Relationship Tune Up (Week 7)

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Forgiveness (pt. 3)

What Christ did for us he now want to do in us and offer through us.
Ephesians 4:32 NIV
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Colossians 3:13 NIV
13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
NIV31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
The Scripture continue to tell us.
For many of us, we don’t want to do something or engage in something until we know how it will benefit us. Before I buy in, before I commit, I want to know what is in it for me. How will it benefit me?
NIV13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And forgiveness, like most things in life that are good for our relationships and bring us health, may not come easy or natural but it does serve us well with long-lasting benefits.
Let’s recap some of those benefits that I mentioned last week.
Benefits of Forgiveness:
Forgiveness overcomes bitterness
Forgiveness helps you move out of pain
Forgiveness helps you increase your capacity to love
Forgiveness makes reconciliation possible
We all have had reason to carry offense and remain bitter about one thing or another. The greatest difference for those who go further than others in their personal growth and maturity has to do with what we are talking about today. Forgiveness. Because until we truly cancel the debt that someone else owes us, the weight of unforgiveness will only drag us down.
Most of us realize that the bitterness we are experiencing is most likely only one sided in hurtful situations. There will be plenty of other times where we will hurt others, but usually the one who gets hurt ends up in bitterness and unforgiveness all by themselves, all alone. It’s time to stop letting what someone did to us in our past ruin our present moments and redirect our emotions and bandwidth to operate in God’s fullness for our future purposes. They aren’t worth missing what God has for us. God wants to help us release that offense and lay those weights down today.
Forgiveness also helps move us out of the pain. This process allows us to get on with our lives.
Think of someone you know who is a bitter, unhappy person. Have them in mind? Is this person someone who forgives or someone who holds a grudge? Likely they carry around their pain and let it turn to hate. One of the benefits of forgiveness is that it overcomes bitterness.
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I believe I was a in high school, maybe my sophomore or junior year, I not sure which, but I remember I was on an extended fast (I believe with my family). I was keeping a journal at the time recording what I felt the Lord was impressing upon my heart. It was early on in the fast, the first week, I am only sure, when the Lord continually brought back to my memory my 4th Grade Elementary teacher, Mrs. Euriga. Mrs. Euriga wasn’t a young teacher. I had her daughter, Mrs. Waller as my 1st Grade teacher. Mrs. Euriga’s grandson, Ryan, was even in our class, which should have made my terrible behavior even more embarrassing. Somehow my behavior was fazed by that fact. I was an elementary, private school hellion, mostly just mischievous wanting the attention and approval of my classmates as a valued class clown. But I was a prime culprit in ring leading the students to be disrespectful. It was 6 or even 7 years later now, and the Lord was convicting me. I knew I needed to reach out to Mrs. Euriga and ask her for forgiveness for the way I had treated and disrespected her. I knew that if I didn’t, I would be able to fully move on towards what God was wanting to do in my life moving forward.
There are times that God will reveal to us something we need to go back and make right. In obedience, we go back, but it doesn’t demand that the outcomes are always going to be glamorous. Sometimes, they may not acknowledge any wrong doing. Other-times, they may not be at a place to forgive at all. But regardless, we need to respond with obedient hearts to take ownership of our part (DO YOUR PART) in seeking forgiveness and reconciliation.
Leave the rest to God. Again, MLK says...
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
When we take up an attitude of forgiveness, we see that our muscle memory is strengthened in our heart to protect us from offense. Now, some of the things that used to bother us so much are like water on a ducks back. It washes right off of us without any ill effects.
Forgiveness also helps move us out of the pain. This process allows us to get on with our lives.
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
This second benefit is so closely associated with the third that I want to join them together in my explanation of how they work in our lives again. Just like working our muscles makes them stronger, working through forgiveness makes our ability to love stronger.
Just like working our muscles makes them stronger, working through forgiveness makes our ability to love stronger.
You could think of that Dr. Seuss story, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Remember how the Grinch had a little heart, and then at the end of the story how his heart grew so big it broke the magnifying glass? That’s a nice picture of how we can grow in our ability to love others.
What we are talking about today is not a sign of weakness, instead when we walk in meakness and work towards forgiveness we display a strength than imitates the Divine Nature of God like fewer acts could.
We’ve talked a lot about healthy relationships being safe. It’s pretty hard to restore a relationship—to have it be safe when one partner is holding on to their perceived right to hurt the other back. Reconciliation can’t happen fully without forgiveness.
Forgiveness takes courage and strength.
Forgiveness often takes more courage and strength than trying to get back at someone. But as you may have heard, freedom isn’t free. If we want to be free of bitterness and hate then forgiveness is the path to take.
