Monthly Archives: February 2015

WHAT? I HAVE ENEMIES?

As I looked at my blog post categories, it was obvious I’d avoided discussing our relationship with enemies as if by simply ignoring them they would vanish into thin air. Truth be known, I hate to admit I have enemies; it feels like failure. But let’s take the lid off these relationships and see what God has to show us.

We have three subtypes of enemies.

  • The arch enemy—Satan
  • Enemies of the cross
  • Enemy of Self

SATAN

I Peter 5:8: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Oh, he just never gives up. You and I are no match for him. The only one who has ever defeated him is Christ. So, knowing this, you and I are going to need to be prayed up and hiding underneath the shadow of His wing. He waits and watches until we are at our weakest. He knows our weaknesses and times his onslaughts so they can have maximum impact. We would benefit by knowing his tactics:

  • Strikes when you are alone, weak and vulnerable
  • Questions the word of God (Eve)
  • Encourages doubt (Eve)
  • Encourages you to shift blame (Adam)
  • Encourages you to take matters into your own hands (Cain)
  • A Tempter (Jesus)
  • Is a Master at finding your weak points: Lusts of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life

Christ showed us how to defeat Him.

  1. Through the Word. Each time you heard Christ refer to what God has instructed. . . “
  2. Your desire must ONLY be to do the will of the Father
  3. You must be prayed up
  4. Be on mission with the Father

ENEMIES OF THE CROSS

Philippians 3:18-19: For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.

Believe it or not there are people who become an enemy simply because you have been covered in the blood of Christ. They are influenced by our arch enemy who wants revenge. David recounts the torture from this type of enemy in Psalm 44, calling upon the Lord to save Him because of His unfailing love.

These enemies don’t want to hear a message of repentance and forgiveness. They want to continue down their broad road without seeing any billboards that indicate they might be on the wrong road or have missed a turn. They will conspire against you because your faith and lifestyle convict them. You will recognize them because they 

  • Flaunt their ungodliness in your face
  • Try to make you feel you don’t belong to their club unless you participate in their sin
  • Are not seeking knowledge; therefore, the Word of God is an unwelcome voice
  • Are critical—look for you to make a mistake so they can hold it up
  • Talk behind your back
  • Make up lies about you
  • Do not like reproof
  • Celebrate when you are hurting
  • Haughty, high-minded
  • Bitter
  • Caught up in the things of the world

This type of enemy always blindsides me because they come out of left field. It seems I’m journeying with someone, deeply loving and caring for them, when suddenly I find I’m being attacked. I must confess that my instinct is to withdraw. In truth, it is my time to get into the Word and run into my strong tower so I can rise above the conflict to observe the battle that is raging. I need to call upon Him for He will fight for me.

 SELF

Romans 7:14b-15: I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Yes, like Paul, I’m my own worst enemy. I let my emotions, pride, fears, greeds, lusts and weaknesses rule when I should be leaning more on my Master and letting Him shine through me. And when others see these things in me, they reject me and eagerly point a finger at my failures. I’ve been doing a lot of research on my personality type; we each have one. It is a very good thing to be who God made you to be; but it is important that we understand our strengths as well as our weaknesses and greeds (See Deb Potts book, How to Deal with Prickly People) so we constantly stay alert to areas vulnerable to attack.

God gives us a great reference guide for how to conduct ourselves in Romans 12. Pull this out often and see if you have erred in any way. Hasten to make amends.

To be honest with you, as long as I am walking around in flesh, there is no way I can defeat these enemies alone. But, praise God, I do not have to raise a white flag of surrender either. Victory will be won day-by-day, battle-by-battle as I lean on Him. I will fight the good fight of faith until He conquers all my enemies at His coming.

Until that day I thank God even for my enemies. They remind me to get into the Word, to daily cleanse my heart, to trust in my Lord, to run to Him, to rest even in my anxieties and to cling to the Rock. I’m reminded that I must stay close to Him because my hiding place—my safe place—is in His shadow.

Psalm 57:1: Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.

images-1

 

 

The Highway of Love

heart-logo20newcolors

 

 

 

 

 

Love is a journey. There are narrow roads, mountains where the fog has made the road virtually invisible and long stretches of highway that feel like you are going nowhere, there’s no end in sight and there doesn’t seem to be anyplace to get off. You encounter all types of weather conditions–please don’t let it rain lest visibility dim or the road become hazardous. Though it was exhilarating when the journey began, it can become exhausting, boring or feel like a journey you should never have begun.

