Tag Archives: forgiveness

Forgiveness is Not a Suggestion (Part 2)

extending-forgiveness-2

In our last post we discussed a letter-writing technique that will be helpful in allowing us to forgive one who has wronged us.  This technique is most useful in situations involving our spouses, but just as useful in addressing anger and resent that is being stored up in circumstances with friends, family and even co-workers.

A quick summary of the technique will refresh your memory.  First, find a nice secluded place to write a forgiveness letter.  It doesn’t matter where you go as long as you can have a place to concentrate.  Try your best to eliminate the distractions of the outside world.

Second, address the letter to your spouse (or whoever wounded you) and then follow it with your statement of forgiveness: “I choose to forgive you for (whatever that issue might be)”   Then, write down how you feel about the idea of forgiving them for this issue.   Write down the second emotional response, then the third.  Continue writing until all that you feel is written on the paper before you.  Once you have addressed all the feelings that surfaced from your first statement of forgiveness, take a breath and write “I forgive you.” for a final time regarding that hurt.  Go back to part one of this post if you need more elaboration or an example.

We follow this letter with a technique that allows you to receive closure in those areas that you need to forgive in your spouse (or others).  It is known as “the empty chair technique.” Take a seat next to another chair and imagine that your spouse is sitting there, willing to receive what you wrote in your letter.  Read the letter aloud to them, and each time you make your statement of forgiveness, imagine your spouse accepting your forgiveness. Take as long as necessary to complete this process.

Once you have shared your letter of forgiveness, destroy it thoroughly. There is no need to actually share it with your spouse or to keep it on hand to revisit. It is done; now let it go. This is an issue between God and yourself. If the enemy tries to throw it back in your face, remind yourself that you are done harboring resentment about that and have given it to God.

Now that you have concluded this assignment, do not take back what you have extended. It’s time to leave the hurt at the foot of the cross and go forward on your journey of forgiveness which includes allowing God to heal you of the residue from the hurt left behind.  Is there anyone else in your life that has hurt you?  Is there anyone else you need to forgive?  It would benefit you to go through this process again, addressing those other people toward whom you have developed bitterness.  God wants your yoke to be light.  It’s time to let go of the anger so that you focus your energy toward what God has planned for you instead.

Remember, the decision to forgive is immediate but the journey of healing for what you are forgiving of may be an ongoing journey.  As you come to accept the fact that you have forgiven, the pain from past hurts will begin to diminish.  Be Blessed!

©2016 Eric A. Disney, Marriage by Design

Ready to Reactivate Your Marriage? Click on the “About the Book” tab to learn more about Marriage by Design: The Keys to Create, Cultivate and Claim the Marriage You’ve Always Wanted.

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Filed under Behavior, Character, Emotions, Forgiveness, Restoration

Forgiveness is Not a Suggestion (Part I)

extending-forgiveness-1

I see countless people in my office that struggle with moving beyond the hurt in their lives.  A key component of moving forward involves ones ability to forgive those who have wronged us.  We confused and think that if we forgive we condone the other persons bad behavior.  When the religious folks of the time asked Jesus, “How are we required to forgive?”  His concise response, “Seven times seventy.”  Jesus was not referring to a specific number, he was telling the people that we are ALWAYS called to forgive.  Forgiveness is less about the other person than a way for us to move forward and develop a heart of hatred.  Once the bitterness is established it’s like giving the offending party permission to continue to victimize us.  I would like to share a technique that will help to put you on the road to forgiveness.  The healing process may take some time, but this will allow you to solidify the decision to forgive.

Find yourself a nice secluded place. It doesn’t matter where you go as long as you can have a place to concentrate.  Have plenty of paper on hand.  It may take more than one sitting to complete task and you don’t want anyone to read this letter.  Begin this process by praying that God would give you the strength and courage to address the pain and hurt that will likely surface as you start to write your list of hurts.

Address the letter to your spouse and then follow it with your statement of forgiveness: “I choose to forgive you for…”   No doubt several feelings will surface. Identify the pain that would interfere with your ability to forgive.  Write down the first emotional responses to your statement of forgiveness.  In other words, how do you feel about the idea of forgiving your spouse for this issue.   Write down the second emotional response, then the third. Write them all out, beginning each time with “I choose to forgive you for…”   Let them flow.