BUT, how do we ask for or walk in forgiveness.
Now let’s talk about how to forgive. The “how” of forgiveness depends on the magnitude of the offense.
Offenses come in different “sizes.” Think about the kinds of hurts in two categories—the Majors and the Minors.
The minors are the less serious mistakes and offenses.
Forgive quickly
Accept each other’s imperfections
Remember your own flaws
The “Minors” are the everyday kinds of mistakes that we make.
Great relationships forgive minor offenses quickly. In a great relationship there is a constant willingness to be forgiving of the other.
We are less judgmental and accept each other’s imperfections instead.
1 Peter 4:8 NIV
8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
If we are truly walking in love, we will not seek to magnify the faults of others. Instead, there is a right thinking that will lead to right acting in the way that we interact with one another. We will allow love to work itself out into our lives, our relationships, so that faults, even sins (it says here) are covered.
1 Corinthians 13:4–5 NIV
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love is patient.
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
This is a Christ-like love that what He has shown to us because of what He wants to do in us He can now do through us.
An atmosphere of acceptance makes the relationship a refuge. A refuge is a place of protection from danger or distress.
When an attitude of genuine forgiveness permeates the relationship, you become a refuge for each other.
One of the wonderful pictures the Scripture paints for us in relating to God is as a strong tower, a refuge we can find safety and shelter.
Day-to-day forgiveness is a conscious choice. We can Decide to cultivate compassion or we can Slide into criticism and judgment.
Reminding yourself of your own flaws and mistakes helps prevent self-righteousness. We have to remember the many times we have needed grace and forgiveness ourselves to put us in a place where we can understand how someone else could have hurts us as well.
The majors are the deeper offenses and betrayals.
Go slowly
(Forgiving too quickly can be more harmful that not forgiving at all)
Get outside support
The “Majors” are the deeper offenses and betrayals.
The “Majors” are the deeper offenses and betrayals. This might be something like losing a large amount of money gambling, or having an affair, or abuse.
Forgiveness for the Majors should not be quick.
It’s natural to want to forgive quickly and feel “normal” again. However, forgiveness for the Majors should be done at a slower pace in order to do it thoughtfully and carefully.
In fact, research shows that trying to forgive a deep hurt too quickly may actually cause more harm than not trying at all.
Why might trying to forgive too quickly turn out to be harmful? Why do you think that might be?
We don’t know for sure why forgiving too quickly is harmful, but we think it’s like putting a band-aid on a wound without cleaning it out first. What happens if we do that? It gets infected. It appears that if we don’t take the time to really work through the pain before forgiving, then healing doesn’t happen.
Forgiving a major is very difficult. Finding healthy outside support is a good idea.
Forgiving a major is very difficult. Not impossible by any means, and many, many relationships survive a major offense. But it is difficult and finding healthy outside support is a good idea.
How do we ask for forgiveness?
Asking for forgiveness...
Shows acceptance of responsibility for the offense
Confirms the pain of the offended
May need to be asked for many times
Keys for the offender in asking for forgiveness. If you want to help your partner forgive you when you do something wrong:
-Take responsibility. (Hardest part for me, but once I cross this bridge I am really able to have a meaningful connection with the other person that oftentimes is stronger than it was before the offensive.)
-Apologize. It is validating and it takes humility to do well.
If applicable, give Positive Commitment to Change Recurrent Patterns or attitudes that give offense.
-Look for ways to validate the feelings and hurt of the one offended.
This includes taking action to show serious determination to change, for example, taking part in programs that increase accountability for problem behaviors. Give your partner space and time to work it through. Forgiveness for something really painful or hurtful cannot be rushed.
Step 1: Begin
Don’t say, “I forgive you”
Say, “I’m working towards forgiving you”
Forgiving Major offenses is a process or a series of actions. It is not just a one-time event.
As with any process, we start at the beginning.
As with any process, we start at the beginning.
Just like losing weight, it is going to take time to be done right.
It is sort of like losing weight. Let’s say someone decides they want to lose 15 pounds. They can’t just say, “Okay, I lose 15 pounds.” You have to exercise and eat right over a period of time.
Forgiveness is the same way. A lot of times people will say, “I forgive you,” which suggests that the process is over. Really, it is better to be clear that we are at the beginning of the process, and say, “I am working toward forgiving you.”
It’s at the end of the process when we can say, “I’ve lost 15 pounds,” or we can say, “I forgive you.” Or “I have forgiven you.”
Step 2: Fight Bitterness
Talk back to negative thoughts
Remind yourself that your relationship is more than this event
Remind yourself of times you needed forgiveness
Develop compassion for the offender
When we’ve been seriously hurt, bitterness is a real danger.
