By Dr. Ralph Woerner
From the counseling I’ve done over the years, I’ve discovered that many people who seem to be moving through life without a care in the world are suffering from a lot more hurt than most of us realize. The smiles on their faces are covering a flood of tears in their hearts. They were abused as children. They’ve been hurt by a stranger, a relative, a friend. They’ve experienced the rejection of a recent divorce; their
characters have been maligned; they’ve been given a raw deal at work; they’ve been betrayed by a spouse. On and on the list goes. Hurts come at us from every direction many forms, shapes and colors.
Some of the hurts which we receive, of course, are only minor in nature They amount to nothing more than day to day bruises and need to be brushed aside as quickly as they arise. They haven’t been
intentionally inflicted. Nor are they all-that serious in nature. There’s simply no point exaggerating them -no point in making a mountain out of a molehill or a federal case out of a misdemeanor. Some hurts are going to come our way in the normal course of day to day living. It’s the price for being alive These kinds of hurts should require nothing more than a bandaid and a little time to heal We should be mature enough to cast them aside as quickly as they arise.”Be ye kind one to another” God says, “tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). In essence God is saying we should be so full of kindness -so spiritually and emotionally mature-that we forgive and forget minor injuries as quickly as they occur.
I wish I could say that all the hurts we receive are minor hurts, but they aren’t. Many of them are far more serious. They cause great pain, and require a lot more than a bandaid to heal. Some of the hurts
which we receive are more like open wounds than insignificant bruises. The pain they cause is deep and lasting. If we fail to cope with these kinds of hurts adequately, they will spread anger, resentment,
bitterness, malice, suspicion, distrust, hatred and cynicism through our lives like a blight through a tree. How effectively we cope with these kinds of hurts will determine what sort of emotional health we
are going to enjoy.
A number of options are open to us when it comes to dealing with these kinds of hurts. First, we can internalize them. Second, we can retaliate-do our very best to get even if it’s the last thing we do.
Third, we can forgive the offender whether he asks for it or not and get on with our lives. Let’s take a brief look at each of these separately.
The first thing we can do with our hurts is: we can internalize them. We can grit our teeth, hold our chin up and repress the pain we feel, pretending all is well when it isn’t. When hurt is internalized (or
placed in an unresolved anger fund) it usually causes resentment, bitterness and hostility to take root in our lives. Like a toxic waste it poisons us inch by inch from within. Like a boiler whose valve has been turned off it generates an enormous amount of internal pressure which is likely to explode when only a minor provocation occurs.
Negative Or Posifive Effect
The hurts we receive can have either a positive or a negative effect. They can make us better, or they can make us bitter Johnny was a sweet, little boy. He was adored by his family and friends. He had a
pleasant personality, was trusting and helpful, simply delightful to be around. By the time Johnny reached retirement age, however, he had become the community crank. He had a sour personality -was full of cynicism, suspicion and mistrust. The world (as he saw it) was out to get him.- Over the years, sweet little Johnny had turned into a cynical old buzzard. When his wife asked how he wanted his eggs cooked for breakfast one morning, he said, “One boiled and one fried ‘ ” Then when she served his eggs -one boiled and one fried – “You boiled the wrong one,” he grumbled. Have you ever met anyone who was so down on life that hes painful to be around? How did he get this way? He wasn’t born like that. The hurts he received over the years were internal. Because he faded to cope with them adequately they had a corrosive effect upon his personality. His negative spirit was nothing more than an outward reflection of the bottled-up resentment he held within.
Job And His Wife
We’re all familiar with the Bible story of job and his wife. God allowed them to experience the deepest kind of hurt. The things they worked for all their lives-their servants, their cattle, their camels-
were all taken away by invaders in one day. Then came the terrible news that their ten children had been killed in a violent storm. Their whole world came crashing in around them. There’s no way to fathom the grief they felt. Ten children fined up in ten different caskets all on the same day. The depth of their pain boggles my mind.
When the funeral was over and the brokenhearted couple returned home, Mrs. job said to her husband: “You can go on serving God if you wish, but you can count me out.” As she saw it, God had let them down. They deserved better from him than they had received. As far as she was concerned God was no longer worthy of their devotion. Job tried to convince her otherwise tried to persuade her that God must have had a reason for allowing what had happened and that they should trust him in the dark. Mrs. Job wanted none of it. She stood up pretty well when their herds and servants were lost, but when the children were killed, that was more than she could take.
