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Posts tagged ‘resentment’

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.

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Abandonment: Forgiveness

SOURCE:  Living Free/Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W.

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

(Colossians 3:13 NLT)

Children abandoned by one or both parents often harbor resentment and unforgiveness toward those parents. And they become victims of their own unforgiveness.

The Bible has much to say about forgiveness. We need to start by understanding the forgiveness God offers us. The Bible teaches that we have all sinned. Every one of us. And with sin in our life, we cannot spend eternity in heaven with our holy God. But God found a way . . . He sent His only Son, Jesus, to earth to die on the cross and pay the penalty for our sins.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:8-11 NLT)

“While we were yet sinners” Christ suffered and died on the cross so we could be forgiven. His forgiveness is a gift. We could never earn it or deserve it. All we need to do is reach out and take it by trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Maybe a parent abandoned you. Maybe the parent lived under the same roof with you but neglected you. Whatever happened . . . God calls you to forgive. Not because they deserve it. But because Jesus is willing to forgive you even when you don’t deserve it. How can you do less?

In fact, Jesus calls us to love those who have wronged us . . . and to pray for them.

“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45 NLT)

Your life will never be whole . . . you will never be healed from the scars of abandonment . . . until you take this step. Are you ready?

Father, I’ve had such bad feelings toward my parent(s) so many years. I believe that because of Jesus you have forgiven me though I certainly don’t deserve your forgiveness. I receive your gift of forgiveness. Help me to extend that same kind of forgiveness to my parent(s). In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

  Restoring Families: Overcoming Abusive Relationships through Christ by Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W.

My Wife’s The Breadwinner! Is That OK?

SOURCE:  Keri Wyatt Kent/Marriage Partnership

Women Breadwinners: A Holy Calling?

Women Breadwinners: A Holy Calling?

Perspectives from couples who reflect a growing trend

Alison Strobel Morrow works three jobs. She’s a full-time middle school language arts teacher, she writes women’s fiction, and she runs a home-based health and wellness product business.

Her husband is a part-time church newsletter editor and primary caregiver for their two children, ages 4 and 7, whom he home-schools. He handles most of the housework, although Alison pitches in occasionally.

Alison is just one of many women who are the primary breadwinners for their families. Each family has a unique story, yet is part of a larger trend: a steadily growing number of women who out-earn their husbands.

“For the most part, I’m okay with my role,” she says. While her close friends understand, she admits, “I get a lot of weird looks from people when I first explain our situation, but I’m over caring whether or not people approve. I’m immensely relieved to have a job and insurance at all.”

40 Percent and Growing

Some 40 percent of wives now earn more than their husbands, a trend which challenges the traditions of American society and has stirred debate and commentary about its sociological implications (with publication of books such as Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men: And the Rise of Women, and Liza Mundy’s The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family). Because of the growing number of women earning advanced degrees and ascending the corporate ladder, that percentage is growing.

A small (but growing) fraction of those wives are solo breadwinners while their husbands stay home with the children. Many more are part of couples in which both spouses work—but she earns more. Some observers predict what Mundy calls “the big flip”—the coming day where the majority of women will earn more than men.

For Christian families in this situation (and there are many), the changes can be unsettling—especially if they are a part of a conservative faith tradition that taught them it is “biblical” for a man to go out to work and a woman to stay home.

Some Christian husbands who want (or need) their wives to contribute to the household income by working may feel conflicted when their wives advance in their careers. Others are quite content to earn less, especially if this allows them to be closer to their children because they’ve become the primary caregivers and household managers. Their supporting roles often help their wives thrive in their careers.

Changing Roles

When Cathy and Dave Breslow had their kids 18 and 16 years ago, they were “adamant” that one parent would be home with them. Cathy had assumed it would be her, but her job as a software engineer for Safeway Foods had benefits, a retirement package, and a good salary. Dave’s work as an insurance salesman had no benefits and paid straight commission.

So he suggested that he stay home with their children. “At first I was like, what?” she admits.

“It was very unusual at the time,” Dave says. “But we didn’t want someone else raising our kids. I wanted to impart my values to them.”

