HOW Often?

(This question came on my Facebook newsfeed this morning. Since I took some time to answer it, I thought it might be a helpful thing to post here this morning.  I’ve addressed the topic of forgiveness more than once on this blog, but it bears repeating. 

This is just scratching the surface. It is by no means THE definitive answer; rather, I’d like to think of it as something to get you started in doing your own Bible search on the topic. )

 I’d love to know what your thoughts are on forgetting. I think that often we put barriers up that were not previously there as a standing stone that we were wronged, and we will never let it happen again.

Linda Kreger
Linda Kreger For starters, the first person who ever said, “Forgive and forget” didn’t have the first clue about human nature. We do not have the infinite ability to forget, as God does. When He forgives, He drops our sin into the sea of his forgetfulness, and remembers it no more. 
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I wish I could do that. Unfortunately, I am finite in every regard, including the ability to forget when I have been wronged. For us, the key is in realizing that forgiving is a process, not an event. Jesus told Peter that we need to forgive “seventy times seven.” In other words, we need to forgive to infinity and beyond, to quote Buzz Lightyear  The first time I forgive, especially when the wrong has been grievous, ongoing, perhaps is still happening, is the beginning of a long process of choosing over and over to forgive again. What I have learned is that Satan is very busy reminding me of the offenses, and I have to recognize his voice and shut him down; then I have to pray, asking God to help me keep on forgiving. Another thing I have learned is that in the beginning of the process, this could happen several time in a day or a week. As time goes by, the forgiveness seems to seep into my thinking and emotions so that Satan isn’t very successful in reminding me of it.

It is important to understand that we forgive not for the sake of the offender, but for our own release from the prison of anger and bitterness. Sometimes the person we need to forgive is already dead, or has no idea of the hurt, anger and bitterness we hold because their sin has never bothered them. To approach a person like that and tell him you have forgiven him may get you a big horselaugh. Not worth it.

You do not have to continue to be hurt when you have forgiven. Women who have forgiven abusive husbands do not have to continue to accept the abuse. That’s a whole other conversation. Children who have forgiven abusive parents, siblings who have forgiven abusive sibling—there is no requirement that we need to stick around and let them continue hurting us. There are boundaries to be drawn, consequences to be established and kept, so that the cycle of abuse is broken.

I think I can safely say that 80% or more of the people I see for depression/anxiety are people who have never learned how to deal with mistreatment, real or perceived. They have never understood that “forgive and forget” is not in the Bible; but they also have not learned that to repeat the offense over and over in conversation and/or memory is to keep it alive. Hurt and anger turn to self-pity, then to bitterness, and finally to depression.

This is just scratching the surface. It’s a huge topic, one I’ve had to learn to deal with in my own life. I’ve developed handouts for my clients; I’ve spoken about it in conferences and seminars. As long as we live on this earth, we’re going to be experiencing hurt, offense, anger, bitterness, and depression. The only antidote is to learn true forgiveness, and to understand that it is often very hard work. Where we love deeply, forgiveness can be very difficult.

I also believe that when a person offends over and over, across time, it is very possible to stop loving that person, The offender often seems to think that any behavior of his is excused because he himself was hurt. And it can become a generational cycle. Very sad, often tragic. And again, a whole other conversation 

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Happy New Year!

I have nothing profound to say today 🙂  Busy getting ready for my daughter’s family to spend the afternoon and have supper with us.

I do want to invite you to know my Savior, if you haven’t already met Him.  Jesus wants nothing more than for all to come to Him for salvation. If you aren’t sure you’re on your way to heaven, please message me and I’ll be more than happy to share the way to heaven with you.  Nothing would be a better start for the New Year than to know Jesus Christ.

Here is the simple way to salvation:

  1.  Romans 3:10 and 3:23 tell us that all are sinners, coming short of the mark of perfection.
  2. Romans 5:8 tells us that sin came into the world through Adam, and that death, because of sin, has passed upon all men.
  3. Romans 6:23 confirms that what we earn for sin is eternal separation from God in hell; but that His gift to us is eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  4. Romans 10: 9-10 tells us that if we say we believe in Jesus, and actually do believe in our hearts,  that we are saved.
  5. Romans 10:13 says that whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.  No conditions, no take-backs.

It would be my joy to talk more with you about all of this. I’m making this an open invitation for you to contact me if you want to know how you can experience forgiveness and salvation.