Continue writing until all that you feel is written on the paper before you. This process will help to move some of these destructive, hurtful feelings out of you and into the open, much as a surgeon tries to cut away anything that would interfere with the normal functioning of your body. Feel free to write as much as you need to write.  Once you have addressed all the feelings that surfaced from your first statement of forgiveness, take a breath and write “I forgive you” for a final time regarding that issue.

Example:

Dear Jim,

I forgive you for not making me a priority in our relationship.

  • Why am I bothering to forgive you? You couldn’t care less!
  • I’ll never have priority over your friends.
  • I hate it when you work all the time and have no time for me!
  • It embarrasses and hurts me when I hear how my friends’ husbands enjoy time with their wives.

I forgive you for not making me a priority in our relationship.

Now we move on to your next statement of forgiveness.  Write “I forgive you for…” and go through the same process as just described.  You will continue to move through all the issues you have been harboring resentment about, letting them go one by one by extending forgiveness for them.

When you feel that you have addressed everything you want to cover in your letter, take a moment to reflect on what you have just completed.  Congratulations, this was a monumental task!  Do not feel that you must complete this in one sitting, as the emotions generated by this assignment may require that you revisit it a couple of times to complete it.

What now?  In the next post, we will complete the p[rocess of extending forgiveness to others by addressing the letter that you have completed.

©2016 Eric A. Disney, Marriage by Design

Ready to Reactivate Your Marriage? Click on the “About the Book” tab to learn more about Marriage by Design: The Keys to Create, Cultivate and Claim the Marriage You’ve Always Wanted.

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Filed under Behavior, Character, Emotions, Forgiveness, Restoration

Is It Really ALL My Fault?

My fault

The following is a question I received from a man who has been struggling in his marriage and working at trying to do what he needs to do to make it work. Granted, he was a contributor to the breakdown of their relationship, but has been putting forth the effort to right his wrongs. This question is so common that I decided to share my thoughts on the topic, knowing there are others who struggle with this issue:

When one party in a relationship decides to make positive changes, it can create a conflict in the other spouse, they may ask questions like; “Can I trust them? What do I do with my pain? Would things be better if I left?”  Just to name a few.  Often inner turmoil pushes the focus of blame on the other person.  The question arises, “Is this ALL my fault?”

Just a quick question, my wife and I spoke yesterday and she basically told me she can’t promise me that things will work out between us, but she’ll give it some time.  In your opinion, from experience, is it all my fault that we’re in this position (and having all of these marital problems)?  That’s the image she’s describing, and I’m just wondering if that’s possible.  Could it really be ALL my fault?  

I will TRY to answer as directly as possible (for me).  Is the blame in the breakdown of a marriage ever the fault of just one member of the party?  Honestly, if that were the case, it would be the first time I have ever experienced it in my 20 plus years of counseling.  A particular choice of bad behavior in a relationship might be perpetrated by one party or the other, but those individual choices tend to be symptomatic of a greater problem and that choice of “acting out” was their way of dealing with that problem.  In other words, a person doesn’t just wake up one morning and decide to, let’s say, have an affair.  Usually you can trace backward the breakdowns (poor communication, no edification, lack of attention, lack of conflict resolution skills, etc.) that were occurring for quite some time in the marriage that led to the one party justifying a behavior like adultery, as in my example.  Once justified, the decision to act is only a matter of time unless the parties in the relationship make a joint effort to address the problem issues together, put forth the effort to change, lay THEIR (yes, plural) sinful behaviors at the foot of the cross (and do not pick it up again) and forgive the past; understanding that it took two people to create the original dynamic that lead to the offense(s).  As long as blame has priority over the desire to seek resolution there will never be the investment necessary to bring a marriage into alignment.

I apologize for out “winding” you, but you ask an explosive question, my friend.  Bottom line, I believe it takes two to make OR break a marriage.  The key to making the changes necessary to salvage the marriage requires a willingness on both parties to take responsibility for their own participation that has led to the erosion of the relationship.  God loves to work with honest and transparent people and I’ve witnessed him do nothing short of a miracle, but we ALL need to choose to participate in the healing and restoration process.

