Hi Friends,

I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I was reading over some of my New Year’s Resolutions from January this morning and remembered the word that I chose to orient my year. It was Balance. Need I say more? I’m not doing such a good job. I work too hard and play and rest too little. It’s time to make some changes. Pray for me when you think of me so that I may create better balance.

Today’s Question: I know God’s word tells us to forgive, but how do you do it? I try but I still feel angry and bad thoughts come into my head. How do I know when I’ve let it go?

Answer: Forgiveness is a decision not a feeling. It’s a choice so the process starts there. You must decide in your heart to work toward forgiving those who have hurt you or sinned against you.

Jesus tells us to forgive one another, and that alone is a good enough reason to do it, but forgiveness is a good thing to do even for those who don’t know Jesus or believe in him. Long before modern medicine studied the physiological effects of chronic anger, resentment, and bitterness on the body, God knew that harboring these toxic emotions could not only damage our health but also ruin our lives. He warns us to get rid of them promptly.

God knows sin destroys us. It is not the sin that is committed against us that wields the fatal blow. Rather, it is our own sinful reaction to the things that have happened to us. Unresolved anger often turns to depression, self-pity, bitterness, and resentment, and these things poison our body and our soul. A person finds healing through the process of forgiveness, both receiving forgiveness and extending forgiveness. That is why God is so insistent that we forgive. He doesn’t want sin to ruin our lives.

Please don’t misunderstand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness isn’t excusing the offender or minimizing their offense. Forgiveness is your decision to cancel the debt they rightfully owe you. Many protest here and become stuck because they are rightly deserving of justice or an apology or some restitution for the offenses done to them. They don’t want to cancel the debt owed because it feels so unfair to them. Yet if they are waiting for the person to repent or apologize or show remorse, they may wait a very long time.

In the Old Testament story, Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him into slavery. Joseph’s obedience freed him to be used by God in Egypt. But Joseph never initiated reconciliation with his betrayers—nor did he expose himself to them when he first saw them again. Why? He did not trust them. He was kind and gracious to them because he forgave them, but he tested them to see if they had repented and changed their jealous and self-centered ways. Joseph invited them back into relationship with him after they passed the test (see Genesis 42–46). Joseph’s forgiveness and his brothers’ repentance were both necessary to bring reconciliation and restoration to their relationship.

For some of you, you may never see repentance from the person who hurt you. Sandy lived stuck in her past, angry that her husband left her for a younger woman. She refused to give up her anger after what he did to her. However, Sandy’s anger and lack of forgiveness wasn’t hurting Sandy’s ex-husband. He lived selfishly just as he always did. It was Sandy’s life that was hurt by her angry and bitter heart. Finally forgiving her ex released Sandy from those toxic emotions. Her former husband will still have to give an account for what he did to Sandy, only it will be God, not Sandy who will judge him.

In my own life, forgiveness usually comes in steps and cycles. It is not a one-time, over-and-done-with event. First, I decide to forgive, exercising my will. Then I begin the process of letting go, releasing the anger, the hurt, and my desire to retaliate. I appeal to God for justice and turn the situation over to him. I also ask him to help me see my offender and myself differently. This is very helpful. When God shows me my own sinful nature and the things I am capable of doing, then I can have some genuine compassion on my offender because, but for God’s grace, I may have done the same thing. I no longer want to see my offender only as someone who did something wrong, but also as someone who has done some things right. I no longer want to see him or her as a victimizer, but as a person with weaknesses of character and a sinful heart, just like me.

When hurtful memories surface and I’m tempted to dwell on the wrongs done to me, I continue this process and keep at it until the negative emotions and thoughts are no longer in the front of my mind. They are fading and moving to the past, right where they belong.

To practice forgiveness, walk regularly through these four steps: Decide—Begin—Continue—Keep at it. As we do this, we are changing. We are no longer defining ourselves by what has happened to us, but we are instead seeing ourselves by what God is doing in us. Our healing becomes a powerful conduit for God’s love and grace to flow to others, and we can honestly say what Satan meant for evil, God is using for good.

Friends – share with us ways you have learned to forgive.

 

42 Comments

  1. Gina on May 13, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    The best place I learned how to process forgiveness step-by-step was from Chapter 10 of the book “Mending the Soul” by Steven R. Tracy! This book is relevant for anyone who has been abused in any way.