After prayer and conversation, “we felt that the Lord was leading us in that direction,” Cathy says. “My husband handled it brilliantly. When you look at it over the long haul, we knew this is what God had for us.”

He continued to work part-time selling insurance but has been the primary caregiver for their children, as well as doing the cooking, shopping, and cleaning. He also coaches basketball and volunteers at their church.

When his daughter was 2, he wanted to take her to a playgroup through his church but noted it was called the Moms Friendly Playgroup. When he jokingly said, “I guess I’m not invited,” the church changed the name to Parents Friendly Playgroup.

However, most of the families they know at their church in the San Francisco Bay area have dads working full-time. “Would I have done things differently? No. Do I have regrets? Not at all,” Dave says.

Living the Dream

A year ago, Jeff Walton quit his job to be a stay-at-home dad to his two boys, ages 4 and 8, so his wife could take a promotion to district sales manager.

Today, the family feels they are living the dream. Kathy is free from the stress of what to do when she was 50 miles away and got a call from school saying one of her boys was sick. She is able to devote more time to her job, and she has had a banner year.

“I’ve always liked my job, but I like it so much more now,” that her husband is at home, Kathy says, although she admits that “it’s very, very, very stressful to be the sole breadwinner, especially when you’re in sales.” But Jeff’s support means both less chaos and more free time for both of them.

“We used to both do everything, when we were both working, but it was stressful. I no longer have a ‘laundry room mountain’ waiting for me on Saturday, when we’ve got to get to a soccer game, and wondering when that’s going to get done.”

Kathy says her women’s group at church has been very supportive, which helps her. Jeff’s also in a Bible study there, and that group also has been very encouraging, he said.

When they were both working, Jeff and Kathy would have their kids up by 6:00 a.m. to get out the door less than an hour later. They’d pick them up from daycare or after-school care around 5:30 p.m.—long days for both parents and kids.

These days, Jeff takes the boys to the library after school on Tuesday afternoons, and he plays ball with them or helps with homework on the other weekday afternoons.

“When we were both working, it seemed like every time Kathy would have to travel, one of the kids would get sick,” Jeff recalls. “It was so much stress.”

When both of them were trying to build their careers, Jeff recalls, “we’d have this ‘whose job is more important’ question when we both had a meeting, and we’d have a debate about that. We’ve taken that question out of the equation. She can focus more on her job, and the more successful she is, the more successful we are.”

The couples most comfortable with breadwinning wives had similar attitudes to Jeff’s, seeing her success as “our” success.

When he quit his job, Jeff reorganized the kitchen, then the laundry room, and divided the house into “zones” he cleans one at a time, working methodically around each room. “It’s very ‘FlyLady,’ ” Kathy laughs.

“I might have been going a little crazy at first, trying to prove that I was working,” he admits. He’s a meticulous budgeter, and he analyzed their finances to cut expenses before he left his job. “Kathy often tells me she wouldn’t be able to do this without me,” Jeff says.

He also does the yard work, cooks, and buys groceries, although Kathy still helps plan the meals and sometimes cooks for fun on the weekends. Those weekends also have margin for time to just hang out as a family or a couple.

“We have time to just be together. I’m no longer asking when I’m going to have time to actually live. I feel so blessed.”

A year ago when Kathy had just received her promotion, and Jeff was still working, she remembers crying at a sales meeting, telling her boss, “I don’t think I can do this.” She recalls, “My boss is an amazing guy, and he just looked at me and said, ‘What are you talking about? Of course you can do this!’ And when Jeff quit his job, I could. I went from crying that I couldn’t do it last year, to being named district sales manager of the year this year.”

Man’s Identity?

A recent Time Magazine article by Mundy, author of The Richer Sex, points out that “In the face of women’s rising power and changing expectations, many men may experience an existential crisis. When the woman takes on the role of primary breadwinner, it takes away an essential part of many men’s identity: that of the provider, the role he was trained, tailored and told to do since he could walk and talk.”

For Christian couples, it is often not just a role that he was trained for and understood that society expected him to do. Many, especially those in more conservative traditions, were told that God decreed that the husband was supposed to play the role of provider. To go against that, even when it makes economic sense, creates stress and guilt.

