewhere. This person’s core self is not authentic and therefore he cannot or should not be trusted.

To rebuild trust with someone who has been inauthentic requires him or her to acknowledge his or her false image and learn to be more real. In most instances a person who has a double self will not acknowledge it nor do they typically change. When confronted, they just get more devious.

2. Reliability: When we are in relationship with someone, personal or professional, we want to know whether we can count on that person to do what he says he will do. Or, likewise, can I trust that he will stop doing the things that he says he will stop doing?

In rebuilding broken trust with someone who has a track record of unreliability, we must look at what the person does, not what the person says that he or she will do. For example, does he say he will put filters on his computer but never does? Does she say she will stop drinking, or spending money on the credit card but does nothing? Does he say he wants restoration of the marriage but won’t go to counseling or do any work towards that end? Does she tell you she will make more efforts to call you and reach out to you in order to have a more mutual relationship but her promises don’t turn into real phone calls?

Proverbs 25:19 says, “Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot.” It’s foolish.

John Mark was someone who was not reliable and as a result, lost the apostle Paul’s trust (See Acts 15). Later on we see that trust was restored, not because Paul gave him trust, but because John Mark proved he was reliable and Paul’s trust was restored (2 Timothy 4). In the same way, building consistent reliability into our character rebuilds broken trust, not empty promises.

3. Care: In our closest relationships we ask ourselves: can I trust that you care for my good? My well-being?  When I share my thoughts and feelings do you hear me? Value me? Protect me? Or is there mocking, contempt, avoidance, or indifference? Proverbs 31:11,12 says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her.” Why?  Because, “He trusts her to do him good not harm all the days of his life.”

One of the foundations of relational trust is that love does not intentionally harm the other (Romans 13:10).  And, if in weakness and sin there is harm, every effort is made to make amends and not repeat that harm.

A destructive person does not want to hear the other person’s grievances against him. It’s true; it does hurt our feelings (and pride) to hear how we have hurt someone. It takes effort to listen and care about the other person’s feelings when you have broken her trust. Yet without consistent compassion, empathy, and care for the other, rebuilding trust is not possible. And if we don’t trust that someone cares for our well being, a close relationship with that person is not possible.

Rebuilding broken trust takes time and specific evidence of change, not merely words or promises of change.  

You Don’t Have to Live with Guilt

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance.”(Proverbs 28:13 TLB)

God is always ready to give you another chance. That’s a bedrock piece of Christianity. We’ve all been irresponsible. We’ve all screwed up. The Bible tells us,“Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 NLT, second edition).

God doesn’t want you living with a heavy guilt trip about all the irresponsibility in your life. Guilt destroys your confidence, damages your relationships, keeps you stuck in the past, and even hurts your health. I read a report a few years back that said 70 percent of people in the hospital could leave if they knew how to resolve their guilt.

God wants far better for your life than that. You don’t want to live with guilt. And here’s an important truth to always hang on to: You don’t have to.

God wants you to live with a sense of promise and hope. God can even bring good out of the stupid decisions that you’ve made in your life if you’ll give those failures to him.

How do you do that?

Admit to God you’ve made a mistake. It doesn’t surprise him. And it won’t change his perception of you. I hope you’ll take this step today. When you do, here’s what you can expect from God:

  1. God forgives instantly. The very moment you admit your sin to God, he forgives you.
  2. God forgives freely. You don’t need to earn it, and you’ll never deserve it.
  3. God forgives completely. He wipes your sin absolutely clean.

If you’re mired in guilt and shame, you’ll likely perpetuate whatever problem you have. You’ll tell yourself that you blew it, so you’re bad. Since you’re bad, you believe you’ll blow it again. It’s a nasty cycle from which we often can’t seem to escape — at least not on our own.

You need a power beyond yourself. You need a Savior. You need Jesus.

3 Characteristics of a Repentant Spouse

SOURCE:  Family Life/Eric Mason

Would you like to revolutionize your marriage?