Someone once said that being hurt is like being bitten by a poisonous snake. The bite IS painful. However the real danger is in the poison. If we don’t neutralize that poison, it will course through our veins, and eventually damage the heart.
Bitterness is the poison that must be neutralized or it can take hold and damage our ability to be loving and compassionate towards others. It can cause “hard-heartedness.”
Negative Interpretation is an easy trap to fall into when working through forgiveness.
When feeling hurt, we may be particularly susceptible to Negative Interpretations. Be prepared to talk back to thoughts such as, “My partner didn’t think I deserved to be treated better.”
It is natural for there to be two views of the incident. Try to understand and respect each other’s view. Hurt and pain will be most salient for the victim. Extenuating circumstances will be the most salient for the offender.
Working towards understanding the offender’s view and even developing compassion are the best weapons against bitterness.
In order to combat Negative Interpretations and bitterness, it may be helpful to ask yourself, “What was the other person feeling and what are they feeling now?”
Is there something about their background that would help me understand better?
When feeling hurt, it is easy to see only the hurtful behavior and overlook other aspects of the partner. It is important to look beyond the hurtful behavior and see your partner as a whole person.
Step 3: Grieve
Work through the painful feelings.
Be patient. Take all the time you need.
Grief is the active process of working through painful feelings.
As we said earlier, grief is the active process of working through painful feelings associated with losses in ways that promote healing of the soul.
The second stage in forgiving involves fully exploring the pain. What are some things we can do to help us grieve?
Write in a diary, talk with a friend, and talk with the offender as desired
Use the Speaker Listener Technique
Expect to have discussions many, many times.
Be patient. Take all the time you need.
Forgiveness takes time and work.
Forgiveness often takes many discussions between partners and a lot of work by each person individually over a long period of time. The offended chooses to work toward forgiving—to do what is in his or her power to move on down that path of letting go. That means:
-Working toward putting the issue in the past
-Committing to not try to get even
-Trying not to give in to a desire to hold the other in a “one down” position
-Resisting bringing up what’s happened in moments of anger or frustration
Step 4: Move Forward
Step 4: Move Forward
Step 4: Move Forward
Step 4: Move Forward
It is two steps forwards, one step back
“It is ok to look back from time to time, but don’t stare!”
Watch out for unrealistic expectations.
Working through the pain in order to forgive a Major is a worthwhile process.
But as we’ve said, it is a tough road.
We can make it even more difficult if we expect to feel like we’re moving forward all the time. It doesn’t tend to work that way.
Forgiveness is a “two steps forward, one step back” kind of deal.
We can be reminded of our wounds and thereby increase our grief at times. Expect the intensity of these feelings to continue to come and go, with the intensity and frequency to lessen over time.
If the Event comes up and triggers hurtful arguments, handle them as skillfully as you can. Even highly motivated partners will stumble. Remind yourselves that both of you are human—then keep moving forward.
Move Forward
I want to share a few signs that earmark that you are not walking in the right direction with Forgiveness:
Sudden outburst of anger
We noted a recent comic that said: “It’s okay to look back from time to time, but don’t stare!”
Prone to being petty or impulsive
Desperate for others to know how you feel
Can’t take responsibility for how you feel
Keep a list of offenses
Replay the scene over and over
You gossip about the person who hurt you
You continue to dwell on the attention you receive from being the victim of someone else’s hurt
God has called us to so much more than this. He has called us to walk in victory with Him, to walk in forgiveness and grace with Him. He wants to experience complete freedom, not allowing a person, a lie of the devil, or anything in between to keep us from His fullness in our lives.
What God has done for us He wants to do in us and through us.
He has called us to be ambassadors of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:14–21 NIV
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 cor 5:14-
Ministers of Reconciliation
This is one of the highest callings that God has given to each and every one of us. This isn’t something reserved for the pastor or the evangelist or someone we think better trained. No, this is the call for all who have been reconciled to God, to share the goodness of the One who has reconciled them.
Matthew 5:16 NIV
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Our deeds are to point others to the forgiving power of Christ. That they might see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.
Remember what I said at the beginning that what God has done for us He also wants to do in us (that we may have reconciliation and peace with Him) but also wants to do this work through us.
Matthew 18:21–35 NIV
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
He has called us to this ministry of reconciliation
Matthew 18:
God wants us to know the freedom for which He has set us free, and in order to do that forgiveness must become part of our relationships both vertically as well as horizontally, with both God our Father in heaven as well as with those we walk in life with here on earth.
Quote Paul
God has been gracious to us.
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