And yet many Christian couples find themselves—whether by choice or economic necessity or simply because women are reaping the benefits of decades of hard work and education—in this very situation.

Some couples said that the husbands’ confidence was eroded by their inability to play the traditional breadwinner role—even as they said they appreciated their wives’ efforts. Some accepted their non-traditional role but admitted it caused some tension or guilt in the relationship. Others have embraced it as the way God is providing for their families, while allowing the wives to follow God’s calling.

In her July 2012 Wall Street Journal article, “When the Wife Has a Fatter Paycheck,” journalist Susan Gregory Thomas says she’s part of that 40 percent of wives who earn more than their husbands, and notes that the situation puts her: “in the middle of a distinctively modern dilemma: how to handle the tensions of a marriage between an alpha woman and a beta man.”

In an online column responding to Thomas’ article, writer Candice Watters opines: “The dilemma Susan Gregory Thomas raises has even higher stakes for a Christian couple. We’re not merely talking tensions between alpha and beta, but defiance of the Alpha and Omega.”

“My Friends Made Me Feel So Guilty”

Whether or not you agree with Watters’ hermeneutic, she’s echoing what many people think—and many churches teach. Directly or indirectly, conservative Christian culture holds up the ideal of “man as provider, woman as homemaker.” However, the reality is, many wives do have to work, and some have far greater earning potential and ambition than their husbands. Then what?

“My friends made me feel so guilty,” says Diana Searls, who has always been the primary breadwinner in her marriage. “And if we were raised that way, to believe that earning more than your husband is absolutely wrong, the guilt is intense.”

Diana, who heads up the leadership and management development program at a career center, says she and her husband Ed “had a lot of conversations. We asked, Is this wrong? We searched the Scriptures together, and our conclusion is God did not say it’s wrong, but man has done this. That was important for us.”

Clarity about Calling

Another couple, Jean and Robert*, have both worked for all of their marriage—sometimes full-time, sometimes part-time, as they raised their two boys, who are now 20 and 17. Currently, Jean is working 50 to 60 hours a week as a project manager for a consulting company. Robert, who was downsized out of middle management several years ago, is back in school, getting his teaching credentials—at age 53. He works part-time in retail as well. While Jean is glad he’s finally found his calling, it’s been challenging.

“I’m doing what I feel called to do,” Jean says. “But the fact that Robert is not in a job he loves, kind of puts a damper on it. I’m grateful that God has provided in this way, but—there’s this big but—we’d all be happier if Robert had a better job. Although I wouldn’t trade Robert for anything because of the kind of husband and father he is.”

Jean grew up Catholic but “never got the message it wasn’t OK for me to work,” and in fact was praised for her achievements and ambition. Still, she thinks “there is this pressure, socially, that he needs to provide. He feels it more than me.”

She says she believes women “naturally have to recreate ourselves” in different seasons of life: as a student, a mother, then perhaps launching in a new direction after the kids leave the nest. Men, on the other hand, she believes, are taught that they just work, and that work defines them. When they’re unemployed, under-employed, or just not experiencing the career success their wives do, some men struggle.

The Recession’s Toll

Another couple, Jim and Angie*, met at their church in their late 20s, after she had finished a masters in social work. He worked as a carpenter, remodeling high-end homes. During the real estate boom of the late 1990s, his talents were in high demand, though the work was rarely steady. Angie’s income was the family’s main support.

The recession crippled Jim’s business. Indeed, a growing number of women have gone back to work to help make ends meet when their husbands lost their jobs—and ended up actually doing quite well. A 2010 University of New Hampshire study showed that an economic recession often results in an increasing number of breadwinner wives.

Angie works as an account manager for a company that administers employee assistance programs. She worked part-time when her children, now ages 13, 11, and 8, were young (and Jim was earning more money), but she currently works full-time. She’s always managed the money.

“Sometimes I am just overwhelmed by the responsibility of managing the finances and balancing the work demands with family life,” she admits.

Resentment and Guilt

Some men find it difficult to release traditional roles or expectations. The “man as provider” is definitely more deeply ingrained in the conservative Christian subculture than in American culture at large.