Then try starting with a little repentance.

It’s amazing how much healing can occur between a husband and a wife when 10 little words are said: “I am so sorry for what I did. I repent!”

As we grow as believers in Jesus Christ and become surrounded by more and more Christians, it’s easy to put on a facade. Often we aren’t willing to admit where we are spiritually because we’ve become skilled at hiding our weaknesses.

But for Christian husbands and wives who want a strong marriage, there comes a time when we have to own up and be honest about ourselves. Will we live our lives bare before the Lord? Will we open ourselves up to our spouses? If so, then we need to learn how to be repentant.

Face-to-face with sin

If you are looking for an example of repentance, go no further than 2 Samuel 12. You probably know the story. The prophet Nathan came to King David to confront him about committing adultery and murder. Nathan told David about two men who lived in the same city. One was rich and had a large number of sheep and cattle. The other had only one little female lamb that he treated as a member of his family. The rich man took the poor man’s lamb to use as a meal.

“As surely as God lives,” David said to Nathan, “the man who did this ought to be lynched! He must repay for the lamb four times over for his crime and his stinginess!”

Then Nathan stunned David with his reply: “You’re the man!” (2 Samuel 12:5-7,The Message).

It’s interesting that David had a lot of self-righteousness when it came to somebody else’s sin. But when he realized that he was the man who had sinned, he begged for mercy.

After finally coming face-to-face with his sin of adultery, David penned Psalm 51. It begins, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. … cleanse me from my sin! … Against you, you only, have I sinned …”

David was far more than sorrowful for his sin. He was repentant.

Psalm 51 gives us a picture of what genuine repentance looks like. Applying it to marriage, here are three characteristics of a repentant spouse:

1. A repentant spouse trusts the character of God. In Psalm 51 David says, in essence, “God, I know I’ve messed up beyond the worst level of messing up. What I need is the God who will deal with me based on His commitment to covenant, not my failure of the covenant.” Twice he mentions God’s merciful character. “Have mercy on me, O God,” he pleads.

It’s important to trust the character of God before you focus on your sin. If you focus on your sin first, you’ll get depressed. You’ll get frustrated. You’ll feel locked in. But if you put your mind on the character of God, then you’ll have encouragement to deal with your sin.

We need the gospel, not self-righteousness. We need to submit ourselves to the beauty of the character of God so that Christ’s righteousness can cover our sin and deal with it.

How does this look in marriage? If you and your spouse mention your sin to each other all the time, then all you’re going to do is argue. “Well, you sinned against me!” … “No, you sinned against me!” But if you focus on God’s mercy, looking at all God has done for you, then the situation seems very different.

A deeply-repentant spouse first sees the attributes of God: His mercy, love, grace, long-suffering, spirituality, omniscience, omnipresence. When God’s attributes permeate your relationship with your spouse, your mind will be more on the Lord and your marriage. You won’t just be focusing on the faults of your spouse, and you’ll be better equipped to deal with your sin.

2. A repentant spouse owns the extent of his or her sin. David says, “I know my transgressions.” Now, the word here for “know” means to be acquainted with something intimately. When he says, “I know my sin,” that means he is able to absolutely, unadulteratedly acknowledge what he did. One of the most authentic and powerful things Christians can do is own their sin. You can’t even get saved until you do that.

If you want a godly marriage, you better get used to learning how to repent. I fight with it every day myself. I have to fight self-righteousness! I have to fight not wanting to acknowledge stuff. I have to fight unforgiveness and anger.

In Psalm 51, David not only talked about knowing his sin, but also said that God would be justified in saying to him whatever He wanted to. “Against You, and You only, have I sinned and have done what is evil in Your sight, so that You may be justified in Your words.”

David didn’t waste a lot of words when he admitted that he had sinned against the Lord. How often have you presented a paragraph of information to your spouse explaining why you have sinned? David didn’t do that. He owned his sin. Likewise, in marriage we need to face up to our individual offenses.