If you have taken a trip lately you probably learned a lot of lessons about navigating a journey that you could apply to your love journey. Let’s look at some practical ways to make the journey a good one.

1. Stay together. Even if you are traveling in a group, it is important that you keep up with each other. That means you have to take time to check in on your fellow travelers. Did they have a flat, run out of gas, need a bathroom break? On your love journey, you need to take the time to know what’s going on in the other’s life. That involves good communication. You need a daily time to connect without kids, phones, TV, etc. Maybe it’s just a moment to put down the paper, join hands and say, “What’s going on with you today?” Make it easy for them to get your attention and to tell you where they are. Be supportive.

*  Call to check on your partner during the day. Even a quick text of affirmation says you are there for them/thinking of them.

*  If your parter is facing a big presentation or sensitive situation for the day, ask if you can take 60 seconds before they leave to pray for them.

*  Slip notes of love in a suitcase, briefcase. Send flowers/gifts/cards for special occasions. It need not be expensive but it needs to show that you went out of your way to think of and to do something special for them.

2. Watch the gas.  The fuel of your relationship is intimacy. Make sure you make time for date nights, adventures together, close the door and share intimate, just the two of you time.

* Explore life together–new experiences bring freshness.

* Laugh together.

* Spice it up. It’s your marriage. Make it amazing. 

3. Stop for a refreshment. If something seems wrong, don’t ignore it. Face it. Talk to your partner and tell them how you feel. Get help early. My dad was a marriage counselor and he often said he wished couples would come to him when the vase first began to shake on the pedestal, not bring him the broken pieces once it had dashed to the ground. Expect that journeys are long and it is normal to need a check up. Have a plan for these times.

* Anniversaries are great for an annual check up–looking back and assessing where your relationship has grown or stagnated. What are you going to do together to make the next year better?

* Health issues cause problems in relationships because they affect the whole person. If you are sensing an emotional or personality change (e.g., temper becomes short, frustrations seem to be building), insist your partner get help–talk to a counselor. Go with them if need be.  There’s no need to compound the problems with a strain on the relationship.

4. Check the map. Follow the road signs. Take the time to affirm you both still have the same goals and destination in mind. Are you on course or did you miss a turn? How will you get back on track?

* Take an overnight or weekend getaway to give you time to look at the big picture. The demands of daily life can cloud the view.

* Participate in a couple’s retreat.

5. Take turns driving.  The demands of a busy household can be daunting and everyone needs a break.

* Make a list of “must dos” for the weekend and share the load.

* If your partner is overwhelmed, offer to do their share this week, too. They need a break. Send them off fishing or for a massage. Give them time off while you drive so hey can refresh and be ready to get behind the wheel again.

6.  Celebrate the milestones. Road trips seem long. The trip seems shorter when broken into segments whether it means changing drivers, cleaning the windshield, getting gas or grabbing a snack/meal.

* Anniversaries, promotions, awards, graduations or certifications, children’s accomplishments, etc. It doesn’t have to be costly or extravagant. . .just time to celebrate and mark a milestone of life.

* Make a sign, special meal, light the candles, string some crepe paper, take the family out to eat or cook a favorite dish, bake a cake, etc. Just have fun–be happy for today’s accomplishment.

Tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day. . .what will you do this year to add to your journey? 

images-1

 

THE “F” WORD–FORGIVENESS (Part Five)

F with Border

 

 

 

 

I want to make it clear that forgiveness does not mean you have to face the other person and that a resolution is reached between you. We are instructed to confront someone when we feel there has been a misunderstanding–when there is a shred of doubt as to intent. We confront to make sure we are seeing things clearly. For example, if someone murders your friend or you are date raped, you don’t need to confront them to forgive them. There may have been extenuating circumstances, but the deed is done and you are wounded–deeply wounded. Forgiveness is not going to absolve guilt. It isn’t going to right the wrong. It isn’t going to make it all go away. It happened. It was horrific. It is done. You have a RIGHT to your hurt and anger. You simply do not have the strength to carry it forward. Forgiveness is truly something you do within yourself and for yourself. It has nothing to do with the other person. Your forgiveness is not dependent on their remorse. It is dependent upon your determination to leave it behind and begin to live again.

Wikipedia: Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. 

So the question is HOW do I change my feelings and attitudes?

* Recognize the need to forgive–you need to do this for you, not them. There’s no need to tell them you forgive them. This is between you and God.

* Face the fact that all the grieving or hard feelings you can pile up are not going to fix it. If it would, you wouldn’t be reading this blog post. That pile of emotional trash has taken up valuable space in your heart and life long enough. Time for a trip to the dump.