Instead of casting herself upon God’s goodness and mercy and saying, “I don’t understand why you’ve allowed this to happen, but I’m going to trust you in the dark;’ she became angry. “We served God faithfully all of these years ‘ ” she told her husband, “and this is what we get. No thanks, when it comes to serving God, from now on you can do it alone.”
Mrs. Job’s bitterness was an added burden for Job to bear. He slipped into his inner chamber to pray. He prayed and prayed and prayed, agonizing before God, sometimes standing up, sometimes kneeling down, sometimes lying prostrate on the floor.
Finally, after hours of praying and sobbing over and over again he came to the place in his heart where he could look up to heaven and say: “Not my will, but thy will, be done. You’ve broken my heart, but I
haven’t lost faith in your wisdom, in your goodness, or in your power. You’re the Creator, I’m the creature. Your will is supreme. From the depths of my heart I’m yielding to it the best I know how.”
When Job said that, the peace of God flooded his heart. He was still griefstricken, to be sure, but he was at peace with God, at peace with the world and at peace with himself.
When he emerged from his prayer chamber he looked at the friends who had gathered to extend their sympathies and said: “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Anyone can say, “the Lord has given and the Lord has taken away,” because that amounts to nothing more than a statement of fact. But when job went on to say, “blessed be the name of the Lord:’ he revealed what his true feelings toward God were. He loved and adored him deeply. His will
was supreme. Job’s love for God wasn’t contingent upon any blessings he had received, and it wouldn’t be contingent upon any pain he would endure. He loved God for who he was because of his inherent worthiness to be loved. Job decided he would trust God in the dark-go right on serving him no matter what.
About the time Job’s emotional wounds were beginning to heal he came down with boils. From the crown of his head to the soles of his feet he was covered with painful boils. Seeing her husband suffer like this was more than Job’s wife could take- She was so furious with God for allowing this to happen that she wanted Job to curse God to his face and he down and die so he could find relief from his terrible pain.
It’s easy to understand why she would rather see Job die than to continue his suffering. But why did she want him to curse God first? Why didn’t she simply say, “You’d be better off if you lie down and
die:’ Why did she want him to curse God before he died? Because she was cursing God in her heart. She wanted Job to curse him as well because this is what she felt God deserved.
She probably knew if she cursed God it wouldn’t matter all that much. But if Job cursed God it would cut him to the quick, and that is what he deserved. She was so angry at God that if she could hear Job curse
him it would do her good.
The hurts she had received had embittered her spirit. Thankfully, Job didn’t respond that way. His answer was: “I’ve prayed it through. I can’t curse the One I love and adore. I’m so confident of his goodness that even though he slays me yet will I trust him! When he has tried me I shall come forth as gold … God is making a better man out-of me in this furnace of affliction. He’s burning out the dross of my life. When he is finished I shall come forth as gold-pure and without alloy.”
Hurts can have a positive or a negative effect upon our lives. They can make us bitter or they can make us better, depending, of course, on how we respond.
The first thing we can do about the hurts we receive is, we can internalize them. We can bottle them up on the inside, allowing them to fester like a sore. It should always be remembered that a small
wound which becomes infected causes far more pain (and is far more troublesome) than a large one which heals. If we internalize our hurts they’ll sour our personality. They’ll make us so critical, suspicious and grumpy we’ll be unpleasant to be around.
The second thing we can do about our hurts is we can retaliate Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, blood for blood. We can give the offender what we think he deserves. We can make sure we hurl back the stones which come our way with greater velocity than they were received. This may give us a sadistic sense that a wrong has been righted when in reality two wrongs have been committed.
If revenge is what we want more than anything else, we can spend the rest of our fives trying to get even. We can throw nails into our offender’s driveway -anything to make his fife miserable. We can even
try to get even by holding a grudge. It’s absurd, but we have this crazy notion that if we hate the person who’s wronged us, this will somehow make his life miserable. The hate which we harbor is somehow
supposed to make him unhappy. The truth of the matter is our offender probably couldn’t care less what we think or feel.
We can ruin our health, wreck our marriage, and upset our peace of mind by holding a grudge, just because we want to make our offender’s life miserable. He’s supposed to feel bad because we resent him. What colossal ego. Come on, how important do we think we are?