3. A repentant spouse yearns for long-term transformation. Just look at what David says in Psalm 51:6, “Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being…and teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”

When David says “delight,” he is talking about what God likes inside of His people. He is saying to God, “You desire the places that I’ve closed off from You to be reopened in my life, for You to deal with.” In this passage David is getting beyond the sin of adultery and getting to the heart that led to adultery.

Jesus Christ did not die on the cross so that we would have the same old, nasty, funky, trifling, hard heart in our marriages. He says in Ezekiel 36:24-28 (The Message): “… I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. …”

Whiter than snow

No matter where we are in life, each of us is in desperate need of the cross of Christ. And that’s what David expresses in Psalm 51:7, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

The gospel gives freedom to our lives and to our marriages. Jesus has already paid for our sins. He gives us the ability to look into our spouse’s eyes and say, “I am so sorry for what I did. I repent!”

5 Christian Clichés That Aren’t True

SOURCE:  ALLISON DUNCAN/Relevant Magazine

Examining Christian truisms that might not actually be true.

Christians culture has fostered a lot of cutesy sayings, but just because something sounds good doesn’t mean it’s accurate.

You’ve probably heard at least some of these truisms in church before, but let’s take a second look at them. Because as catchy as they sound, they may be misleading, simplistic or only partly true.

All sins are the same. No sin is worse than any other.

All sins are the same in that they all separate us from God, but not all sins are equally damaging to ourselves and others.

It should be obvious that murdering someone is far worse than gossiping about your co-worker. Though Romans does say “For the wages of sin is death” (in the context of showing how our human nature is in need of salvation through Christ, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”), throughout Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, different penalties and consequences are assigned to different kinds of transgressions.

Forgive and forget.

Good luck with forgetting! We can’t realistically obliterate certain things from our memories. And fortunately, that’s not a necessary part of forgiving someone. Forgiveness means being fully aware of how someone hurt you, but choosing not to take revenge and loving her anyway.

Depending on the situation, we can figuratively “forget” the wrongs people have done to us by choosing to treat them as if those things never happened. But this doesn’t mean we have to trust untrustworthy people or make ourselves vulnerable to them again.

In his somewhat ironically titled book Forgive and Forget, Lewis B. Smedes writes, “The test of forgiving lies with healing the lingering pain of the past, not with forgetting that the past ever happened … You do not have to forget after you forgive; you may, but your forgiving can be sincere even if you remember.”

God isn’t interested in making you happy; He’s interested in making you holy.

This implies that holiness and happiness are mutually exclusive. What if holiness and happiness, as defined by God, are two sides of the same coin? Sure, it’s not exactly accurate to say “God wants us to be happy” if we define happiness by worldly standards or base it on temporal emotions, but He does want us to have fellowship with Him, which makes us both eternally happy and holy.

The Psalms are full of references to the happiness God gives us: “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11), “Delight yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4), and “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food” (Psalm 63:5).

Christian tradition also emphasizes the happiness we can find in God, though it’s not based on earthly standards of “happiness” through getting everything we want. Augustine said that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Our enjoyment of Him is a testament to His glory. He above all is worthy to be enjoyed.

True happiness is not about us. It’s about God. It’s about being united with Him, which leads to wisdom and righteousness. We won’t have perfect happiness until we are perfectly united with God. But we can look forward to this as our destination, as the end for which we were created, says Thomas Aquinas.

During times of suffering, you’ll be closer to God because you have to depend on Him more.

You may feel closer to God when you’re suffering. When Paul was suffering from the thorn in his flesh, he learned to depend on God’s strength in his weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). He could even rejoice in his weaknesses and was content with hardships, because they revealed God’s power.

But Job’s experience was different from Paul’s. He longed for God, but couldn’t find Him (Job 23:3), and he vacillated between hope and despair throughout his time of suffering. So it’s OK if you don’t feel closer to God during hardships either.

