Forgiveness is NOT a New Concept

Seems to me I’m hearing a lot about the importance of forgiveness these days.  Nothing wrong with that.  God knows we need to get hold of the concept, practice it, teach it to our children.  But it’s being talked about as if no one ever realized until now just how important it is, and that’s amazing to me.

Forgiveness is as old as Adam and Eve and their first sin against God. He forgave them–but there were consequences.  There always are consequences.

I’m afraid we didn’t do a stellar job of teaching our own kids how to forgive and accept forgiveness, and neither did my parents.  I had to learn it the hard way, after I was all grown up and should have been past the anger and bitterness that accompanies an unforgiving spirit.  Someone has said that withholding forgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the person who hurt you will die.

There is a ton of bitterness that walks into my office.  People are so hurt, so angry, so bitter.  They are locked in a prison of their own making because, even when they think they have forgiven, they have failed to go past the words “I forgive you,” not making application of those words in their attitudes, actions, and relationships. They often do not understand that failing to truly forgive one person will spill over into all their other relationships like radioactive fallout, slowly eating away at their lives until they find themselves alone and lonely, and not understanding why.

That is when the 100% words come into play. “No one understands me. Everyone is against me. I always get the shaft. I never seem to come out on top. ”

In Ephesians 4:32, Paul wrote, “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you.”Image result for Ephesians 4:32

I had to learn that forgiveness was really between God and me, and not necessarily between me and the person(s) who hurt me.  Often, the person against whom we hold bitterness is blithely unaware–or chooses to be unaware–of the pain we suffer.  Confronting the offender is often impossible because he/she is already dead; or the distance is too great.  Perhaps you really don’t want the person in your life, and that’s okay as long as there is very little chance of you ever being together in the same place at the same time.  You don’t have to confront someone face-to-face in order to forgive him. Just understand that as long as you withhold forgiveness, that person is still controlling your emotions.  It simply doesn’t make sense to allow that to continue.

Forgiveness is a process, not an event.  You may finally come to a place of brokenness before God, and you choose to release the offender from the debt. You choose to give up your right to demand justice. You are relieved, released, and rejoicing.  And then, WHAM!  out of nowhere, a memory comes flooding back along with all the emotions, and you’re floundering, drowning in discouragement because you thought you had settled it.

That’s when you have to forgive again, seventy times seven, as long as it takes.  What I have learned is that the more often you learn to quickly forgive again, as time goes on, you will need to forgive less and less because you are practicing forgiveness. After a while, you get pretty good at it.  The painful memories come less frequently, and when they do arise like snakes from under a rock, you kill them before they have a chance to poison you again.

Does forgiving someone mean that he gets away with whatever he did?  Does it mean you have to continue to tolerate abuse?  No, and no. The offender will answer to God unless he seeks forgiveness.  As for tolerating further mistreatment, no, of course not. Abuse is never acceptable.  We all need to establish boundaries that, if crossed, will result in the loss of an active relationship. These boundaries need to be made clear to the person who has invaded your space before, treating you with condescension or cruelty. No one has to accept that.

We do have to accept, however, that some people seem to just be incapable of changing their behaviors, ignoring your boundaries. They are so full of themselves that they cannot–will not–acknowledge that you have a right to set your own boundaries.

You don’t have to accommodate their obtuse arrogance. Stay away. There are toxic people who will drip poison into your heart and mind if they get anywhere near you, and then try to convince you that it’s all your fault. All we can do with those poor folks is pray for them, and stay away from them. Kindly. Not returning spite for spite.

So, there now.  I’ve added–once again–my voice to the many others out there who are trying to embrace, practice, and teach forgiveness as well as seeking forgiveness from those they themselves have hurt.

Remember that we are to be becoming Christlike. He is the best forgiver in the history of the world.

 

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A Friday Counseling Session

I’m pretty sure we’ve talked about these two issues before, but it bears repeating. We hear so much untruth over the airwaves, from cyberspace, in self-help books, on TV, and even in our college classrooms these days that it’s easy for us to lose sight of simple truth.

Do you understand that the Snowflake Generation is so weak and helpless because they are completely focused on SELF and FEELINGS?

The other day, I was talking with a lovely young woman who seems to bear the weight of the world on her shoulders.  She has a sorry history, mostly of her own making, and she needs forgiveness.  She needs to understand a couple of important things that the philosophy of self-forgiveness and self-love have completely obscured.

Self-forgiveness. “Well, I know God has forgiven me, BUT  I just can’t forgive myself.”

This is a huge lie, straight from the father of lies.  It is  effective because, as always, Satan wraps his lies in a thin tissue of truth.  Look at it carefully, though. There’s a glaring error.

Yes, God has forgiven me.   However, self-forgiveness is never, ever mentioned in God’s Word. It is a lie and one that has kept people enslaved in their misery over the centuries. Think about it logically.  Think about it biblically.