If we’re going to get even with our offender in this way, first we’re going to have to get down on the same level with him; second were going to have to violate the commands of God and third were going to have to usurp his authority by making ourselves the administrators of justices The problem with retaliation is, God hasn’t turned the judgment of this world, the judgment of our friends or the judgment of our enemies over to us. He’s the Judge of the universe. He’s appointed civil government to be the administrator of justice. And when civil government falls he promises he’ll handle the matter himself.
“Vengeance is mine. I will repay, saith the Lord.” Settling the score is not our prerogative God alone has the right to do this. And whether he chooses to punish or to forgive is his business. God doesn’t need
our help, our advice, or our interference.
Retaliation is one of the worst possible,ways for handling hurt. Someone does something to you, so you feel you must do something back. You do something to him in your attempt to get even; now he feels he
has to do something to you again. The cycle never ends. I think it was Gandhi who said, “If we insist on living by an eye-for-an-eye-kind of justice the whole world will go blind.” All retaliation ever does is
perpetuate evil. There has to be a better way.
It is said that the grizzly bear can whip almost any animal in the West. There’s one animal, however, which the grizzly will allow to eat with him even though he resents the intrusion. Do you know what that
animal is? The skunk. The grizzly deeply resents the skunk’s intrusion, but hes decided it would be better to coexist than to pay the high price of getting even. The moral of that story is: Don’t retaliate when someone hurts you. All you’ll succeed in doing is creating a stink.
The first thing we can do is internalize, or bottle up, the hurts we receive. We can take our licks, bite our lips, and try to be Mr. Nice -going through fife smiling when we feel like crying and pretending
nothing is amiss. Like a toxic waste, hurt which is internalized will sap our strength and poison our spirit.
The second thing we can do is retaliate We can get even with our offender if it’s the last thing we do. If revenge is what we want most, we can spend the rest of our lives trying to get even. Well have to get down on the same level with our offender (violate the laws of God, and usurp his authority to do so) but if this is what we want more than anything else in fife this is what we can have God commands us not
to do it- if we can’t trust him to do so, however, and insist on taking things into our own hands, God won’t stop us. He’ll allow us to have our pound of flesh with all of its wretchedness. There’s a better way
to do it than this. “Be not overcome with evil,” God says, “but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
The third thing we can do is forgive those who have hurt us whether they ask for it or not. Christ had a lot to say about forgiveness.
When Peter asked him if he thought a person should forgive one who has wronged him as many as seven times, Jesus answered, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.” In other words, our forgiveness should be unlimited. When we say our prayers Christ said we should say: “Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name .. forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us……… For if ye forgive men their @trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive yours: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours” (Matthew 6:12-15).
The greatest example of forgiveness, of course, is Jesus Christ. Evil men him falsely, convicted him unjustly, beat him unmercifully, mocked him cruelly, spiked him to a cross and hanged him up to die- With blood running over his forehead, down his arms and over his feet, and with his back scourged unmercifully, he looked down from the cross at the hostile crowd and prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Not a twinge of bitterness, but only love and forgiveness were in his heart toward those who had put him there.
That was Christ, you say. Surely he doesn’t expect me to be like that. Yes, he really does. But you don’t know how deeply I’ve been hurt. No, I don’t, but Christ does. And I suspect a lot of people have been
hurt just as badly as you. If they can forgive, why can’t you?
Extending forgiveness is difficult. It seems so unnatural and is such an expensive thing to do. Plus the cost is always borne by the one who does the forgiving. If I break an expensive vase of yours and you
forgive me, you suffer the loss and I go free If I ruin your reputation and you forgive me, you bear the hurt and I go free. Forgiveness is taking a note that is owed and canceling it so that nothing remains.
The amount you forgive is the amount you lose If I owe you a thousand dollars and you forgive me the debt, the amount you forgive is the amount you lose Forgiveness doesn’t restore the goods which were
stolen, or the marriage which was broken up. It doesn’t repair the damage which was done; it writes, it off.
Act Of The Will
Someone confessed to me recently that he didn’t feel like forgiving the person who had injured him. No one ever does. If we wait until we feel like forgiving an offender, we never will; not anymore than if we
wait until we feel like cleaning out the garage or changing a dirty diaper. Forgiveness isn’t a feeling. It’s something we choose to do by an act of the will.