If God feels distant, guess who moved?

Read Job, and don’t always blame the sufferer. Jesus Himself felt forsaken by God on the cross, but He wasn’t at fault. Sometimes we drift from God, yes. But other times, God withdraws for reasons that remain mysterious to us. It may be hard to tell who is moving away from whom. Don’t add to people’s pain by automatically declaring them guilty.

It’s easy to oversimplify complex issues. But we do ourselves a favor by seeking the truth instead of unthinkingly accepting truisms.

The Scientific Case for Forgiveness

SOURCE:  MIKE MCHARGUE/Relevant Magazine

Holding a grudge hurts us physically and psychologically.

The Bible makes me think Jesus was obsessed with forgiveness. He never stopped talking about the need to forgive others. His parables spoke of a God who was forgiving, and expected His creations to be forgiving as well.

Jesus portrayed forgiving others as essential to living life abundantly.

Jesus and science are in complete agreement on that matter, as studies have given scientific evidence for many of the things the Bible tells us about forgiving others.

When You Forgive, You Heal Faster

Scientists have found that victims of severe abuse who forgive their abuser receive measurable improvements in psychological and physical health. When compared to control groups, the forgivers healed faster and more completely.

But there’s a catch—forgiveness isn’t a one-time, leave-it-all-behind moment. It’s a continual process.

Specific techniques vary across practitioners, but the basic model is the same. Scientists shows us that our brains can’t forgive people who’ve hurt us until we grieve the pain we’ve experienced, work to understand the perspective of our abuser, decide to forgive them and then work toward some level of acceptance or compassion toward the one who wounded us.

You can’t forgive and forget—our brains don’t work that way. You can only learn to move on without wishing harm on the one who harmed you.

Unforgiveness Physically Limits You

Have you ever been hurt so badly by someone who you can’t stop thinking about them? People who’ve hurt us live in our heads rent-free, showing up in our mind’s eye when we have coffee with friends, enjoy nature or spend time with our family.

Sadly, research suggests that holding a grudge against one who wounded us doesn’t affect them, but instead impairs us. This impairment can manifest itself in surprising ways.

Ruminating over the one who hurt us takes cognitive energy, and affects our brains and bodies. It raises the levels of stress hormones in our bloodstream, and can elevate our blood pressure and contribute to weight gain. It even affects our ability to focus and form new memories.

Holding onto hurt creates a fog around your mind and a weight on your body. This is less of a metaphor than you’d think, because in one study scientists found that people could actually jump higher after consciously forgiving someone. Another study showed that people who thought about a grudge viewed physical tasks are more demanding.

When we don’t forgive others, we put ourselves in mental, emotional and physical bondage. The person who hurt us may have put us in a cage, but we’re the only ones who can set ourselves free.

Forgiving Doesn’t Mean You Accept Further Harm

Studies have shown that forgiveness is effective and beneficial even in the most severe cases of abuse, trauma, oppression and neglect. Both our faith and modern science emphasize the importance of forgiving others for transgressions—no matter how badly we were hurt.

But, it’s important to define forgiveness well. Forgiveness is accepting what happened and moving on without wishing harm on the one who hurt you. It is not placing yourself in situations where you will continue to be hurt or abused. You can forgive someone and still maintain necessary boundaries in a relationship. In cases of severe abuse, that boundary may need to be no further contact.

When Jesus spoke of “turning the other cheek” to an “evil one,” those words weren’t just an admonishment to non-violence. Jesus quoted the law, and then described radical submission to possible legal interpretations. This approach revealed personal and systemic brutality for what it was, be it physical, economic or legal.

“Turning the other cheek” is not an admonishment to stay in an abusive situation.

As science shows, it’s good for you to forgive an abusive parent or spouse. It’s freeing to let go of resentment toward an unhealthy friendship, but there’s no nobility in allowing those patterns to continue. In cases of persistent abuse, the best way to forgive someone is to walk away.

 

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