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If you know God has forgiven you, then what more do you need?  is His forgiveness not enough?  Does it fall short?  Can YOU improve on what God has done?  The Bible says, in I John 1:9, that if we confess (agree with God) our sin, He is faithful and just (dependable and fair) to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse (purify) us from ALL  unrighteousness!

To believe you must forgive yourself is to believe that your power is greater than God’s; that forgiveness is not complete, not even by God, until you have forgiven yourself!  How full of pride we are!  No, self-forgiveness is not what you need.  What you need is to believe that God’s forgiveness is complete; what you need is to pray sincerely and ask Him to help you KNOW that you are forgiven, and to keep Satan from whispering his nasty lies in your ear. Rather than being burdened with the need for self-forgiveness, you need to rejoice, dance and sing, praise God with all your heart, that His forgiveness is sufficient and that you are free of the sin that tangled you up and kept you captive.

Here’s the next lie:  “You can’t love others until you love yourself.”  Who is at the center of that nonsense?  YOU.  Self.  Primary person is self. If that’s your focus, you’re going to become a very difficult person for others to love.

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When I was a little girl, I learned a song. The words were, “Jesus, and Others, and You, what a wonderful way to spell JOY” (the lyrics will show in the second verse of the video)

 

Jesus said,  in Matt. 22:36-40, that the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then He said that the second greatest commandment is to love others as we love ourselves.

What is implicit in that second commandment?  Look at it carefully.  What does Jesus know about us? “Love others  as we love ourselves.”  He knows that it is in our sinful, fallen nature to love ourselves above all else.

Have you ever had a baby?  Then surely, you understand self-love. That adorable precious little infant fusses and cries and sometimes screams his little head off, for what?  So someone else can be cleaned, cuddled, and fed?  Of course not.  All he knows is his own needs and wants, and he demands them regularly. We never lose that tendency to take care of our own needs.  We eat, we groom ourselves, we give in to our desires through addictions, self-indulgence, and self-love.  We take care of ourselves. We love ourselves.  A child doesn’t need to be taught self-love.  He doesn’t need to be taught to say “Mine!”  It comes hard-wired in his little brain. It’s true that as we grow up, we learn (I hope) to take pleasure in doing for others, in caring for others. But the sad truth is that we also get pleasure from giving to others. Self is always lurking there, saying “What about ME?”

So Jesus, because He is God, knows that we love ourselves and that we don’t have to learn to do so.  And He tells us that second only to loving God is our  need to learn to love others in the same way we love ourselves.

Turn your focus outward, not inward. Look at the needs of others, not your own sense of unworthiness (which, by the way, Satan fosters and feeds), and learn to be wise about the psychobabble self-help stuff that’s out there.  Measure it against God’s Word.  Look for the truth, and you will be relieved of the burden of self-forgiveness and self-love.

Realize that the first word in both those lies is SELF.

Broken

I see a lot of brokenness in my work. People whose health is broken, or who have a child whose health is broken and consuming all the family’s finances and time. Too often, marriages don’t survive the extreme ill health of a child, and the siblings are left feeling cut adrift and unloved.

Spiritual brokenness is also a difficult thing. When someone loses faith and trust in God, it can destroy his own life as well as the lives of those who love him. Such brokenness can end in complete despair, and spiral into self-harm including drugs, alcohol, promiscuous sex, divorce, and estrangement from parents, siblings, and children.

What causes broken relationships? How does this happen?

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Jesus is more than brokenness

If  I knew all the different answers to that question, I suppose I could also come up with some workable solutions. Sometimes, you just can’t fix it.

I’m thinking of the broken relationships is the biblical family of Abraham and Sarah. Because Sarah was impatient for God’s promise of a  son, she offered her maid to her husband for him to conceive a child. Not God’s plan, and that’s usually the beginning of a very poor outcome. Hagar had Ishmael, but he was not the son of the promise God had made to Sarah and Abraham.  Ishmael and his mother ran away to the desert, and he became the father of the Arabian people, who have been at war with the descendants of Isaac, Sarah and Abraham’s son and the father of the Israeli people, ever since.

Who was at fault?  Sarah, for trying to “help” God. Abraham, for agreeing to beget a child with Hagar. What about Hagar?  Well, as I see it, she was pretty helpless in the situation; a slave, having no real power over her own life. Ishmael bears some blame, having grown up full of bitterness against his father Abraham, and believing he was the child of the promise. But it does very little good to go back and try to lay blame at this point. The hatred and warfare will be resolved only when Jesus comes back to earth as Messiah.

As with all brokenness, the hurting and the pain can be resolved only through the power of the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness, release of the desire for vengeance, repentance for one’s own part in the problem, seeking the will of God in all things–these are the answers to brokenness, and the path to healing.

But what if the people/person who hurt you so deeply are not receptive to healing?  Yes, that happens, and it’s very sad.  One can seek peace with God, no matter what other people may say or do, and live in the knowledge that God never fails us, leaves us, or turns His back on us.

Psalm 119: 165, “Great peace have they which love Thy law; and nothing shall offend them.”

 

 

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 

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?