Illustration: A middle-aged lady came to my office one day. She was terribly distraught. When I asked in what way I might be able to help she answered, “I don’t know where to begin’ ” “Begin anyway you W’ I said. “Just spill it out- whatever is on your mind.” Then she blurted out: “I hate my son-in-law so much, I wish he were dead.” “You really don’t hate him that much ” I tried to reassure her. “But I do,” she insisted. Then, after summarizing some of the evil things he had done she asked, “What can I do to get rid of this awful hatred that I feel? Should I attend church more regularly? Should I put more money
in the offering plate? How do I get rid of this terrible hate?” “Attending church more regularly and putting more money in the offering plate may be a good thing to do:’ I replied, “but that isn’t going to
solve your problem of hate!’ “What am I going to do then?” She desperately wanted to know.
I took her to Matthew 6 and read what Jesus said: “If ye forgive men their your heavenly Father will also forgive yours; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours.” “I
can’t do that:’ she insisted. “I can’t forgive Bill for the things hes done!’ “You’re using the wrong word:’ I said. “You can say I won’t forgive Bill because that’s your choice Forgiving Bill isn’t a matter of can or can’t, it’s a matter of will or won’t. We choose to forgive or we choose not to forgive Extending forgiveness or withholding forgiveness is a matter of choice You’ll forgive Bill because you choose to forgive him,,or you won’t forgive him because you choose not to do so. The decision to forgive or not to forgive is a decision which you alone can make
“If you want to be relieved of the n which you feel, you’re going to have to extend forgiveness to Bill. If you’re unwilling to do this, your hatred will continue!’ “Forgive Bill just like that?” she that. “Just like that:” I replied. “Just as Christ has forgiven you the wrongs you have done, you must forgive Bill the wrongs he has done What’s your decision going to be?” After a long and deadly silence she said, “I will.” “Good:’ I answered. “Let’s tell the Lord this is what you’re going to do.” She began by telling the Lord about the terrible things which Bill had done. Then, finally she got around to saying: “As you have forgiven me, today I also forgive Bill ‘ ” After she had spoken those words, she relaxed, wiped the tears from her eyes, looked up at me and said: “Wow! Does that ever feel good.” In one blessed moment all the hatred which she felt for Bill vanished away. A heavy load lifted from her heart. Her spirit was @ Healing doesn’t come for everyone as quickly, or as dramatically as it did for her. When we forgive, however, the healing process can at least begin.
When we forgive we’re letting our offender off the hook. We’re releasing him from the obligation to repay what he owes-from the need to return what he has stolen-from the need to apologize for what he has done-from the need to make good on what he has promised-from the need to make a wrong right.
When we forgive we choose to give up our grudge despite the severity of the injury received. We’re not pretending it didn’t hurt or that it didn’t matter. We’re simply forgiving what has been done.
Forgiveness is an act of the will; it is a clear and deliberate choice. This doesn’t mean we feel any better about what happened. Nor does it mean the damage wasn’t real. Forgiveness means we’ve chosen to release our offender from what he owes. Once we’ve done this the healing process is free to begin. Sometimes forgiveness brings instant release. At other times it takes time for our emotions to catch up
with the action which our Will has taken. The thing which usually blocks healing from occurring is we don’t take the first step. We don’t grant a judicial pardon to our offender. Once we do this the healing process will begin automatically.
PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL HEALTH
To a greater measure than most of us think, our physical and emotional health is tied to our willingness to forgive. Sooner or later someone is going to hurt you deeply. And when this happens you can either
allow malice, bitterness, and hatred to take root in your fife, or you can forgive the offender and get on with your life. You can forgive the offender, or you can sink into a world of depression and self-pity.
You can forgive the offender or you can nurse a grudge
It’s a known fact: many of the illnesses which doctors are treating in their offices today are psychosomatic. They’re physical illnesses to be sure, but they spring from unresolved emotional conflicts in the patients’ lives. It’s not so much what these people are eating, as what’s eating them that’s causing their problems.
Emotional stress can trigger all kinds of physical problems: high blood pressure, migraine headaches, bleeding ulcers, strokes, depression and mental illness, to name a few. Emotions can govern the flow of adrenaline in our blood, affect the secretions of our glands and cause muscle tension. The physical side effects which spring from emotional stress can range anywhere from the simple act of blushing to heart and respiratory failure or a terrible case of colitis.
When a teenager came home from school one day his father was unexpectedly there. “Your mother is in the hospital;’ he announced. “What’s wrong with her, Dad?” the boy inquired. “She has colitis,” was
his answer. “Who’s she been colliding with this time?” his son asked.
