Archive for the ‘Forgiveness’ Category

I read this story recently:

In April of 1988 I came home to discover that my mother had left home. Most of her belongings were gone as well as the mobile concession trailer that my dad and a man named Lloyd had finished working on just that weekend. In a few hours my dad and I received a call from Lloyd’s wife. She was wondering where he was. It did not take long to figure out what had happened. In about 2 weeks we got a call from my mom. She and Lloyd were in the state of Washington. Since then I’ve only seen my mother about 5 times. Before my mother left we fought constantly and the fights were even more intense afterward. It wasn’t until 1992 that we started to get along again. We’ve had several shaky moments since then but for the most part we get along ok. The lack of closeness between me and my mother and the disintegrating relationship between my mom and dad created serious consequences for me. I’m still working on such things as what real intimacy is and how to develop it in my own marriage as well as how to communicate strong feelings without starting a fight. There is still distance between my mother and me that I’m not sure can be erased simply because she has missed such a large part of my life. I struggle with feelings of bitterness even though I’m trying to forgive her.

I see bitterness as a self-damaging result of unforgiveness.  Today I want to explore this and other relationship damaging, life blocking symptoms of a person who carries a load of unforgiveness.

a. Bitterness

Bitterness is so deceptive because it is perfectly legitimate to feel hurt and abandoned and betrayed. The problem lies in how we responsed to these emotions. It is our response to these emotions that get us into bitterness.

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. Hebrews 12:15 NIV

Bitterness takes root in our heart and continues to grow into a huge tree. In Florida, we had an over abundance of what we affectionately called “stink weed.” It would completely overtake an azalea bush we had in our front yard.  It had to be pulled out but when you pull it out is when you understand where it gets its nickname.  It would stink to high heaven!  Bitterness is much like sink weed in that it makes our personality stink to everyone who comes into contact with us. It causes us much trouble and pain within ourselves. And because we have become embittered, we defile others with our negativity. Do you know anyone like that?

Another way to know if you have a pattern of unforgiveness toward someone is that you may tend to have:

b. Shallow Relationships

This one is not only related to unforgiveness but people that have patterns of unforgiveness rarely have deep relationships because deep relationships require conflict. Did you realize that? You are not in a deep relationship with anyone with whom you have not had a major conflict. Conflict and deep relationships go hand in hand.  People who have a pattern of unforgiveness tend to avoid conflict because it plays back the tapes of the past that are so fresh because forgiveness hasn’t taken place. So let me just ask you, are you struggling with unforgiveness? Is there some bitterness in your life? Are there many people who really know who you are? Or do you tend to stay pretty shallow with people?

Is there someone you need to forgive?  I’m not going to tell you it is easy but I am going to tell you it is do-able and necessary if you want to find joy and fulfillment in life.

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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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Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was a youth pastor.  I have very fond memories of those day for the most part.  Some of those memories make me want to scratch my head and wonder how I survived to write about it!

One memory that came back to me this week while I was thinking about the topic of forgiveness was a retreat to a state park in north Mississippi.  It was a great week of community building with our small but growing youth group.  We had incredible worship music (led by your humble blogger) and great Bible teaching (led by my friend, Ronnie Estes).

Everything was going great until the afternoon swim time at the lake about the second day in.  We were playing a very competitive game of water volleyball when after a very athletic jump up and spike I came down and immediately thought a shark had bitten my leg off.  In reality I had landed on a rusty nail that went through my big toe and was protruding just south of my toenail.

Without thinking (which is how I often operate in crisis mode) I grabbed the head of that evil intruder and pulled it from my toe.  And you may be thinking, what the heck does that have to do with forgiveness?  Thank you for your concern and I am getting to that right now.

When we refuse to forgive, we are allowing a painful foreign object to continue to cause us pain.  Now, pulling that nail out of my toe was not a walk in the park but my first thought was not to hold a grudge against the state of Mississippi for allowing that nail to take up residence at the bottom of the lake.  My first thought was not to get even but to get relief.  Often we are hurting and we feel like if we forgive we are letting the offender off easy.  No, we are letting ourselves off.  Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves!

If I had left that nail in my toe just so I could prove to people that I had a reason to be hurting, before long I would have been dealing with infection.  Holding on to hurt by refusing to forgive will lead to the infection of bitterness.  And bitterness creeps into our character very quickly.

Let me encourage you to pull out that nail of hurt.  You say, “You don’t know what they did to me” and you are right but I do know what our sins did to Jesus on the cross… could it be worse than that?  If you need help, find someone to guide you through the process.  I would be happy to help.  You can contact me through my web site  Go to my contact page for phone or email contact information.

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Just because both parties are Christian does not mean that a relationship is safe from problems. I thought I would share a few very simple dating tips that may help you as you navigate your way as a Christian through the perilous waters of the dating relationship.

1. Talk through your problems. This means never saying goodbye when you are angry or have unsettled issues that you know you need to discuss.  Minor irritations can grow into sore spots much like a tiny splinter in your finger.

2. Remember to forget: To err is human but to forgive is divine. The truth is, every relationship will need massive doses of forgiveness if it is going to survive.  We all say and do stupid things from time to time.  Forgiving your date as the Scriptures say “can cover a multitude of sins.” 