My recommendation would be to be intentional about your behavior and choose actions that show your interest in making the marriage work (emotions will lead you to destructive choices!) regardless of her making you sole blame or not.  If you are determined and prepared, do not let the decision to separate be yours, let her take responsibility and risk the consequences of such an action.  This will allow you the peace of knowing you did all you could to save your marriage and keep the family together.  Lastly, and CERTAINLY not least, keep this situation bathed in prayer (including praying for your spouse).  Just because you see no forward movement on the part of your mate does not mean that God is not trying to stir her heart.  Sometimes the way things look on the outside are not representative of what is going on inside.  At this moment she is protecting herself so as not to be hurt.  Remember, she is in pain and is not yet willing to take a chance on you.  It takes time to gather the evidence that your change is real and you will not do further damage to her.  The fact that she, “…can’t make any promises,” and that “…she’ll give it some time”, indicates that she may not be entirely ready to throw in the towel.  There may be some hope.  As you know, I can make no promises either way, but stay close to the Lord and he will give you the peace, comfort and courage you need to come out the other side of this trial.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.       Proverbs 3:5-6

Love your family, love those children.  Be blessed my brother, I love you and I’ll be praying for you both today.     – Pastor Eric

God takes marriage, a commitment not only to our spouse but to God, very seriously.  If the husband has been neglectful of his responsibilities, yet decides to put forth the effort to change and allow God to work in his heart he will only benefit.  Whether his wife has become hardhearted by her pain and chooses the path of least resistance; it doesn’t negate the husband’s responsibility to be submissive and allow God to grow him.  Remember, it’s not just about your spouse if there are children involved.  Even when divorce is likely, you still have the opportunity to be the best parent that you can.  It is not just an opportunity, it’s your obligation.

Be Blessed!

©2016 Eric A. Disney, Marriage by Design

Ready to Reactivate Your Marriage? Click on the “About the Book” tab to learn more about Marriage by Design: The Keys to Create, Cultivate and Claim the Marriage You’ve Always Wanted.

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Filed under Behavior, Character, Commitment, Divorce, Emotions, Forgiveness, Leadership, Obedience, Prayer, Restoration, selflessness, Submission, Transparency, Trust

Why Forgiveness? (Part III): Beyond the Pain

pain

As I noted in my last post, forgiveness does not mean you will simply forget what has happened in the past. What it does mean is that you can decide how much control it will have on your future. Merriam-Webster defines the word forget as “to disregard intentionally.” Again we come back to intentionality. We must choose to leave the pain of the past at the foot of the cross or we will continue to be re-victimized over and over as we allow the bitterness back in.

We must also understand that our ability to forgive may have nothing to do with whether the situation is resolved or all wrongs are righted. If God tells us we should forgive, that means it is something we have the ability to do regardless of the actions of others. In some cases the other person may not believe (or choose not to accept responsibility) that they even committed the offense that hurt you so deeply. This is common in cases of molestation.

This brings up a good point. I have worked with people who were molested in their younger years and now as adults request help and healing so they can get on with their lives. In some instances the perpetrator is deceased. Forgiveness is a key element in our ability to move beyond our pain. But how on earth can we possibly forgive the perpetrator if we have no ability to get restitution?  The fact is God does not make restitution a condition of our ability to forgive. The choice to begin the forgiveness journey resides in the decision you make between God and yourself.

Ephesians 5:1 tells us to “be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us….” We are called to be imitators of God. We are called to extend ourselves beyond our own understanding, beyond our own emotional hurts, and behave in ways that will edify one another and grow our marriages.

Sometimes moving beyond the pain of the past is not directly related to your relationship with your spouse. The pain can come from much further back in your life experiences. The problem with unresolved forgiveness is that it creates a root of dysfunction that infiltrates the garden of your marital relationship. In such cases it would be beneficial to secure the services of a christian counselor in your area. A great resource is http://www.aacc.net (The American Association of Christian Counselors) Remember, your obligation is to bring your BEST self to your relationship. Be blessed!

©2014 Eric A. Disney, Marriage by Design

Ready to Reactivate Your Marriage? Click on the “About the Book” tab to learn more about Marriage by Design: The Keys to Create, Cultivate and Claim the Marriage You’ve Always Wanted.

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Filed under Emotions, Forgiveness, Misconceptions, Restitution, Restoration

Why Forgiveness? (Part II): The Misconceptions of Forgiveness

letting go

You have probably asked yourself, “How many times am I supposed to forgive that knothead? It seems like they just keep repeating the same things that cause me so much pain.” Granted, that statement may well define exactly how you feel right now. Your emotions may be stretched tight, and you might not care for the answer. I present it to you with no regrets since the answer is not really mine. Look up Matthew 18:21-22. What does it tell you about forgiveness? The message is pretty clear. Peter had a set number of times in his head before he would be justified in cutting off someone he considered his enemy. Jesus tells Peter that, unlike what the spiritual leaders of the day taught, our forgiveness should be infinite. This is not to say there aren’t times when we should set boundaries to eliminate repeated intentional hurts by another.