* Tell God all about it. Know that He cares. He was there and He saw. One of God’s names is The Ancient of Days. This name is significantly important to being able to trust Him with the offenses you have suffered. He is going to sit on the throne one day as the righteous judge. He isn’t going to need to call witnesses. He was there and has been there since before creation and the first morning and evening became the first day. He is our witness. No new judge (who does not know all about it) is going to swoop in to try your case. So give it to Him and let Him carry the load.

* You need to be free. God wants your heart and mind set on Him, not your offenses. Hurt feelings are a trick of Satan to rob you of joy and effectiveness. Deny him dominion over your thoughts and life.

* God commanded us to forgive because it is the only way to freedom and peace. Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.”  Your motivation for forgiveness is obedience to God and a willingness to follow His commands even when it is tough.

* You have been forgiven. Oh, yes. That same righteous judge that will judge others is going to judge you. When you recite the 23rd Psalm you are asking God to forgive you as you forgive those that have trespassed against you. When I stand before Him condemned by my failures and sins, and He looks at the stack of the offenses that I have forgiven, I want Him to have reason to forgive me lavishly. That means I must not be stingy in my forgiveness of others. My spirit of forgiveness must be complete and lavish. Forgiveness is not a random or solitary act, it is about attitude; it is a state of mind. And it takes practice and intention to keep our minds set on forgiveness. Think of forgiveness as your cruise control.

* Begin to pray for your offender. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9). So this is where you get to put on the mind of Christ. His will, your will, should be that they come to repentance and a place of forgiveness. Your desire should be that when you enter heaven’s gates, you will find them there. All offenses were left on earth, and a right relationship abounds between you for eternity because of the blood of Christ necessary to cover you and them. I find it impossible to truly pray for someone and hold a grudge.

* How often? How many times? Christ says “70×7.”  That’s a lot–indeed this number was given so we would understand that there should be no limit to our forgiveness. After all, God had to give His own Son so that you might be forgiven. How can you not then freely offer forgiveness to others?

* Does forgiveness mean restoration of relationship? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Throughout our lives offenses and misunderstandings are going to come–face it, even sleek, fast cars on the best of highways seem to run into and dent one another occasionally. If the circumstances suggest that you have piled up a lot of little things to create an attitude wall between you and someone, then most likely you need to confront why those attitudes exist and tear the wall down. Hopefully with a right view, right attitudes, improved relationship skills, etc. the relationship can be restored. Counselors are especially helpful at helping you see where your view and understanding may need tweaking–(remember all the differences we discussed in Part One). A trained, neutral third party can help shed light to the situation you had closed the curtains on. This is especially true of parents and children, coworkers, spouses–people who are traveling close and at high speed alongside each other in the highway of life. Take every opportunity to find forgiveness–rest stops on the highway of life that you may journey together in love and respect.

If, however, someone has intentionally harmed you, there is no requirement that you bring them close again. For example, you might forgive the man who killed your sister, but most likely not set a place for him at your Thanksgiving table. If someone steals from you, there is no expectation that you give them the key to your home. If someone stabs you in the back in a business deal, you might not want to partner with them in the future. Just remember that God is looking at the circumstances and knows whether prudence and good discretion would dictate a separation or whether your imposed separation in the relationship is due to the fact that you are harboring unforgiveness–maybe unwilling to face wrongs that you may have done to the other one. He is the one that will judge motives and before whom the intents of our hearts will be displayed. Nothing will be hidden. Get before Him and let Him try your heart and make it new (Psalm 51:10).

* Take your heartache and pain to the foot of the cross. Leave it there. He will bear it. Get up from your knees and pick up His cross–spreading His love and the story of forgiveness and the good news of the kingdom. He’s got your heavy burdens–He can carry them. His good news is light–it’s a good exchange. Take the deal.

Matthew 11:28-30: Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

I don’t normally post articles this long or even this many articles in a week. So it’s been a heavy week for me and no doubt for your in-box–lots to learn about forgiveness. I have worked hard to get as much before you as possible so you will have the resources you need to take the journey to forgiveness. You may skim over these things today, but no doubt the time will soon come that you need these principles. Bookmark them as you might put a pain reliever in the medicine closet–so you’ll know right where it is when you find you are hurting.

images-1

THE “F” WORD–FORGIVENESS (Part Four)

F with Border

 

 

 

 

You’ve tried overlooking a comment, attitude or action but it haunts you when you lay your head on your pillow. Tears stream down your cheeks and the pain is so real it feels as if your heart may truly burst. You revisit those moments over and over, looking at it from every possible angle. You cannot let it go. Why did they say or do that?