“I don’t think the tradition of faith impacts me as much as my husband. Although I cannot speak for him, at times he says things like, ‘I feel like I’m a failure,’ or ‘I will never be able to provide for you the way your father provided.’ I believe those stereotypes impact his self-esteem,” Angie says.

Angie’s advice to women who find themselves in a similar situation? “Be content in all circumstances. Trust the plan God has for you and your family. Accept the situation as it is and don’t allow resentment to creep into your attitude toward your husband.”

That’s easier said than done. Another woman, who asked to be anonymous, confided: “For a long time I was really resentful of the fact that I was the one who had to go back to work…I’ve really struggled to accept that this is God’s will for us…However, I think our girls have benefitted greatly from having him home.”

Contentment with Your Calling

Christians often talk about stewardship of their resources—but what if a woman’s skills, and God’s calling to the workplace, are gifts to be stewarded as carefully as any others?

The couples that seem to thrive with women in the breadwinner role have the support of their churches, family, and friends. They believe not just that such an arrangement is permissible, but that it’s beneficial to have the wife as primary breadwinner. They’ve prayed and studied and listened to God and followed his calling.

If God calls a woman to do work that provides for her family, that calling and the resulting income should be stewarded carefully. What does that look like? It includes the support of her husband (with practical help at home), and it also includes the woman responding wholeheartedly to that calling. By accepting and leaning into the way God has gifted her, a woman can find meaning and purpose and allow God to use her to provide for her family.

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* These couples asked that we not use their real names.

Keri Wyatt Kent is a freelance journalist and the author of 10 books.

To Forgive or Not To Forgive: My Choice!

 SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Forgiveness: The Reason and the Responsibility

We hear the following phrase a lot, but often in the wrong context or delivered from an impure heart:

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free – John 8:32. 

Forgiveness requires that we face the truth: the truth of Christ’s forgiveness; the truth of our own need for forgiveness; the truth that if we are ever to be free we must receive Christ’s forgiveness, and forgive those who have hurt us.

You see, in order to experience true freedom, we must forgive those who have caused us harm or disappointment … even when that means forgiving ourselves. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve … because of Christ Jesus. When we turn to Him, He freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.

How can we do less? Forgiven by the Lord, we have the power, the reason, and the responsibility to forgive others. Forgiveness is not a feeling we need to muster up, it is an actual choice we make. When you realize it is a choice, then you must consider, “what are my options?” So let’s take a look.

Door #1: You don’t forgive. You remain aloof and detached, or bitter, resentful, angry, and vengeful. A terrible side effect is that people still have power over you. That’s because you need to extract some payment or amends from them … an apology, their suffering or an experience of pain, a sacrifice, or penance. And they can withhold it as long as they want and play you like a puppet.

Door #2: You do forgive. It becomes easier to let go of the bitterness, revenge, and entitlement. You experience freedom from the past. You have an opportunity to grow something better with them. Or you can totally disconnect from them because now you don’t need anything to make the “transaction” complete. You have relieved them of their debt, so they can’t “withhold” anything from you to string you along. Now you are letting God be their judge. And He is much better at determining their consequences and doling it out to them.

Sometimes it is hard to let go. In fact, when we have been deeply hurt, it may not be possible to forgive … on our own, that is. But it is important to remember that we don’t have to do it alone. Through the power of Christ, God has forgiven us. When we truly and humbly accept that, we have the perspective and power to forgive anyone else for any transgression against us. That’s real freedom! Your decision, so choose well.

Today, examine your heart. Identify relationships where there is uneasiness, anger, bitterness, resentment, revenge, sarcasm, or irritation. You probably have to make a decision about forgiveness. If you are struggling to forgive, ask God to help you. He loves you. He cares and He is able. Look at your other option. It is more painful to withhold forgiveness than it is to forgive.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I’ve kept these feelings of resentment and unforgiveness buried much too long. Help me to face the truth … and then to forgive myself and others. I now realize that forgiveness isn’t about others feeling good. It is for me to feel better and be right with You! Thank you for your mercy and forgiveness. Help me to show the same to others, even those who have hurt me. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who paid for my forgiveness, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:23-24

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

The Gift of Forgiveness

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

Forgiveness is the oil that smoothes over the rough spots as two people struggle to love when it’s hard and become what God calls them to be. When we keep score on marital wrongs, love is impossible. Although some excellent books have been written on the subject of forgiveness, I still find in my counseling practice a common misunderstanding of what it is. When I asked one client how she will know she has forgiven her husband for his adultery she replied, “When I don’t hurt anymore.”