What could be better than to start the new year in a right relationship with God?

 

Friday Counseling Issues: When it Goes Well

Another topic suggestion from Kathleen Duncan:  What has been the most encouraging outcome you have seen in one of your cases? Pick a case you thought might never get better, but they did! What made the difference?
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After  nearly 14 years in the counseling field, that’s a tough one. Since the newest memories are the freshest, I think I’ll tell you about a couple I just started seeing about a month ago.  We’ll call them  Dan and Fran.

This is funny if you’re not fighting about who does what chores, or if, for instance, the husband objects to doing any houehold chores!
This is a fairly young couple, both working at responsible jobs although not being paid as much as they’d like.  I’m not going to go into detail about their issues.  Let me just say that it was clear they had developed a habit of talking AT each other instead of WITH each other; that they had persistent habits in their efforts of communication that I have often referred to as “the crazy dance.”  It’s as if someone had choreographed their statements and responses, and they had learned the routine so well that they just didn’t know how to break it.
They’d been together for a long time, since high school.  No children.  Dogs they adore. A house that needs a LOT of work that they can’t always do without some professional help. He’s more laid-back; she’s more uptight. She’s ordered, he’s catch-as-catch can.  In terms of personality, you have a strong choleric/melancholy (Fran) married to a strong sanguine/choleric (Dan).  That’s a strong leader type, detail-oriented perfectionist with a happy, people-oriented  leader who isn’t quite as strong as she is.  He has no problem with missing a dish or two when he has kitchen duty. It drives her crazy when he doesn’t do the whole job.
Are any of you recognizing yourselves?  Most of us have this type of conflict to some degree.
To complicate matters, she was struggling with some pretty severe depression. She had medication, but wasn’t faithfully taking it. So there were all the difficulties associated with depression.
Here’s what we did:
1.  Take your meds.  You won’t sleep well or be able to function well until the fog lifts off your brain. Promise?  Yes?  Good. (She’s following through, and the difference is visible)
2.  I introduced them to one of my favorite communication techniques, called Active Listening, or Speaker/Listener.  You can learn about it here, or from hundreds of other sites if you just search “active listening.”
3.  We discussed their nonexistent sex life, and I suggested they have dates with the ultimate goal of intimacy. If you schedule it, you will think about it ahead of time.  It’s one of the best aphrodisiacs I know. (And they have to kick the dogs off the bed and out of the bedroom!  Good grief!)
I shared with them  that what they are experiencing is SO normal! I got them laughing with my own stories of fussing over different ways of folding the towels on putting the toilet paper on the spindle. How silly is it to fight over these things?  They are not the hills you want to die on! They are so insignificant that the best way to deal with them is to laugh.
There are some basic principles I always emphasize in marital counseling:
1. If either partner HAS to win ALL the time, the marriage is doomed.  No one wants to be the one who HAS to lose.
2. You don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to.
3. Not every disagreement needs to turn into an argument/fight.  Sometimes, you can agree to disagree as long as neither partner is hurt by doing so.
4. You need to learn/develop the gift of forgiveness; you need to be able both to give it and receive it.
5. Humility goes a long way toward smoothing a rocky path.
6. Humor is a great aphrodisiac.
7. How you disagree isn’t as important as how you make up afterward. Mercy, kindness, forgiveness, and letting go are far more important than winning.
Obviously, we’re just scratching the surface here.  I could write on this topic for a long time.
One thing I don’t want to leave out, though, is spirituality.  I am a Christian, and my counseling is always strongly based on biblical principles and values. If the couple I’m working with share those beliefs, then of course we weave God’s Word throughout the whole process (One thing I never do, though, is start by preaching “wives, submit. . . .”  There’s a right time and a wrong time for that. Something else I could spend a lot of time writing about.) The truth is that God created male and female, and He ordained marriage.  He loves it.  He told us how to do it.  When I can use the Word, the counseling process is a joy. If I’m dealing with someone who objects to “religion” in their counseling, I can still teach biblically sound behaviors and ways of thinking.
This couple is doing very well.  They like Active Listening, which, when properly used, eliminates anger, debate, accusation and pain.  They’re learning to separate the important from the unimportant. They laugh a lot in my office, which is a total delight to me.
Believe me, it’s not always like that. Not at all. And those times, those couples, are enough to break my heart.