Dr. S. 1. McMillen said, “The moment I start hating a man, I become his slave I can’t enjoy my work anymore because he even controls my thoughts. My resentments produce too many stress hormones in my body and I become fatigued after only a few hours of work The work I formerly enjoyed is now drudgery. Even vacations cease to give me pleasure. It may be a luxurious car that I drive along a take fringed with the autumnal beauty of maple, oak and birch. As far as my experience of pleasure is concerned, I might as well be driving a wagon in mud and rain.
“The man I hate hounds me wherever I go. I can’t escape his tyrannical grasp on my mind. When the waiter serves me porterhouse steak with French fries, asparagus, crisp salad, and strawberry shortcake@ covered with ice cream, it might as well be stale bread and water. My teeth chew the food and I swallow it, but the man I hate will not permit me to enjoy it…. The man I hate may be miles from my bedroom, but more cruel than any slave driver, he whips my thoughts into such a frenzy hat my innerspring mattress becomes a rack of torture The lowliest of serfs can sleep, but not 1. I really must acknowledge the fact that I am a slave to every man on whom I pour the viles of my wrath” (None of These Diseases by S. 1. McMillen, M.D., Fleming H. Revell Co.).
Hate is a loser’s game; a dead-end street leading nowhere We don’t feel our offender deserves to be forgiven. Maybe not, but that is not for us to decide. God hasn’t given us the option of making that judgment. That’s his call to make. The reason we don’t want to forgive is we don’t want to give up our right to collect on what is owed-to receive an apology for what has been done. Forgiving others whether they apologize or not is probably the purest kind of forgiveness there is.
The resentment and bitterness which unresolved conflict causes can make us physically ill. We make our lives hard-bring a great deal of misery upon ourselves by our unwillingness to forgive. I read recently of a couple who had a heated argument over a minor incident. For the last d” years of their lives the husband slept down the hall from his wife- Every night he wished she would approach him, but she never did. Every night she wished he would approach her but he never did. Forgiveness could have broken the cycle and brought internally back into their marriage. It (didn’t, neither was willing to yield. The price they paid for their unforgiveness was extremely high.
Forgiveness is the healing which draws the poison out. It’s cheaper to forgive than to hate “I resented him for the way he worked against m4:’ Carol recently exclaimed. “I was determined never to forgive him for what he did -not to my dying day. But I discovered I couldn’t live this way. I was destroying myself with hate. So I chose to forgive.”
To forgive a wrongdoer for what he has done is to cut a malignancy out of your heart.
George (name and situation changed) visited his neighborhood psychiatrist because he had experienced three years of continual depression. When asked if there was anyone he had gotten especially angry with three years earlier-just before his depression began-George’s neck grew blotchy and red, his pupils began to dilate, and his fingers drew up into a fist. He used strong language to describe a teacher who had accused him of cheating before the entire class when he wasn’t guilty. He described the humiliation he felt with vivid hostility. When asked, “Why don’t you forgive that teacher? It will help you get over your depression,” George shot back, “Absolutely not. I’ll never forgive her till the day I die:’ “But you’ve already gone through three years of depression to get even with her. Is it really worth it?” his counselor chided. George found relief only after he chose to forgive
If you have confidence in God’s ability to administer justice, revenge becomes unnecessary. God is a better administrator of justice than you could ever be, He is capable of doing his job without your help. So why not defer it to him. The reason we don’t do it is because we want to reserve the right to retaliate. We want to hold our offender’s feet to the fire.
It’s hard to understand but some people seem to get a sadistic kind of pleasure from the resentment they hold. I suppose it’s because they think they’re punishing their offender by harboring resentment.
Somehow has supposed to feel the pain of their displeasure.
Some people refuse to forgive because they don’t want to be healed. They would rather talk about their problem-use it as a crutch so they can walk with a limp, get sympathy from others and draw attention to
So far we’ve been exploring the negative effects which unforgiveness generates. Now let’s explore some of the positive effects which forgiveness can bring. Forgiveness does wonderful things. It repairs
relationships which are shattered; it puts broken marriages back together; it removes long standing resentment between mother and daughter, father and son, and gives their relationships a brand new
start. It brings healing to those who extend it at the deepest levels of their emotions and minds. The benefits which forgiveness brings are enormous.