Getting past the emotional pain caused by someone who has hurt you is a reasonable goal, but not a prerequisite for forgiveness. In fact, it was while Jesus was in pain he forgave those who abused him saying, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Forgiveness doesn’t remove the hurt or the consequences that sin has inflicted upon the victim. Sometimes the life-long consequences are worse than the original sin.

For example. Susan wasn’t honest with her husband about how much debt they were in. She had started her own business just a few years earlier and the expenses were much greater than she had ever anticipated. Instead of sharing that burden with her husband, Susan kept it to herself and tried to resolve the household cash flow problems by taking cash advances on all the new credit card offers she received.

When the creditors finally started calling the house because of unpaid bills, Danny hit the roof. Although it wasn’t easy, eventually Dannydecided to forgive Susan for her deceit and pride even though he stillfelt hurt and angry. They had to file for bankruptcy. They lost their home and Susan’s business. If Danny waited until he felt no more anger or pain before he forgave Susan, their marriage may not have survived. The consequences of Susan’s deceit was devastating and would impact their lives for years.

Extending the gift of forgiveness doesn’t guarantee an absence of pain. Neither does it imply an automatic restoration of the relationship. Sometimes we confuse forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is something we can choose to offer because of who we are. God tells us we are required and empowered to forgive because we have been forgiven, not because the other person deserves our forgiveness or has even asked for it. In fact, it is often the person who has hurt us the most that never asks us for forgiveness. They are not sorry, or they simply don’t care.

Forgiveness is choosing not to hold onto our right for justice or vengeance. We cancel the debt they owe us. In order to be able to do this we must free our heart from the bitterness and resentment we often feel when someone has wounded us. Although love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 3:8), there are times that reconciliation of the relationship depends upon the genuine repentance of the one who has sinned. 

When we sin, God eagerly desires to forgive us, but our relationship with him is broken until we repent. In order to move back into right relationship with God, we must acknowledge our sin, turn away from it and seek his forgiveness. Like God, we too must extend the gift of forgiveness to those who have hurt us, but for true reconciliation to take place, repentance and forgiveness must work together.

Part of Susan’s repentance involved cutting up all credit cards, allowing Danny to handle the checkbook and being accountable for all expenditures. The restoration of their marriage relationship involved both Danny’s decision to forgive and Susan’srepentant heart and behaviors, leading to their eventual reconciliation.

As fallen human beings, forgiving someone is not something akin to our nature. Justice and revenge come more naturally. We can only truly forgive someone if we learn how to do it from the great forgiver himself—Jesus. Part of seeing what God is up to when our spouse acts wrong is understanding that God teaches us how to become more like Jesus through this process. For how do we ever learn how to forgive if no one ever hurts us?

There is wonderful freedom in knowing we do not have to react to a painful wrong either by shutting down or retaliating. As we grow in our relationship with Christ, we become a reflection of who he is in us rather than a reflection of what others have done to us. Gary Thomas author of Sacred Marriage writes, “We will be sinned against and we will be hurt. When that happens, we will have a choice to make: We can give in to our hurt, resentment, and bitterness, or we can grow as a Christian and learn yet another important lesson on how to forgive.”

**The gift of forgiveness as well as the other gifts are from chapter 9 of How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong (WaterBrook, 2001).

The Field Guide to Forgiveness

SOURCE:  James Cain/In Touch Ministries

Betrayal. Rejection. Condemnation. No one requests such treatment, yet few escape life without a wound or two. The circumstances that call for forgiveness aren’t usually in our plans. But to follow Jesus faithfully, we must learn to say, “I forgive you.”

The following “field guide” isn’t exhaustive. But the tips, quotes, and stories collected here will provide guidance about fulfilling the Lord’s challenging command to forgive, regardless of the offense.