    Mr. Tracy gives an amazingly thorough and Biblical explanation of forgiveness. He gives examples of “harmful models of forgiveness” and separates the topic Biblically into three categories: judicial, psychological, and relational. He then gives 5 specific steps toward forgiving someone. I believe his teachings coincide beautifully with Leslie’s. I felt major burdens lifted from me after reading this.

    • Leslie Vernick on May 13, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      Thanks Gina. Mending the Soul is excellent. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • Whit on May 16, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      I agree. Steven Tracy’s writing and teaching about forgiveness is the best I have read, and Leslie makes some of the same key points here. As a pastor and therapist I highly recommend his work as well as Leslie’s. Thanks for writing about this, Leslie.

  2. Dora Mat on May 13, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    I didn’t realize till recently that I was dealing with unforgiveness. I was really hurt after meeting a woman at a retreat and we quickly became friends. I told her I had been hurt by other friends before but she asked me to be her BFF. Stupidly I said yes (Lesson learned it should take years for a friendship to grow to BFF I hear), I really loved this friend and enjoyed the fellowship I had with her.

    I started feeling fear of rejection and again… stupidly told her about it and she turned her back on me… First it was “God told me to step away from you for a couple weeks so he can heal you” (She is prophetic)… Then it was I am busy working on my ministry for the next couple months… “such a time as this” she said… Then to add insult to injury when she saw me, she would say “oh haven’t seen you in a while.”

    This may not sound like a big deal to many folks but it was to me and now I see her around laughing with my friends and I feel like she usurped my place (in ministry and friendships) and now I am the outsider. Plus she is a “gifted prophetic” person and I don’t fit that crowd…

    I am trying to put all this off and let it go but it’s like a yoyo or boomerang. I am taking off from my ministries this summer(the ones she is involved in) and I am thinking about going to another church for a while because when I see her I tear up and I have to fight thoughts about it for a few days after.

    I miss her as my friend and don’t know why she turned away from me. Last week she sat in the pew in front of me with one of my friends and I tried to fight the sadness but tears ran down my cheeks. I know I have to forgive.

    I think part of my struggle is that I have a hard time getting close to people and with two friendships where I actually did get very close, they ended up rejecting/abandoning me. So I largely feel like it’s my fault and it brings great pain. 🙁

    • Leslie Vernick on May 14, 2013 at 8:46 am

      It is so hard when a friend turns on you and you’re not sure why. I had that happen a few years ago and I still feel the pain of it when I think of it. Sometimes it’s envy, sometimes insecurity, sometimes it’s just that they don’t know how to be honest with us about what we’ve done that bugged them and so they just end the friendship or distance themselves rather than have an honest conversation.

      What do you think friends? Why do women do this?

      • Jayne on May 14, 2013 at 3:52 pm

        Dear Dora, I’m sorry for your pain. I also had a friend such as yours who was “prophetic” and she would tell me often about how she should “hear from God” concerning my life. And I was assured we would ALWAYS work out our problems. Perhaps your friend is insecure as well and cannot admit to it. After all, she has her “ministry” and her “prophecy” gift to uphold in the eyes of others and will not allow herself to appear weak in any way. She needs others to prop her up and tell her how wonderful she is. I had wanted a best friend and I got one. It was all wonderful (not) until I confronted her with some patterns of behavior that were concerning me and affecting not only our friendship but others in our church. It backfired in a big way and it was twisted to make it look like it was all me. Which was a big problem in our relationship but I always believed her when she told me I really was the problem. We and our husbands met with our pastor but she was not able to accept her own issues because, in her mind, she doesn’t have any issues and it’s the rest of us that have the problems. I was in an unhealthy place as I depended on her way too much and became addicted to her emotionally. I had not emotionally attached to my own parents in my growing up years, had a verbally abusive Dad, and I was looking to a person and not the Lord to meet my emotional needs. The relationship ended, and she left our church which was very painful. I am sorry you have to still see her each week. Pray about possibly changing churches and also seek to become healthy yourself, realizing even people in healthy relationships will let you down and ask the Lord to give you friendships that are mutual. The Emotionally Destructive Relationship book was really life-changing for me and I think it will help you too.

        • dora mat on May 22, 2013 at 6:46 am

          Thanks Jayne, wow that does sound like my friend and situation! Leslies book is great I am getting a lot out of it. I went to the other church and I felt great, a freedom I hadn’t in a long time. Tiny bit of sadness but I know that will fade. God Bless!