Cleaning. Blech.

Renovation requires a lot of cleaning up. We won’t really tackle the dust until the sanding is done, but we’re constantly sweeping, wiping, trying to keep the dust tolerable.  My major allergies are house dust, mold, and mildew.  Not a good combo here in PA where it’s often humid, summer or winter.

Today, home from church and lunched and changed into work clothes, I decided to replace the stuff I keep under the kitchen sink. Our new sink will be coming with the new counterop, sometime in the near future, please.  In the meantime, I’m thankful to have hot and cold running water again.  The new sink base is ready to fill up, so I decided to be a good housewife and wipe down all the jugs, bottles and spraybottles of supplies one typically keeps under the sink.

Ick.

Really ick. When I was taking this stuff out, I knew it was a little dusty. I was in a hurry, so didn’t pay much attention. Putting it back, though, I find I’m giving everything a hot soapy bath. Even things in cardboard containers, like SOS pads.  I’m also promising myself I’ll not let it get this bad again.

We’ll see.

So anyway, I’m thinking about all the stuff I keep in my own personal, inner “kitchen sink.” You know, the little sins that  don’t get a whole lot of attention until it’s time to do an all-out revival-type “search me, O God, and try my heart” kind of cleaning.  Bad attitudes about things like the weather.

May I ask, please, how it has EVER changed the weather for anyone to have a bad attitude about it?

Bad attitudes about work, for which I should be nothing but thankful. Bad attitudes about certain people who, God bless them, just don’t seem to understand some things. Bad attitudes about the news. Well, do you think maybe God will give me a pass on that one right now?  Really.

Bad attitudes about my dearly beloved, who is the best man in the whole wide world for me. No one else would have tolerated all my bad attitudes all these years 🙂

Come on, you know what I mean. The sponge that gets tossed in a little holder under the sink but that you didn’t rinse out very well?  After a while, it starts to stink.  So do our “little sins,” The little foxes that spoil the vines (Song of Solomon 2:15).

So while I’m wiping down, scrubbing, drying and replacing, I’m wondering how often God has to do that in my heart, and does He ever get weary of doing the same task over and over and over?

Or does He just love me?

Final Post on Forgiveness

Well, nothing is final, really.  But for now, this will be the last in this series.

Forgiveness is a layered, complicated subject because it is so closely enmeshed with our beliefs from childhood, with what we saw modeled (or not) as we were growing up. Some people apologize very easily and receive forgiveness with grace.  Others of us find it difficult to acknowledge when we have been complete jerks, and difficult to either accept or offer complete forgiveness.  There is so much pride interwoven into the whole process.

Someone asked about what to do when you don’t really want to confront the offender, or if you feel certain that person will not respond well. It seems I may have already addressed this, but maybe not.

Luke 17:3-4 does teach us to “rebuke” the offender, and I believe that when we can, we should.  Sometimes the person has died, and it is no longer possible to confront him to his face. That is when the forgiveness is between you and God, and that settles it. When you are afraid, or reluctant, to face  your offender because you are sure he won’t care, there is still the necessity to do so, and if he surprises you and repents, then forgiveness is given.

But what if he doesn’t?  Well, we spent a lot of time on this one, and I even got a good discussion going on my Facebook page. There is also a very good article here that I think answers that question very well. For me, the bottom line here is being right with God.  Holding offence in your heart, refusing to forgive when the offender has not repented, is like the old analogy of drinking poison in hopes that the other person will be harmed by your doing so.  Not much sense in that.

If you have further questions or comments, I will be glad to address them as such. Just please keep in mind that I will not publish comments that are abusive, divisive, unkind, or that use foul language. I try to keep things civil here on my blog.

Thank you for the input you have given on this topic. I love your participation.

Counseling Issues: Self-forgiveness

“I know God has forgiven me, BUT  I just can’t forgive myself!”

I hear this one all the time, and it usually takes only one session with a client to help dispel this false concept that we must forgive ourselves before we can be truly free of whatever wrong we have done. Here is what I share with my clients:

There is no scriptural support whatsoever for the idea of self-forgiveness.  You won’t find it anywhere.

But—how can I stop feeling so guilty?  Don’t I need to forgive myself for what I’ve done?

No,  As I just pointed out, self-forgiveness is not in God’s Word.  So here’s the process.