More Than Words

The Work of Forgiveness 

While I watched my boys play in a community park one morning, a curious drama unfolded nearby. Two women sat facing each other, their sons standing between them.

One woman held her son’s hand. The other woman, more agitated, grasped her son’s elbow. Both boys were frowning, chins out and hands deep in pockets.

“He said he was sorry,” the second mother said. “Now you say, ‘I forgive you,’ and you guys shake hands.” Neither boy would meet the other’s eye. During the silence, the frustrated mom began alternately cajoling and threatening until her son grunted a word or two. Relieved, she sent them back onto the playground and then commiserated with her friend about the difficulty of getting at their sons’ hearts. “I know he needs to do it,” she sighed, “but if his heart’s not in it, what’s the point?”

It was a fair question. After all, her boy’s grumbled “Forgive you” was about as heartfelt as the grunted “Sorry” it answered. The incident reminded me that knowing we should forgive isn’t the hard part; the actual forgiving is. The point, after all, is reconciliation—restored communion and healed brokenness—that results from practicing this discipline. In the end, forgiveness changes the one forgiving more than the one being pardoned.

This is true because forgiveness forces us to admit our powerlessness and trust God for justice. The boy who was reluctant to forgive knew instinctively that weakness is not generally considered a virtue. Pursuing vengeance makes us feel strong, empowered. Forgiving, on the other hand, acknowledges that we may not receive the “justice” we thought we deserved.

Change also happens because forgiveness creates space for restored fellowship. Giving up our claim against the offender moves us from weakness to strength, as we invite the peace of the Holy Spirit to restore our relationship with God and neighbor. Denying forgiveness, on the other hand, breaks fellowship not only with our adversary, but also with our Father (Mark 11:25).

A while later, as I walked with my own children to our car, I turned to see the boys back at play. They smiled and laughed as if nothing had happened. Though the process doesn’t always go that easily or well, forgiving—and receiving forgiveness—had made room for their friendship.

Most people will experience wounds far deeper than the playground mishap I witnessed. The obstacles to forgiving will be far greater, the cost of forgiving, far higher. But the point remains the same: When we forgive, we make renewed relationship possible, if not with the person we forgive, then with the Person who has forgiven us.


Word Power

Forgive
Merriam-Webster—1 a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for  b : to grant relief from payment of    2 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)
Synonyms: pardon, excuse 
Phrases: bury the hatchet, wipe the slate clean, let go


Tip #1: Forgive and Remember

We usually put the words “forgive” and “forget” together, but to forgive authentically, we have to remember. The apostle Paul suggests that our duty to forgive others depends on recalling the pardon we received from God. “As the Lord forgave you,” he writes, “you do also” (Col. 3:13). Not only should we remember that God forgives us; we should also imitate how He does it: graciously, freely, and completely.

We might be tempted to keep a “record of wrongs,” but love precludes that (1 Cor. 13:5). The unbelieving world tends to nurse grudges against whoever has wronged them, but as followers of Jesus, we forgive freely, without expecting anything in return.

Application

Forgive completely, wiping the slate clean for a fresh start. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting the offense. You are human, after all, and cannot truly forget. More importantly, pretending the wrong never happened prevents the work of healing from being done. When you remember the sin against you, see it as opportunity to remember God’s grace, toward yourself and through you to the offender.

Tip # 2: Don’t just say the words

From a Christian perspective, forgiveness requires far more from us than a few brief words. The Puritan writer Thomas Watson gave a surprising answer to the question,What is forgiveness? He wrote, “[We forgive] when we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them.” In other words, forgiveness requires gracious inward action before we can pursue gracious outward action (see Tip #4). Much of this internal work can be done without the offender’s knowledge.

Watson’s phrase “strive against” acknowledges how strenuous forgiveness can be, requiring us to actively and energetically oppose the natural inclination toward assaulting the other person, physically or verbally, or withdrawing from relationship with him. Either approach is a way of withholding forgiveness and will impede the healing process for both people.