3. Let your first response be trust. 1 Corinthians 13 says love believes all things. In a dating relationship this means trusting your partner when he or she says something to you. One small seed of distrust can kick your imagination into overdrive.  You will begin to filter every conversation through a filter of suspicion.

4. Don’t be afraid to express your true feeling and be vulnerable with your Christian date. Vulnerability encourages closeness.

5 Always be honest about everything.  Telling the truth is always the best plan especially when it comes to enjoying a long lasting dating relationship. One lie can destroy all the trust you have built up in a dating relationship.

6. Praying for and with each other.  This really does help couples and families stay together. Don’t under-estimate the power of prayer to heal relationship wounds. It is so hard to stay mad at someone when you are praying for them.

7. Get sound Christian counseling from a respected leader in your church on how you can improve your relationship.

Whether you are struggling in your present relationship, or you are simply looking forward to having a positive and enduring Christian dating experience in the future that may even lead to marriage, the above dating advice can go a long way toward helping you achieve those goals.

In fact these tips can go a long way in improving any relationship.  I know this is not an all inclusive list.  If you have others tips you would like to share on this topic, please drop your comment in the box below.  I reserve the right to publish the ones that I feel are helpful (after all, it is my blog).

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To accept an apology isn’t easy for either person involved. Apologizing can be, if done correctly, a very humbling act. To apologize means guilt has been established and confirmed by the “offending” party.  Apologizing encourages the offender to accept responsibility for their role in causing offense. This, however, is hard on pride, and we have to be careful when we accept an apology. Humans, by nature, are prideful. We don’t often like admitting when we are wrong, especially to others. It makes us feel we failed in an area, and forces us to become emotionally attached to the situation. 

I recently had to apologize to someone because… well, I was wrong.  I made an unintentional comment that was offensive to someone.  Upon reflection, I put myself in the shoes of the other person and saw how my comment very well could have offended them.  I wrote a sincere apology listing the offence and taking full responsibility for it as the offending party.  In essence, I told the person that I had learned a valuable lesson and thanked them for helping me with this blind spot in my life, counseling, and pastoral ministry.

However, the response I received was more lecturing and accusations of intolerance and closed mindedness.  There was no acknowledgment or expression of acceptance of the apology. 

This got me to thinking about apologies.  What is the proper way to apologize and What is the proper response to an apology? 

Apologies can also be an expression of sorrow. In other words, the person saying sorry is attempting to be empathetic toward you. In this case, simply accept their apology. They probably are being sincere, and you shouldn’t analyze their intent.

Often, apologies are uttered as a mere afterthought for minor trivialities. For something insignificant, such as bumping into someone or burping, a brief but sincere apology is usually all that is needed.

Of course, then there are those situations that truly merit a more heartfelt apology. Sometimes you are the one who is doing the apologizing, and sometimes you are the recipient.

How do you make the apology?

A sincere apology will include:

– A description of the problem as you understand it

– An explanation of why it happened

– A pronouncement of regret

– A promise not to repeat the offensive action

When you say, “I’m sorry” you are demonstrating respect for the one offended. It says “I care about you, and I want you to understand I made a mistake.” An apology is the same as asking for forgiveness.

How do you respond to an apology?

I think first we need to dig down to the core of what we are talking about. At the core is an “F” word that is hard for all of us to say: FORGIVENESS.  At issue is “am I going to forgive this person or not?”  Why should I?  Just because the “offender” says I’m sorry?  No, it goes deeper than that. 

In Matthew 18 we get to look through a time warp and see a scene from the first century.  The occasion is a man who owes more money than he could pay off in two lifetimes is being called upon to pay his debt.  His inability to “pay up” is about to cost him and his family their freedom.  To the surprise of all present, the man holding the mortgage tears it up and forgives the debt.  Can you imagine the relief! 

Then the scene changes to another person who owes a few dollars to the man who has just been forgiven millions.  The man who owes a few dollars is shown no mercy from a man that we all would think should be the one person on earth to show mercy and forgiveness.

So I would think the first step in responding to an apology would be to do a self-appraisal.  Am I perfect or have I ever needed forgiveness?  Am I going to be like mortgage holder one or mortgage holder two?

Step two is to respond honestly.  Be honest with the other person about how you are feeling.  If you are struggling with forgiveness, tell them.  Thank them for their apology and continue to talk through the problem.  This can be very important in the growth of a relationship. 

Step three is to forgive and move on.  A person who has not learned to forgive is a person who carries a lot of pain through an already tough world.  I think the most misunderstood fact about forgiveness is the belief that forgiveness is a gift I somehow give to the other person.  In one sense it is, but in a more important sense, forgiveness is a gift I give myself. 

A friend told me that every offense I have not forgiven is like a meat hook in my soul that is tethered to the offense.  Every time move I have to drag that offense with me.  Imagine a lifetime of hooks that we drag around.  Not a pretty picture!  If we want to be free of the pain of the past we have to unhook and move on. 

My advice: UNHOOK!  FORGIVE!  It’ll do you good.

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