When Joseph reported the wrongdoing of his brothers to their father, they became resentful of him. They were determined to get even if it was the last thing they did. Finding Joseph in a field one day they
seized him, and sold him to slave-traffickers from Egypt.
Joseph begged his brothers not to do this. Didn’t he have the right to remain in his homeland near his parents? Didn’t he have the right to marry his childhood sweetheart and raise a family? Didn’t they know what a slaves life in Egypt would be like? No rights, no freedom, no home, no family, the property of another; a fife of sweat, blood, tears and servitude from daylight to dark. How could they think of doing such a thing to their own flesh and blood. Joseph heard them bickering over the price. Again he begged them not to go through with it, but they wouldn’t listen. They handed him over to the slave-traffickers, counted out the money and divided it among themselves as Joseph was handcuffed to the carriage and driven away.
It was weeks before joseph’s painful sobs subsided in their ears. Years later the dastardly thing which they had done was still only a memory away. Often they wondered if Joseph was still alive. Not one
of them ever brought the subject up. It was a painful secret which each of them shoved over and over to the back of his mind-a painful secret which each of them would carry to his grave.
The betrayal Joseph felt (when his own brothers bartered his liberties away and reduced him to the status of a slave) was enormous. How could he ever in a thousand years forgive them for that?
Joseph was not only reduced to a life of servitude, he was thrown into prison because Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him. It would have been easy for Joseph to be filled with hatred toward his brothers.
Thankfully, he concluded it was better to forgive than to hate.
If Joseph had not chosen to forgive, it’s frightening to think what might have happened when his brothers came down to Egypt looking for food, because a terrible famine had engulfed their land. By this time Joseph had been released from prison and had been given one of the highest positions in the Egyptian government. He had the power to do virtually anything he wanted to friend or foe alike- If Joseph had nurtured resentment in his heart, now was the time for revenge.
If he wanted to get even he could have spilled the blood of his brothers all over Egyptian soil. Maybe that would have made him feel like a terrible wrong had finally been righted. Thankfully, Joseph wasn’t made of that material. Rather than holding a grudge and hoping for the day of revenge, he chose to forgive. What a blessed choice that turned out to be.
If resentment, hatred and hostility had prevailed, Joseph’s brothers, their wives and their children would have been reduced to skin and bones and fallen one by one in the famine that engulfed their land.
Instead of taking revenge Joseph chose to forgive. Forgiveness wiped the slate clean, allowing Joseph and his brothers to love one another again. Forgiveness drew the poison out, removing all desire for
Forgiveness freed Joseph to care for the needs of his brothers and their families, to visit in their homes and to play with them upon the banks of the Nile.
Forgiveness is a wonderful thing. It allows relationships which are broken to be healed. It allows a man to hold out his hand to an alienated daughter and say, “I want to be your father again,” a woman
to hold out her hand to her estranged husband and say, “I want to be your wife again; we belong to each other.” It allows healing to flow and wholeness to return at the deepest levels of the relationship.
When you forgive you set the prisoner free. And strangely enough the prisoner you end up freeing most is yourself.
FORGIVE AND FORGET
Some people say they’re willing to forgive a person for what he’s done, but they’re unwilling to forget. If they mean by this they’re never going to stop holding a grudge against the individual for what hes
done, they haven’t forgiven him at all. There’s no need pretending that they have.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean well be unable to remember what has happened. How can one forget a death or a divorce? Forgiveness doesn’t cause our memory to fail. As long as our mind is clear we’ll be able to remember the hurts we received. Forgetting the incident means we’ve gotten over the pain that it caused. We no longer want our offender to suffer for what he’s done. We no longer feel resentment toward him or wish him ill.
This doesn’t always mean that well want to reestablish a close relationship, like going back into business with someone who’s broken a contract or swindled a sum of money-or become intimate friends with
someone who’s betrayed a confidence. Forgiveness doesn’t always reestablish the relationship. Trust has to be earned.
Emotions And Will
Sometimes we have to keep reminding ourselves that we have forgiven our offender for what he’s done. Otherwise we’ll be tempted to mull over previous hurts and take our forgiveness back. This will cause the pain to begin all over again.
Even though forgiveness is extended by an act of the will in a moment of time, getting over our wounded feelings may take a while. The deeper the hurt the longer it may take for the wound to heal. Slowly,
however, it will.