Application

Avoid assaulting or withdrawing from others by looking for opportunities to celebrate your offender’s successes. Do not rejoice when he suffers, but grieve along with him. Prayerfully seek to “relieve” the person, and seek the right moment for reconciliation. All this heart work will enable you, when the time comes, to offer authentic forgiveness.


The Lost Discipline

In the Lord’s Prayer, as Matthew 6:9-13 is popularly known, Jesus presents forgiveness as a “hinge” for Christian life: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (v. 12) reveals that God’s pardon of us is contingent on our own forgiving behavior (see also Mark 11:25).

That verse makes us uncomfortable, as it should. After all, our pardon depends on the finished work of Christ, not our own works. Author Richard Foster explains the paradox as a condition of the created order: to receive, I must give, and I cannot receive what I am unable to give.


Tip #3: Start small

Application

Practice secretly forgiving others for small offenses, such as being cut off in traffic or receiving an unintended insult, throughout each day. Doing so will slowly transform your heart over time, making it possible to forgive others when bigger, more serious conflicts occur.

Tip #4: Head off resentment

We might be tempted to dismiss sin against us it by taking full or partial responsibility. Phrases like “I probably deserved it,” or “It takes two to tango,” can mask real feelings.  This false path seems like wisdom, but burying pain plants seeds that grow into bitterness.

Application

When you are wronged, look for opportunities to work for the wrongdoer’s good. Prayer for the perpetrator is a good place to start. Doing the work of love and mercy before it comes easily can uproot resentment.

“I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.”
—William Blake

Tip #5: See (and seek) mercy more than justice

In our culture, which celebrates vengeance rather than mercy, the idea of biblical justice escapes many, including Christians. Some use phrases like “the punishment should fit the crime” and falsely conclude that justice and mercy cannot coexist. Such people ignore the intended close connection between the two, as Scripture illustrates through expressions of profound forgiveness when “justice” could have been meted out with violence.

Just consider Joseph (see Gen. 37, 39–47). Imagine his story retold in today’s cultural standards. Instead of forgiving his brothers, Joseph would exact his long-awaited revenge through vicious reprisal or a long legal battle. This might sound laughable to our ears, but movies and books (the “bibles” of today’s world) tell similar tales all the time. How much greater and more poignant is the story of the real Joseph. He chose to offer mercy when no one would have denied him revenge.

Application

Doesn’t your life offer similar chances to forgive? A coworker pads his accomplishments, gaining a promotion that should have been yours. An acquaintance betrays your trust, costing you a friend. A spouse lies, jeopardizing marriage and family. However impossible any case may seem, choose to let God reveal the manner in which mercy and justice should meet.

Tip #6: Forgive your enemies

On the morning of October 2, 2006, Charles Roberts entered an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. Just over a half-hour later, five girls were dead, five more were injured, and the community’s peace was shattered forever.

Except it wasn’t. The same day, while bodies remained unburied, an Amish grandfather was heard telling his young relatives, “We must not think evil of this man.” Roberts had taken his own life during the crisis, and in the days that followed, the community reached out in mercy and forgiveness to his family, astonishing the world with their graciousness.

The Amish response of mercy and forgiveness was remarkable because of its uniqueness in a world fascinated by justice. One of the authors of Amish Grace, Donald Kraybill, found the response not surprising but natural. He says forgiveness is woven into Amish culture. Their communal life requires a forgiving spirit, so they practice it as a way of life, working at it, as Scripture seems to require.

Not everyone has an enemy—that is, someone who has wronged you repeatedly, maliciously, without regard for your well-being. If you have one, the work of forgiveness begins with a prayer to remember God’s grace toward you. One of the Holy Spirit’s tasks is to “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). He alone can bring about the change of heart necessary to see your own sin, to recognize Christ’s righteousness, and to see that judgment belongs to God alone.

Application

Most of us have no enemies, but we should prepare our hearts for the hard work of forgiving as the Amish do, working forgiveness into the corners of our life. Take the initiative when someone wrongs you. Ask God to show you your sin and remind you of His grace. Sooner rather than later, seek the person out, and, mindful of your own faults, ask for and extend forgiveness. Pray for the well-being of the wrongdoer—not just that he’d see the error of his ways, but that God would protect and prosper him.