It’s time to do something about it: you must confront the person and the issue. You’ll find this weight to get heavier and heavier until you take steps to lay it down. God tells us that in these circumstances we should go to our brother. Now I have been guilty of saying, “They are the one that is wrong; they know what they did. They should call me.” But truth be known, I’m the one hurt so I own the problem. I must take the initiative (Matthew 2:18). This is not a blank check for offenders. Matthew 5:23 gives specific instructions regarding how we should deal with matters where we have been the offender/the aggressor.

Take some time out to check your heart and motives: Reconciliation, not retaliation, must be your goal.

Step 1: Get out the Template and work through the conversation in your mind. Write it out if it helps you. Focus on the facts; remove the emotion.

Step 2: Set a time to talk–do not just burst in on them expecting to be heard. Choose a mutually agreeable time and a private space. You want to be on an even level for this conversation. So, for example, if it is a conversation with your boss you would not want to have it in their office while they sit behind their desk. Suggest you meet in a conference room or in the cafeteria or for coffee after work. Setting a time to talk signals the other person that something is important to you. What you don’t want to do is signal that this meeting will be a re-enactment of the high noon showdown at the OK Corral. Remember that the goal of this meeting is reconciliation and you want to signal the importance of the other person in your life from this first indication that you need to have a discussion.

Step 3: Meet them. Thank them for coming. Reaffirm the importance of the relationship to you, to your company, your family, etc.

Step 4: Using the I language template in Part 3, tell the person how you FEEL as simply as possible without assigning blame or exhibiting emotion. For example: “Yesterday, I walked away from our conversation feeling unsettled and indeed it bothered me as I lay down last night. So I wanted to just talk with you to make sure I haven’t offended you in some way and to share my feelings. I felt _____________ when you _____________ because__________________.

Step 4: Take a deep breath. Stop. Be quiet. Let what you have said settle in for a minute. Listen if they begin to talk–without interrupting. Let them say everything they want to say. Let them get it all out.

Step 5: Validate their understanding. Ask them if they understand why you might have the feelings you do. Suggest that in the future you would appreciate it if they would ____________________ because it hurts you when they do ___________ (ex. refrain from talking to others about you behind your back, because it ruins your reputation).

Step 6: Set a penalty if it happens again. Hopefully they understand and will apologize for hurting you. Suggest a next step if their actions continue. For example: “I’m glad we had this talk and time to clear the air. Our friendship is important to me. I’m going to assume that we have settled this. But should something come up between us again, would it be ok with you if I hear anything else that I call you and we come back to this table to talk about it? You can understand this is important to me.”

Step 7: If you have to meet a second time and they still deny the issue or show that they are not going to be considerate of your feelings; suggest that if the problem continues you’d like to invite a third party to the conversation.

I would love to think that there are all wonderful people out there who love me and will try to understand me and nurture our relationship. All I can do is put my desire to have a good relationship on the table; I can’t change their heart toward me if they do not love me. So, after this conversation, if they do not show signs of love and concern, then I walk away from the relationship and trust God to change their heart. I cannot change a hardened heart; only God can do that.

I have found that there are some people who utilize “snipper” behavior. They talk behind your back, say and do unkind things, etc. They do so because they are operating undercover. My personality type avoids confrontation at all costs. I want things to be smooth. I want to save the relationship. This means that taking these 7 steps are hard for me so I walk away and hide my feelings–just stuff them. Unfortunately, this behavior gives the snipper power. When they get by with hurting you and you do nothing, they become more aggressive. This is how co-dependent relationships develop. Unfortunately I find I often become the victim and play that role until I explode. How much better it would be to stop the aggressor at each step. I have had to learn to step up and take this posture. It is freeing. Shine a light on a snipper’s activities and they will cease. It will be up to them whether they are willing to change their attitudes and actions to save the relationship. Stuffing my feelings to do so is totally ineffective. Why do you stuff your feelings rather than take the 7 steps?

Hopefully, using these simple 7-steps to guide your conversation will give you confidence that you can have a peaceful but pointed conversation that will enable you to keep your accounts clear as you walk day by day. Ephesians 4:26 exhorts us to take care of any issues within a day’s time.