Our emotions don’t always keep pace with our wills. Sometimes emotions are slow to get the message They have to be reprogrammed to catch up with what the will has done During this period we may have to keep reminding our emotions that we’ve forgiven the offender for what he’s done and we don’t intend to harbor resentment against him anymore No, he doesn’t even need to apologize. We have already extended forgiveness to him and that is that. After our emotions finally get the message about what our will has done we’ll wake up one morning and be able to remember the incident without feeling any pain or a desire for revenge. Then, we’ll know forgiveness is complete As long as we hope our offender will be miserable in his new marriage or get fired from his job, we know our forgiveness isn’t complete.
Some counselors advise their patients to take a pillow (imagine it’s their offender) and beat it violently as they tell him how they feel. If this, is what it takes to vent your feelings and extend forgiveness to an offender ‘-fine. just make sure you get it all out and that you get around to forgiving your offender fully before you finish.
Forgiveness is a personal matter between you and your offender. it doesn’t necessarily mean the one who’s guilty doesn’t have to answer to,the law for his actions. Even though you’ve forgiven him the wrong he’s done, the justice of the court may still need to be satisfied. The drunk driver who kills a child can be forgiven, but he stiff needs to satisfy his debt to society.
We should forgive others whether they ask for it or not. Some provocations will require confrontation before reconciliation is possible. It’s not always enough for husbands and wives to forgive one another. To build wholeness into their relationship certain things may need to be changed. Other-wise, their union won’t flourish.
What if you are the one who!s asking for forgiveness and the person you’ve hurt refuses to accept your apology? All you can do is say you’re sorry and ask for forgiveness (unless something needs to be
returned or repaid). God doesn’t hold you responsible for the other person’s response. Don’t let his reaction get you down. Seek his forgiveness, forgive yourself, and get on with your life- If he comes
around, fine. If not, pray for him. He needs it.
What God Expects
Jesus talked about a man who owed the king a very large debt-ten thousand talents. This would have taken 15 years of wages to settle. Because he begged for mercy when the payment was due (lest he be thrown into prison and his family become beggars) the king was moved with compassion and forgave him all.
This same man who had been forgiven so much went out and found a man who owed him one hundred denarii-a sum which could be worked off in a day. Because he couldn’t pay up on the spot he had him thrown into prison, notwithstanding his pleas for mercy.
When the king (who had forgiven so large a sum) heard what this man had done he was angry. He took back his forgiveness and threw that ungrateful soul into prison until all was paid.
The inconsistency of our asking God to forgive us while we remain unwilling to forgive others is an affront to him. He’s not going to put up with it. If we think we can get him to forgive our wrongs while
we refuse to forgive others their wrongs, God says we can forget it. “For if we forgive others their trespasses our Heavenly Father will also forgive ours; but if we forgive not others their trespasses
neither will our Heavenly Father forgive ours” (Matthew 18:22-35; 6:14,15).
The story is told of two men who traveled through fife with sacks on their backs. Each time a hurt was received they would place it in what became known as their “injury sack.” One man’s sack became so bulging and heavy he couldn’t walk without difficulty or pain. The other man’s sack was empty and fight. There was nothing in it. “How can your injury sack be empty?” a stranger asked. “Have you never been hurt?” “O, yes, I’ve been hurt many times;’ the man replied. “As my sack grew large and its weight became unbearable, I asked a friend one day if he would help me carry the,load. ‘No one can help you carry the load of hurt he replied, ‘but there is a way for you to rid yourself of it. Take the scissors of forgiveness and slit the bottom of your sack, and your load of hurt will fall away.’ That’s what I chose to do that day. Since then, I take all the hurts which I receive and place them into my ‘injury sack’ as before, but now they simply slide out the bottom. That’s one load I choose not to carry.”
The decision is yours to make. You can go through life carrying a load of unforgiveness in your heart with all the resentment, depression, cynicism and emotional fallout it brings, or you can forgive your
offender as Christ forgave his. To forgive or not to forgive. That is a decision which you alone can make What will it be?
Ralph Woerner is the Founder and Managing Editor of Gospel Publishing Association in Birmingham, Alabama. Gospel Publishing was founded in 1977 with a vision to evangelize the community through the printed word.
Prior to founding Gospel Publishing, Ralph Worrier served as pastor for 25 years with the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
This article is from: Dr. Ralph Woerner, Gospel Publishing
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