Offer mercy quickly, leave justice to God, and make sure you don’t allow resentment to find fertile soil.

Forgiveness: Doing what Christ does

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article in  Discipleship Journal/Jack & Carole Mayhall

She looked at me defiantly.  Hope, hurt, pain, and anger were mingled in her eyes and in her tone as she said, “I can’t do it, Carole. Could you?”

She had just told me her problem—and it was a giant one. Her in-laws had physically and verbally attacked her in front of her husband and children. And her husband had not only failed to come to her defense, but had sided with his parents. How could she forgive such a thing?

“No,” I replied, “I couldn’t forgive him. But God can—and will through and in you, if you’ll let him. There is no hope for your marriage if you don’t forgive.”

I could have added that there would be no hope for her, either. The lack of forgiveness produces a poison that will eat away one’s very existence, especially the existence of any joy or peace in our lives.

What heartache!

There is no easy answer. But this I know: God does have a solution. It is somehow tied in with the solemn warning in Hebrews 12:15—”See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” I would paraphrase that first part, “Make sure no one fails to receive enough of God’s grace.”

If we don’t have enough of his grace, it isn’t God’s fault. His grace is sufficient for our every need (2 Corinthians 12:9). The fault is ours, because we haven’t really asked for his grace with an accepting heart.

What is forgiveness? One dictionary defines the verb forgive as “to cease to feel resentment” against someone, “to pardon,” “to give up resentment,” or “to grant relief from payment.”

I was struck with two things about this definition. First was the feeling involved—”to cease to feelresentment.” This statement rules out attitudes such as “I forgive him, but I can’t forget it,” or, “I forgive him in my head, but not in my heart.” Our hearts are free only when we cease to feel resentment.

Many times we don’t really want to forgive, for if we do we become vulnerable to be hurt all over again. So we build our walls of resentment and unforgiveness in order not to feel pain again.

Logically this makes some sense. But emotionally it is deadly poison. And it poisons the person with the unforgiving heart first of all. When a person hardens his or her feelings against pain, all feeling can be deadened.

The second thing that struck me about the dictionary definition was the verbs that are used: “cease,” “give up,” and “grant.” An act of our will is involved in ceasing to feel resentful, in giving up a claim, in granting the offender relief from paying for his offense. But to do this is not easy.

David Augsburger, radio speaker for “The Mennonite Hour,” put it this way in Cherishable: Love and Marriage

Forgiveness is hard.  Especially in a marriage tense with past troubles, tormented by fears of rejection and humiliation, and torn by suspicion and distrust.

Forgiveness hurts.  Especially when it must be extended to a husband or wife who doesn’t deserve it, who hasn’t earned it, who may misuse it. It hurts to forgive.

Forgiveness costs.  Especially in marriage when it means accepting instead of demanding repayment for the wrong done; where it means releasing the other instead of exacting revenge; where it means reaching out in love instead of relinquishing resentments. It costs to forgive.

Forgiveness, Augsburger says, is when the injured person chooses “to accept his angry feelings, bear the burden of them personally, find release through confession and prayer, and set the other person free.”

This is what Jesus Christ did for us.

He forgave us unconditionally, bearing the burden, setting us free. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7–8).

Many times it is the little, picky matters that stick in our throats and cause us to choke when the need arises to forgive. When we do not deal with the seemingly inconsequential things, we fail to “walk in the light.”

If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin. (1 John 1:7)

Are you walking in the light with your mate?

In Christ there is “no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), no hidden, secret resentment, no anger or self-pity or criticism. If we are walking in the light as he is in the light, then we will have true fellowship with one another. We will be best friends in open, honest sharing.

We must forgive, and forgive immediately.

Listen again to David Augsburger:

Forgiveness is smiling silent love to your partner when the justifications for keeping an insult or injury alive are on the tip of your tongue, yet you swallow them. Not because you have to, to keep peace, but because you want to, to make peace.

Forgiveness is not acceptance given “on condition” that the other become acceptable. Forgiveness is given freely. . . .

Forgiveness is a relationship between equals who recognize their deep need of each other, share and share alike. Each needs the other’s forgiveness. Each needs the other’s acceptance. Each needs the other.

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