      • janet on May 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm

        hello miss Dora Mat, i don’t have the answer to why women do this, but i to have experienced this. it is very painful and weird. i still experience pain when i think of some of those experiences and i try to remember how i got caught up in it to begin with. personally i had abandonment issues related to my parents and any form of rejection had very deep triggers that caused the pain to be even greater. i am prone to wanting to latch onto people too much, too soon because i wanted to beloved deeply by someone and not rejected. (this is why i got into relationships with unhealthy people, your reason may be different) i discovered this about myself when i was learning who i was in Christ. i began to see in myself that it was more important for me to be loved by another human being than the king of kings. when i realized this i apologized to god for making that my idol and basically saying that god’s love for me wasn’t enough. i then began my incredible journey reveling in being god’s child and being with him in heaven one day and now this has brought me much healing, relief and has helped me from being too needy. (i am not saying you are, i am relating why i did what i did in similiar situations ) that does not mean miss dora, that i don’t experience that pain even knowing this, what it means for me is that i know how to relieve this pain a lot more effectively. what also helped me was allowing a lot more time for a relationship to develop. by a lot i mean at least a year before i would really start considering someone trustworthy enough to begin to share emotionally with them. also, not everyone is healthy either and so i had to learn this about them and respect where they were at and love them for who they were at the moment without getting my hopes up too much (that was very hard, but i did pray for patience and god listened, hehehe). what i read in your email was the ability to recognize some very bad behavior on the other person’s part and i would say you should be happy with yourself that you are learning and growing and can recognize this. i would say that god is giving you discernment to see this behavior. yeaaa, i am happy for you. Please miss dora do not call yourself studid, you are a child of god and you are my sister. i have no stupid siblings in my god family… i read a book by cloud and townsend called safe people and it gave me some guidelines that were helpful. miss dora, i am very sorry that you experienced this, it was ungodly and is not in keeping with very many scriptures in the bible about being compassionate and kind to each other. i am sorry. it hurts me too even now when i experience this but imagine god feeling constantly rejected by the people of this earth and how that must feel to him. i could not imagine that magnitude of rejection! but the good news is that i am deeply loved by god and I AM HIS CHILD! now that is truly amazing, because i don’t deserve it. god is so good to me. take care my sister, and i am sorry. they were mean to you. janet

        • dora mat on May 16, 2013 at 9:52 pm

          Thanks Janet! Really appreciate all that you said!!

        • Ellen on May 19, 2013 at 6:09 pm

          Janet I live what you said. It seems like all of us need to get to a place where we truly experience God as Father and truely feel our adoption into His family. To have that kind of close relationship with our spiritual Father is breathtaking. Learning to ask Him for help, to see Him answer, to praise Him when things dont make any sense, to wait on Him, all take some mindfulness and consciousness. For many years and still now at times I forget that I am greatly loved and am a child of a King. I try to get this unconditional love from unsaved family members, or friends, or my husband and God keeps reminding me that others will invariably fail me at times as I do them. But God really knows how to love and when I really get that deep into my bones I can be more compassionate. This of course does not mean taking abuse over and over is Godly. Leaving compassionately is the right thing to do in many of these cases I am reading here. It’s nice to have close friends and loving relationships with husbands and family. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. God allowed so much of that to be taken away from me and I am beginning to understand how great He is and how much He loves me. Step out in faith and watch what God will do for You Dora!

          • janet on May 20, 2013 at 8:15 am

            hello there Ellen, isn’t it wonderful that god gives us encouragement and endurance during the times that we struggle with living in the joy of knowing who we are in Christ. our great god has us covered even in our weaknesses. I was so struck by the verse below this morning and my heart melted with the reminder how much god gives to us even in our weaknesses and even in our process of sanctification. it is a relief to know that I don’t have to have it all together at once so I can enjoy the journey of this relationship with god. HE even made room for me to grow so that I can bask in his character around every corner of my life without feeling ashamed that I don’t have it all together. god is so good to give us endurance and encouragement so that we can continue to grow. I will never be able to do it all perfectly and god does not expect that. this is also part of knowing who we are in Christ. god is my only safety. Romans 15:5-6 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.



          • dora mat on May 22, 2013 at 6:56 am

            Thanks Ellen! I was starting to feel emotionally abused, me feeling hurt and her indifferent. Now ive removed myself from the situation and I feel so much better already. Focusing on His love for my needs. 🙂 God bless!