Do I get this right every time? No–but I’m getting better at it. Friends and family are rare; they are precious. Fight to keep them. Lay down your grievances. Trust God.

images-1

THE “F” WORD–FORGIVENESS (Part Three)

F with Border

 

 

 

 

Before we tackle anything as sensitive as a conversation about a misunderstanding, we need to do a little self-checkup. Is it possible that our attitudes and communication styles could use a tune-up? After all, if others hurt us by the things they say and do, is it possible that we likewise have or could cause hurt to others with our attitudes and words? The last thing we want to do is inflame the situation and make things worse. I’m going to assume that the majority of you do not get up in the morning and make a list of people you’d like to offend or get even with before the day ends. Yet, as we journey through our days, situations arise; stuff happens. We react, we reflect, we respond. Unfortunately, we often end our day with regrets for the way we handled things. We lay our heads on our pillows not really knowing how to undo the mess in which we now find ourselves.

How would it make you feel if I confronted you with words like “You make me so angry!” or “You did XYZ and you are such a jerk!” The mere phrasing and our choice of words are very confrontational and sure to shut down the hearing ear of the person we are addressing. Immediately their defense mechanisms come into play. Yet this is the way many often talk to family, coworkers and friends. It takes training and conscious thought to phrase things in a way that will ensure that we do not inflame emotions or hurt others. Name calling and YOU language are inflammatory, and none of us needs to make an enemy. So because we are untrained in confrontational skills, afraid of the response of the other party or are fearful that we will not be able to come to a good resolution, we stuff our feelings and hurts and walk away from the relationship. So how can we express our feelings without causing hurt or harm to others?

I provide the men in my class with a template to help them rephrase their thoughts and feelings so they can express them appropriately and with confidence. They are provided with a two-sided sheet listing words describing feelings and emotions. They are instructed not to use the word angry when referring to their feelings because it is threatening. The template is:

I feel ____________________ when you __________________ because_____________________________.

For example: when speaking with a teenager about cleaning their room, it wouldn’t be uncommon for a mom to say, “I cannot believe this mess. You are such a slob. You don’t appreciate or take care of the things I’ve bought for you, so I’m not buying you any more clothes until you learn to take care of the things  you have.” In truth, I must confess that these words have come out of my mouth. No doubt my son felt belittled and deflated, threatened and labeled. How unkind of me. Sorry, son, please forgive me–I was untrained. (And even though I’m now trained, I need lots of practice–and understanding, tolerance and forgiveness–because I have a lot of old, bad habits.) How much better it would have been to say,

I feel frustrated when you do not take care of the clothing I have purchased for you because it makes me feel you do not appreciate them or understand how hard I have worked to provide them for you. 

This template lets us express our feelings and emotions without labeling, name calling or threatening. It lets the other person  understand our feelings rather than simply seeing us as out-of-control and offensive. Try it. When you have something you want to say, whether in the heat of the moment or in a calm face-to-face discussion about a sensitive issue, take a deep breath and use the phrasing. You can’t possibly judge someone else’s motives, but you can own your own feelings. They are real–they are your feelings. Get good at expressing them using the template so others can see how you feel and why. NEVER. . .EVER. . .NEVER. . .resort to name calling. It’s so hurtful and just plain wrong. If you’ve written a label over someone in your own mind, make sure it never comes out of your mouth. To do so will mean they harbor hard feelings toward you indefinitely–and justifiably so. It means the Holy Spirit is going to work you over until you come before them with an apology.

Here’s a little homework for you.  Rewrite the following statements using the template.

1.  You are so inconsiderate. I worked hard to cook you a fabulous dinner and you don’t even call to say you are going to be late. Now it is cold–hope you enjoy it!

2.  I can’t believe you promoted Joe to that position. I’ve been here longer than he has and deserved it. I quit.

How might you use the template to ask for a long over-due raise or to have a discussion with a loved one about an action they have taken that hurt you.

Now note that we are discussing using the template when talking with someone about an issue that needs to be addressed–a misunderstanding. I would not suggest that you begin to confront someone with things you just don’t like about their personality or ways. That would be belittling and, in truth, makes you the aggressor. Did I mention that we are all different? Learn to respect and value others and their ways–life would be so boring if we were all alike. Spend time listening carefully to them, try to understand them and make an effort to see things through their eyes. Listen with your heart and not just with your ears. You just may enlarge your vision of the world and find you can deeply love the person in front of you. If you have a list of petty things you don’t like about someone, the problem is most likely you and not them. My guess is they could make such a list about you as well, but have chosen to overlook all your idiosyncrasies because they love and/or respect you. We’ve all heard the story of the marriage counselor who asked a couple to write down all the things they wanted the other to change. One of them made an extensive two-page nit-picking list; the others’ page was blank–it simply said, “I love you just the way you are.” Guess who was the problem in the relationship? Don’t let Satan destroy your relationships by creating in you a critical spirit. Read I Corinthians 13 and measure your heart against these love descriptors.

