OVERCOMING THE DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY: Forgiveness

Posted: December 2, 2011 in Forgiveness, Home
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Jimmy had what most people would consider to be a normal childhood – at least, as “normal” was defined back in the 1960s.

His father and mother had a stable marriage. Both worked hard at full-time jobs to provide as much of the “American Dream” as possible – a nice home, two cars, a dog and summer vacations. And for the most part, Jimmy and his two younger sisters felt secure in this environment.

In elementary school Jimmy was small for his age, which meant that he was a favorite target for Joe, the neighborhood bully. Because his parents worked, most before-school mornings and after-school afternoons were spent at a neighbor’s house where an adult was at home. Unfortunately, for Jimmy, that house was Joe’s house and the adult was Joe’s grandmother.

At Joe’s house, Jimmy endured regular abuse which included insults, taunting and, on many occasions, getting beat up. To make matters worse, whenever Jimmy tried to tell his parents what was going on, Joe’s grandmother would inform them that, in reality, Jimmy was the problem and her angelic grandson had no choice but to defend himself. (By the way, Joe was about six inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than Jimmy).

But Jimmy’s parents believed her anyway. “If you would stop agitating him,” they would say, “Joe wouldn’t pick on you or beat you up.”

For almost three years this went on, until the end of Jimmy’s sixth grade year. At that point a bizarre confrontation occurred which finally convinced his parents that something was seriously wrong. Within weeks, they sold their home and moved away.

Today, as an adult, Jimmy still deals with the repercussions from that period in his life. He’s not a little kid anymore but he’s still usually the shortest person in a crowd. It may sound strange but sometimes he wonders if people take him seriously because of his height (or lack of it). Sometimes he is intimidated when engaging in a conversation with people who are bigger and taller than he is. Rationally speaking, he knows there’s no reason for it, but that’s how it is.

Most people underestimate the power that past events have on their present. Today we are talking about overcoming dysfunction in our lives. And we are going to start by looking into some patterns from the past.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds (patterns). We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God… 2 Corinthians 10:3-5NIV

This verse is talking about strongholds or patterns of behavior, ruts that we as human beings so easily fall into and have a tenancy to remain in.

All of us have these patterns in our lives. Many times we are not aware that we have them. In fact, most people go through life totally unaware that many of their interpersonal relationships are affected and sometimes controlled by these strongholds, or patterns. And here is the kicker: most of these patterns began in us when we were children or teenagers.

Before I continue I need to say that these patterns may be related to your family situation and they may not. But if it applies to you I ask you to consider how these patterns are affecting you or someone you love.

The first pattern from our past that has the power to affect our present is:

1. Unforgiveness toward others and yourself

This pattern is foundational for all other patterns. Unforgiveness leads to a thousand other problems.

Unforgiveness is hard to understand because sometimes we have a valid reason to be upset at our circumstances. So how do you know if you have unforgiveness toward someone or if you are just wounded from the experience? 

When you think of them do you get angry?

When thoughts come up, do you immediately relate them to the past events that caused you pain?

When you’re with them do you look for ways to get offended?

Are you waiting to find something to pick at when you are around that person?

The question is what you do to break these patterns. How can you overcome dysfunction in your own life? How can you receive power to live as a free person in the present?

1. Practice forgiveness

You must make allowances for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13NLT

The first part of that verse says to “Make allowances for each other’s faults.” That means that we accept the fact that people are not perfect and will rarely respond like we think they should and we must learn to be ok with that, and to even expect. It means that we consider the other’s person’s situation and not just the way they have offended us. Remember the story of Jimmy? Suppose you knew that “bully Joe” was with his grandmother because his mom had abandoned him and he lived with a dad who constantly bullied Joe?  Would it be easier to forgive him and even have sympathy for him?

 Notice the second part of the verse, “Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” The reason and the power behind forgiveness is in the fact that God forgives. You forgive others because you have or could be forgiven by God. Any offense you have against someone whether it’s betrayal, neglect, meanness, or whatever the offense; you have already committed a similar offense against God. All of us have shook our fist in the face of a loving God and said, “I don’t need you! I can handle this on my own.” The ultimate act of betrayal, abuse, and neglect. And the Scripture is very clear over and over that God is able to forgive any and every sin.

So practice forgiveness. Great idea, Billy, but how? Ultimately forgiveness is a choice of your will. You may never feel like forgiving someone. But you start acting like it is so and it will eventually be so. Your emotions will change because you make a choice with your will. Temptation to have unforgiveness will still happen when the person you have forgiven does something that reminds you of the past. But make the choice to forgive again and again and again. Forgiveness is a choice and a process. The key is to make a choice to begin the process. Is it hard, yes! Is it necessary, you better believe it!! If you are having a problem with this and need help, please contact me or some friend and ask for help.

We will continue tomorrow looking at these dysfunctions and how to overcome them.

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Comments
  1. Kathleen Sumrall says:

    Thanks Billy. These words make so much sense. People listening to these words can save many relationships that are so worth saving instead of throwing away. Thank you and may God continue to bless you.

  2. Lori Purvis says:

    It is sometimes hard to forgive. We can never be truly happy until we do so. We should also remember that everyone has a story and not all are fairytales!!!!

    • Ready4Life Counseling says:

      You are so right Lori. I’m not sure any of us have a fairytale story to tell. That is why they are called fairy “tales.” Thanks for reading and commenting. I pray you have a blessed Christmas season.

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