      • Heila on May 16, 2013 at 7:32 am

        It hurts so much to lose a friend. This has happened to me several times. And I’ve been so desperate for friendship & connection (real needs) when moving often that I fell for the instant BFF thing, too. But in my experience, it is sadly their problem — I’ve had other success stories with friends where we both persisted through misunderstandings or communication and became better friends afterwards. I’ve found it helps to stop and grieve and acknowledge the pain of loss of a person you still love and like things about. It sounds wise to me for Dora to look elsewhere though. It might also help to define how a friend acts. Because her other “friends” are also going along with this woman and leaving her out? And perhaps wise to look outside of a strictly church environment? Some churches or other homogeneous, isolated groups can sustain dysfunction that will not survive out in “the real world” – perhaps finding some people who enjoy reading or bicycling or gardening or something else in common? Perhaps turning to other friends who have a history of emotional trustworthiness? Getting together with them one-on-one outside of church? I think women use Relational Aggression because of fear. It’s bullying, but in a different way.

        • dora mat on May 16, 2013 at 9:56 pm

          Thanks Heila. Grateful for your words!!

      • Dora Mat on May 28, 2013 at 8:17 am

        I was at a bbq yesterday and a young lady was talking about teaching children how to play tennis. But she said then you have all the balls to pick up. She said it’s easy to manipulate kids, all you have to do is give them stickers. They scatter picking up the balls… Just give them a “You’re Awesome” sticker.. who wouldn’t like that?

        When she said that… I thought wow.. Is it that simple? Is that what my “friend” did… just give me a few cards saying how amazing I was and presto.. she had me…

        It goes to show how we really have to guard our hearts and not fall for things we would like to hear etc..

        Thankfully we have the Word of God that says those things about us and it is the truth.

        • Leslie Vernick on May 28, 2013 at 9:18 am

          So often we talk about negative words that wound our spirit but your point is well taken that positive words or as the bible sometimes calls them “Flattery” can easily deceive us and make us think the relationship is something more than it is. Therefore we do need to guard our hearts and not believe everything people tell us whether it’s “You’re wonderful, I never met a person like you.” or “You’re terrible, you’re the worst thing that’s happened to me.”

        • janet on May 28, 2013 at 9:35 am

          hello miss Dora, I think it is very wonderful how you are seeing right through this. or perhaps I should say, how you are listening to the spirit teach you. Is it possible that as you reflect back to the situation with your friend that you had discernment and perhaps you didn’t recognize that? I know that for myself, when I reflect back on situations, I can recognize warning signs and that is discernment to me. I thank god for showing them to me and I try to learn from that for the next time. I think that this may have happened right now with the situation that you are describing. isn’t it wonderful how you are growing and learning and in that process you are teaching me too… thank you Dora for sharing, it is encouraging and validating to me. thank you again.. god is so good to us.. Janet

  3. Brenda on May 14, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Leslie: I don’t know how you have time to play. You spend time on speaking at events, your own practice, writing and spending time responding to all of us. Which is deeply appreciated, by the way. But I do pray that you find time for rest, reflection and maybe a vacation.

    I know where I was and where I could be without Christ, which has caused me to forgive my emotionally abusive husband and forget way too quickly. The positive is that I no longer think that I am nothing just because the men in my life act like I am. During those times when I am accused of everything, but being a child of God I am ready to leave, I start looking for a place to leave and getting a spine. Then a week or so later I start relaxing even though I know in time (a week or two) it will happen again. The last event (2 weeks ago) lasted for 2 days. I know that I need to get out. He is never going to change as long as I am there and maybe not even then.

    I am currently diligently looking for an apartment, house, cardboard box. Please pray that the Lord will lead me where he would have to go. Sometimes part of me thinks He just wants to live with this, but the other half just can’t imagine that he would.

    • Leslie Vernick on May 14, 2013 at 8:42 am

      Thanks Brenda, in fact I am taking a much needed vacation next week to Florida. I hope to rest, read and relax.

  4. Amy on May 14, 2013 at 10:40 am

    I had the hardest time forgiving after my abusive ex walked out on me four years ago. The counselor I was seeing at that time encouraged me to take it to the Lord and pray about forgiving him. It was for me, not him. And at that time I somehow had in my mind that forgiving my ex-husband who I was not divorced from at that time meant going back to the abusive marriage. It took a lot of counseling and patience on my counselor’s part, LOL, until I finally realized that forgiving and continuing in abuse were not the same. Forgiving releases us from holding onto a situation that only God can take care of. We cannot forgive as God has forgiven us, so us forgiving someone in our life is really a way of handing them over to God and letting Him work in their hearts.
    I still struggle with forgiving, but I’ve learned that holding onto to unforgiveness only hurts me. The other person goes about their lives, moving on, while we sit and stew or hurt over what they did. So to forgive allows us to move on with our lives and put them in the Lord’s hands.