So time for that self check-up. How’s your attitude? How are your communication skills? How is your heart? It’s really all about your heart toward the other person. And you, my friend, are the only one that can mend it. I love David’s plea in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Do some work on your knees before God, then get out the template and work on your words. After spending time with God you may find you owe someone a sincere apology rather than a confrontation about something you previously held in your heart. Satan is the master of deception. He wants to take your peace and the love God has created for you. Guard your heart. Don’t give him an inch. He won’t be satisfied until he destroys your relationships and ultimately your heart and peace.

Tomorrow we’ll review a template for guiding us through difficult conversations. Good tools will make you a skillful communicator and give you confidence.

images-1

 

 

THE “F” WORD–FORGIVENESS (Part Two)

F with Border

 

 

 

 

As I teach the class, I draw a carrot on the board.  This carrot represents the way we handle our emotions. The men in my classes are very good at stuffing their feelings. And, when these feelings become overwhelming, they self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. They aren’t addicts because they like to party; they are addicts because they have been hurt and want to stop thinking/hurting–at least for a little while. When asked what kinds of things they stuff, they can quickly fill up the board with answers like: anger, disappointments, rejection, failure, shame, regrets, remorse.  The interesting thing about a carrot is that there is this big reservoir underground, but yet above ground there is evidence of what is underground: things like bad attitudes, anger, an argumentative spirit, criticism, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, etc. As human beings, we just can’t successfully hide these emotions from others no matter how hard we try.

Where do all of these emotions come from?  What is the root cause of all this pain? The answer: THE HURT FEELING! We need to learn how to face and manage our feelings and emotions. Unfortunately, there are no classes on this important subject. About the best coaching any of us receives along this line is a mom’s insistence that we and our siblings say we are sorry when caught fighting (which, of course, is always done from a humble and contrite heart). It’s no wonder depression and anxiety are wide-spread.

Where did the phrase “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me” come from? WHAT A CROCK! Names hurt. We are such tender-hearted creatures. Oh, some look tough, but let me tell you they aren’t. I have watched the tears flow down the face of the tough guy, gang leaders, etc. Why do we tell little boys they shouldn’t cry–should bottle up their emotions? No wonder these men end up in my class. Our feelings and emotions are about all we can truly own–they are ours. And with no experience or training in handling hurt, we humans find ourselves in rocky water quickly.

There are problems with emotions:

A) Emotions and feelings are linked to our physical and mental well being. Even if it’s as simple as the fact that the baby kept you up all night, you are going to be raw the next day–all day. How many times have my husband and I found we were arguing over nothing–NOTHING–because we were both so tired we could barely go on. (Did I mention we had four children?) But in this exhausted state, things can be said and done that are not easily undone, much less forgiven or forgotten. Do you recall that when Satan came to tempt Christ, he did so after He had been fasting–was in a weakened physical state?

B) Emotions, thoughts and feelings are most likely not facts. We need to talk to the person that hurt us because there is a 99.9% chance that they did not intend to do so. We are all so unique and process events, words, etc. so very differently. Myers Briggs points out there are at least 16 different personality types and they all process experiences differently. Bottom line, we just all see things a little differently. Some other differences include: race, sex, ethnicity, culture, age, education, life experiences, wellness (physically and emotionally), maturity, etc. And we all have different communication styles. Being from the South, I find people from the North to be somewhat abrasive in their directness. No doubt we Southerners test their patience. It’s no wonder that we struggle to understand each other. Jesus taught His disciples in Luke 17:1 that it is impossible but that offenses will come. Get ready, no one gets out unbruised. But a wise man or woman will learn to confront their feelings and validate relationships as they journey through life with their loved ones and friends.

The second part of Luke 17:1 says, “But woe to him through whom they come.” It may be your nature to be critical, judgmental, sarcastic, abrasive, down-right rude or mean to others. If others have suggested that you fall into any of these categories, it may be time to rethink how you approach others if you’re not interested in discovering what God means when He suggests that ‘woe’ would be credited to your account for such actions.