You see, in those days the people were taught by the spiritual leaders that those who offend should be forgiven only three times. Jesus tells Peter to have a heart of perpetual forgiveness. Part of the problem people have with forgiveness lies in the messages we are often taught growing up such as, “You need to forgive and forget,” or “Forgiveness is complete when things are made right.”

Some of us believe it is necessary to forget the damage done to us once we have forgiven. We think that otherwise true forgiveness is not possible. Think of forgiveness as a journey that begins with the decision to take the trip. We must decide to move along the path of holiness toward emotional healing from the pain inflicted. Once we decide to forgive it does not mean the emotional damage will simply disappear. At times you may remember the incident that caused the pain, but that does not mean you haven’t forgiven. The remembrance just means the pain has not yet gone away. It may be necessary to give it back to God so that you do not dwell on that pain. It may take some time for your emotional healing to catch up to your spiritual decision, depending on the degree of the damage, but remind yourself that you have decided to forgive and that God will give you the strength to move forward.

In my last post I asked you to consider who you might need to forgive. What prevents you from laying it at the foot of the cross? God calls us to forgive, not because he condones or takes lightly the wrong that has been perpetrated against you, but because He knows the pain and the anguish unforgiveness creates in a person. It prevents you from being the person that God created you to be. I encourage you, take the first step; decide to forgive. Then let God walk alongside you in your journey of healing. You don’t have to do it alone.

I will conclude my posts in this series on forgiveness by focusing on moving beyond the pain…

©2014 Eric A. Disney, Marriage by Design

Ready to Reactivate Your Marriage? Click on the “About the Book” tab to learn more about Marriage by Design: The Keys to Create, Cultivate and Claim the Marriage You’ve Always Wanted.

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Filed under Beliefs, Emotions, Forgiveness, Misconceptions, Restoration

Why Forgiveness? (Part I): The Command to Forgive

forgiveness 3

My next series, “Why Forgiveness?,  is a difficult topic for many, primarily because it’s a topic we don’t often understand.  I will spend my next three posts shedding some light on this subject that cuts deep to our soul and well-being.

In the Lord’s Prayer, a model for praying given to the disciples by Jesus, we read,

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…  Matthew 6:12

This is a command to forgive those who have wronged us as we have been forgiven by God for our own transgressions.  As we go further in that same chapter, we read,

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your father will not forgive your sins.  Matthew 6:14-15

Why does Jesus make such a definitive statement?  The primary reason lies in the fact that for us to deny forgiveness to another is arrogance on our part.  It’s as if we are denying that we too are sinners and in need of God’s forgiveness every bit as much as that other person.  How much more when you withhold forgiveness from your spouse.  God views forgiveness as a necessary element within our relationships.

We can all agree about the power anger can have over an individual.  If left unchecked it resides in us like a cancer, and some in the medical professions believe it could even be a cause of cancer, but many other issues are related to unresolved anger.

We spend much of our time despising what someone has done to us.  We spend much of the day looking for other things to add fuel to that fire in order to justify the pain caused by that anger.  Anger takes a firm root and grows. It seeps into other areas of our lives as well, affecting our general disposition.  We can become a bear to be around. You see, the problem is that anger envelops our heart and we become a bitter person. It is imperative to forgive because if not we become stuck and unable to move forward in our lives. Essentially we give control to the offending person for our behavior. Do you really want to give that much control to someone who has already hurt you so deeply? Certainly not!

 Forgiveness is a way for you to acknowledge what has happened, relinquish the power of the anger and hurt, and move forward.

As you read through this brief post who came to your mind?  Who do you need to forgive?  More in my next post as we examine some of the misconceptions about forgiveness…

©2014 Eric A. Disney, Marriage by Design

Ready to Reactivate Your Marriage? Click on the “About the Book” tab to learn more about Marriage by Design: The Keys to Create, Cultivate and Claim the Marriage You’ve Always Wanted. 

 

 

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Filed under Emotions, Forgiveness, Misconceptions, Restoration, Self-Talk