First, we have to acknowledge our sin.  If we have hurt, offended, wronged someone else, we need to go to that person, if possible, and confess what we have done. We can’t say, “IF I hurt you, then I’m sorry.” That puts the responsibility right back on the person we offended. We must SAY the wrong we did, SAY we are truly sorry, and ASK the person for forgiveness.  This is a humbling and cleansing process, when done in sincerity.  Usually, the offended person will agree to forgive.  Don’t let him get away with “Oh, it’s ok, don’t worry about it.”  No, that’s not good enough. Tell him, “I need to hear you say you forgive me.”

If you have not already gone to the Lord about the issue, now is the time. “Father, I sinned against my friend.  I hurt her with my words.”  This is confession. to confess is to agree with God, to say you were wrong. Then, “I confessed my wrong to my friend, and she forgave me.  Lord, please forgive me for what I did, and thank You for always forgiving me when I sin.”

You will not hear Him say, “I forgive you,” except through the Word. I John 1:9 says that if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  So if your confession is from the heart, if your repentance is true, then you are forgiven by the only One Who has the absolute authority over sin. You are cleansed from that sin, free of it, forgiven.

Then why do I still feel so bad?  Why does the memory surface every now and then?  Don’t I need to forgive myself?

You feel bad because you are sorry, remorseful, perhaps ashamed, regretful.  Remember that Satan is the accuser of the brethren, accusing us before God day and night (Rev. 12:10).  He is the source of this ongoing sense of guilt and shame over past, confessed and forgiven sin. When these emotions surface, you go back to God and you say, “Lord, I KNOW You have forgiven me!  Please help to know right now that I am forgiven, and help me to resist Satan’s temptation to fall into misery over what YOU have erased.”

Here’s the thing. God is the ultimate authority over everything, including my sin. He is the only One Who has the power to completely forgive me. To believe that even though He has forgiven me, I still need to forgive myself, is to believe that His forgiveness is not effective or complete until I myself have added my own forgiveness to His.

In other words, we are saying that His forgiveness isn’t quite enough.  Not quite sufficient.  My own forgiveness is needed to make it complete.

II Corinthians 12:9  tells me that His grace is sufficient. It is enough!  Grace that is greater than ALL  my sin.

Forgiveness: Process vs. Event

When God forgives us, that is an event.  Isaiah 43:25 says, “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”  And yes, I know this verse was spoken in context to the nation of Israel, and that God was referring to their national sin of rejecting Him. There are plenty of Old Testament principles that are completely valid for us today, and this is one of them. When God forgives, it is permanent. Because He is God, He has the infinite ability to forget.  It is only God Who is able to “forgive and forget.” We finite humans are stuck with a memory for hurts and offences that pop into our minds at random times to burden us with anger, hurt and resentment all over again.

So, for us, forgiveness is a process rather than an event. The first time we forgive someone is exactly that: The first time. Especially if the offense was grievous, or ongoing, we WILL have memories that crop up at the most unexpected times. Sometimes it will be a memory of something we ourselves did for which we feel shame or remorse. That, too, needs to be addressed.

If you remember something hurtful done to you that you have already forgiven, you must go ahead and forgive it again, releasing the anger and the hurt and moving on. Do not allow Satan to take up space in your head over something you’ve already given to the Lord. You can pray, “Father, I’ve already forgiven that. Please help me to forgive it again, and to let it go. Fill my mind with right thinking.  I’m claiming Phil. 4:8 right now, and thank you, Lord.”

If you remember something you did, the process is the same IF you have already made the situation as right as you are able, confessing your sin to God and, if possible, to the person you offended, seeking forgiveness.  If you haven’t done that, you need to. Sometimes the other person involved is already dead, and you cannot make amends. You can still talk to the Lord, like this: “Father, I know You have already forgiven me for that.  I’m asking You now to help me KNOW in my heart and mind that I am forgiven, and please give me the peace that passes understanding.”

Satan is a thief. He will find your weakest spot and keep drilling at it until he has found entry into your mind. You can’t always stop him from sneaking in, but you don’t have to invite him to stay, and you don’t have to feed him.  Kick him to the curb.  He is trying to steal your joy, your peace.  He is doing his best to crash your walk with God and bring you to a place of hurt, anger, and depression.

Next week:  Self-forgiveness.