C) What is perception vs. what is reality?  When I was a little girl, my sister was absolutely beautiful (and she still is). Everyone who saw us gasped, “Oh, isn’t Patsy beautiful!” Realizing they had overlooked me, they’d pat me on the head and say something like, “And, Carol is such a smart little girl.” Well, it didn’t take me long to realize that something was not great about the way I looked. As I became a teenager, I remember the boys teasing me about being skinny–having skinny legs. The good news is that as I aged I’ve outgrown skinny and indeed have tried several diets. And while I probably won’t grace the pages of any magazine in the near future, I am not condemned to wearing a bag over my head. But for many years, when I looked in the mirror all I could see was an ugly, skinny girl–no one of worth or value. The interesting thing is that my sister thought she must not be smart enough. We must test what comes into our hearts. My husband tells the story of a bum on the streets who thought he was worthless. A major university did testing on these men and found he had a very high IQ. With a changed outlook, he said he was no longer shaving an idiot (as he’d seen himself from a child), but shaving a genius. He went on to complete several degrees, hold several patents and became president of the Mensa Society. He had not changed, but his perception had changed–and perception makes a world of difference. Proverbs 4:23 teaches us to guard our hearts for out of it are the issues of life. Don’t let garbage come in. Learn to test and try the thoughts and opinions that come your way.

D) Could you have seen things through eyes that did not see the whole picture? Many times this is especially true of children who may see their parents’ divorce as somehow their fault or a lack of love for them, etc. Parents face difficult circumstances that cannot always be explained to or understood by a child. Husbands and wives often need to take a deep breath and put themselves in the shoes of their spouse—after all, we all know that men and women come from different planets. We don’t even speak the same language or have the same emotional needs. Could it be possible that your boss is under pressure that you don’t know anything about and their instructions to you are for your own good–for your protection? A friend recently shared some hurts received as a child. He said he had learned to let those things go because he realized that his parents were barely 20 when he was born. Looking back he could see that they were very young and totally inexperienced at this parenting thing. They did the very best they could. Their parenting skills had been passed down through many generations. Could they have been more effective? Possibly. But why should he harbor hard feelings toward the two people who had loved and sacrificed for him when they did the best they knew how to do? He only wished he’d come to this truth many years ago as he wasted precious years harboring resentment that ate him up inside and hurt his relationship with his parents. Could you be harboring a childhood bitterness toward a sibling that has grown up to become a wonderful person?

E) Is it something that you really should just let go? Can you forget it, overlook it or make an excuse for it? If so, do so. Life is too short to major on the minors. Proverbs 19:11 tells us it is to our honor to overlook an offense. You’ll know you have done so when it never comes to mind again. BUT. . if you lay your head down at night and it comes back to you over and over, you need to confront it. This is Biblical and Jesus tells His disciples how to keep their accounts short. Issues should be dealt with as they happen. I wouldn’t suggest you harbor some hard feeling for years that the other person knows nothing about and then suddenly bring it up. Most likely the other person is going to think you are crazy—won’t even remember the event. And in all truth, if you have been carrying an offense around for years and haven’t dealt with it appropriately, it is no doubt way out of perspective at this point.

F) Can you articulate your feelings? Is your heart’s desire a reconciliation of the relationship vs. an opportunity to voice your opinion or get back at the other person? If so, then you are ready to take the road to understanding and forgiveness. The first stop on this journey is prayer–tell God all about it. God will transform your heart and He will work on the heart of others. When you are prayed up, it is time to take the next step. Many times we feel we need to let off steam or gather advocates for our way of seeing things. In doing so, however, we damage the reputation of others and build a great divide between us and others. Unfortunately, none of these others can bring the resolution and peace that we need. We need to learn to limit our conversations about misunderstandings to God and to the source of our hurt. Only they hold the key to wipe away the hurt. 

Next, in Part 3 of Forgiveness, let’s look at our communication patterns and their role in causing hurt to others.

images-1

THE “F” WORD–FORGIVENESS (Part One)

F with Border

 

 

 

 

Through the most unlikely of circumstances, I teach a class on forgiveness to men transitioning from a homeless shelter/recovery program back into productive members of society. It is apparent to them and me that the reason they are in this situation is that they do not effectively deal with hurts and emotions. And if they don’t learn this important skill, it is only a matter of time before they will relapse. This class is emotionally packed, raw, and a time when those in the room get absolutely real–maybe for the first time in their lives. We close the doors and what happens in that class stays in that class. I unveil my hurts and failures before them and they open up and tell me their stories. We weep together. You don’t have to be in a homeless shelter or recovery situation to be tormented by hurts, doubts, failures, regrets. And these things are crippling. So if you struggle in any of these areas from time to time, find a quiet spot, close out everyone but God, and let’s take this journey to forgiveness together over the next few days. This blog is between me, you and God. . .let’s let Him in as our consultant to help us clean out our hearts and minds.

In class we study stories of men and women who have suffered horrific wrongs–things like unjust lifetime jail sentences and senseless and cruel murders of loved ones. Some in the stories are able to move to forgiveness and others are not. No one can blame those who cannot find forgiveness in their hearts, but we all know that we want to be like those who have found forgiveness and peace.

Holding onto hurts and perceived injustices is like hoarding. My husband sold insurance for a while. One day he visited a prospective client in his all brick mansion in the most prestigious part of town. When he knocked on the door and a weak voice said, “Come in,” he opened the door and was confronted with a house filled with garbage–wall to wall/floor to ceiling. There was only a narrow passage leading to the voice. The man could not let anything go—room after room was filled with old microwave dinner boxes and plastic dishes–TRASH of all kinds everywhere. The man was so weak he couldn’t make it to the bathroom so he disposed of his urine in big jugs that he KEPT! This man was a multi-millionaire, but he was living in squalor and infestation because he couldn’t let go of trash. We can all feel sorry for and make faces at the senselessness of the state of this sad man when all the time we are hoarding spiritual and emotional trash–GARBAGE. We carry hurts, grievances, disappointments and regret about in our hearts and minds as if there were a reward for them. We let these things take up room in our hearts and minds so that there is no room for the good things of life. They weigh us down, hold us back. We allow these thoughts to destroy the most precious relationships of our lives and many times our own sense of worth and self-confidence. We suffer great loss because we are exchanging love, understanding and forgiveness for destructive thoughts that become attitudes and actions that destroy us.

Let’s examine forgiveness—first by what it is not; then by what it is.

Forgiveness is not:

  • Forgetting
  • Rationalizing the situation
  • Letting bygones be bygones
  • Stowing away of hurts in some emotional crate
  • A saintly act
  • Justice
  • Wiping the slate clean

Forgiveness:

  • Is a process
  • Takes time
  • Is giving it to God
  • Is refusing to take it with you
  • Is something you do for yourself
  • Is a journey only you can determine to take

It’s like cleaning out your closet. You have to sort through the emotional trash you have been carrying. No one can do it for you. Make a list of memories you want to hold, feelings and attitudes you want to discard, and those you need to discuss with another person. Keep your mental and emotional house clean.  Don’t allow the actions and attitudes of others to trash the sanctity of your heart and soul.

The men always ask me, “But, Carol, how do I forgive myself?” You must remember that the one we sin against is our Creator—God Almighty. He stands waiting for you to come to Him with a repentant heart. He removes all your iniquity as far as the east is from the west. It is important to note that He did not say as far as the north is from the south. The north and south are points on the globe and most of us would trudge through the frozen tundra to pick our grievances back up again. But east and west do not exist on the map. No matter which way He turns, He will never see your offenses again—they are forgiven. Now you must dwell in His love and forgiveness. Dragging them around, reminding God and others about them is wasted energy.

Satan is the accuser of the brethren and he will bring up hurts, failures, regrets to you as long as you let him. One of my girl friends was tormented at night with her thoughts. She made a list of Bible verses she would get up and read out loud when her thoughts would overwhelm her in the middle of the night. One day she told me she had found victory. I inquired how. She said, “I got up, opened my Bible and put it on the night stand and said, ‘OK, Satan. I know that God does not condemn me, so that leaves you. My victory is in God’s Word, so here’s my Bible. I’ve tabbed and underlined God’s promises to me. Read them for yourself. I’m going to rest in God’s loving arms tonight.’ And I switched off the light and went right to sleep.” She said from that night on she left her Bible open and passages underlined and tabbed and she was never bothered again.

God has big plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11). If you are going to move into the future He has planned for you, you have to let go of the past. After all, your bright future is going to be all. . . ALL . . .of His doing and none of yours anyway. WHY? So you can give Him praise. So get out of your way and His and get ready for the journey of a lifetime with the One who created you and gifted you for His purposes.

And check back into my blog this week as we continue to examine forgiveness. We’ll look at some templates for discussing our feelings with others so we can clarify and clean up any misunderstandings. Stay tuned–we want to become clean vessels that are usable by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. So pull a big emotional dumpster into the backyard and let’s get ready to fill it so God can take it away to the landfill–the sea of God’s forgetfulness.

images-1