  5. Brenda on May 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    In its simplest form you forgive, you stay with him and keep forgiving. But, this isn’t about simple things like he doesn’t help with housework, turns the tv on too loud, drives too fast or even spends more than you’d like. Being abusive in anyway is beyond regular marital disagreements, it is not what God intended for us in anyway. We should let it go and forgive so we have inner peace. That doesn’t mean you should let it slide and allow it to continue or allow him to come back.

    If I had my choice my husband would leave. Instead, he comes up with misquotes like “I’m happy living with you as you are, so you have to stay”. I believe that scripture is meaning an actual constructive marriage and allowing me to believe as I do without abuse. The way it is, he stays and puts me through the ringer. In his warped way of thinking, he’s correct in his behavior.

    I have to keep reminding myself of these things so I continue to look for a place to live and leave. I believe that I am forgiving him and setting us both free. He may not want it, but should have thought of that before 15+ years of abuse. I can forgive, but don’t have to continue to take it.

    • Amy on May 17, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      Brenda,
      Yes, we need to forgive, continually as God forgives us, BUT forgiving and continuing to allow someone to mistreat us do not go hand in hand. God does not say to forgive others as I forgive you and then continue to let those people hurt you. Your can forgive, and we need to, but we can also setup boundaries and if necessary distance ourselves from those that continue to hurt us with no repentance or change.

      And this is where I stumbled for years…20 to be exact.

      Your husband may be “happy living with you as you are”, but of course he would be. He is not being held accountable for his abusive behaviors and unGodly treatment of you his wife. So why would he want to change? He can do anything he wants and not have to worry about consequences.

      I pray that you find strength in God to make the right choices for yourself.
      Blessings.

      • Brenda on May 19, 2013 at 6:32 am

        Amy

        What you said is so true. I am seeing an Attorney on Tuesday to seek a legal separation. I have to continue to pray and recognize that they longer I wait the more I waste. I will soon be at 16 years and don’t want to continue on until 20.

        I have been attempting to set boundries for the last 3 of those years, with not much headway. He just doesn’t seem to hear me, he makes promises, but doesn’t keep them and continues to make me the blame or minimizes the impact of his behavior.

        I truly hope that he changes someday and most of all finds Jesus as Savior. I feel the best choice for me at this point is to find distance and rest. I am praying to find a place to live soon, but will initiate the separation no matter what. God’s will be done.

        • Amy on May 20, 2013 at 1:08 pm

          Brenda,
          My heart goes out to you. I can feel your pain and struggle with this decision. I pray that God gives you the wisdom and courage to seek the right path for you, and if it be His will, heal your husband and marriage.

          I’ve had many say to me that I did not allow God to do the work in my marriage to restore it, that I simply gave up…hmmm, not sure I just “gave up” after 20 years. But I say to those people that God can and will do anything He desires, and sometimes I believe He allows those that on a destructive path to continue down it. I believe completely that He saved me from a destructive marriage and healed me by sending my ex away.

          Praying for you as you step out in faith…and praying that you find rest, much needed rest.

  6. Leslie on May 16, 2013 at 1:11 am

    I like what Amy said
    “forgiving someone in our life is really a way of handing them over to God and letting Him work in their hearts.”

    The enemy of our souls loves to bring my ex & other non-believing offensive people to my mind.

    I decided every time the enemy brings to mind someone who has hurt me,I pray for their salvation & ask the LORD to bless them with knowing HIM as Saviour.

    I find that the most offensive people are the ones it never ever occurs to that they might be part of the problem. These same people are more than happy to have you grovel and take responsibility for any and all conflicts and never let an apology pass their lips.
    So praying for them to be saved it a great tool to use.

  7. Lou Ann on May 17, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Forgiveness reflects God to a world that has forgotten Him. It brings God glory when we do what only His Spirit working in us and through us can do. We honor God in this way, which is His way. Our only hope to forgive others is our relationship with Christ who strengthens us.

  8. Deborah on May 20, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    This….”sometimes it’s just that they don’t know how to be honest with us about what we’ve done that bugged them and so they just end the friendship or distance themselves rather than have an honest conversation…, and this…”Some churches or other homogeneous, isolated groups can sustain dysfunction that will not survive out in “the real world” …Amen, sistah, amen!

  9. tryingtodogood on May 20, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    As our gracious God has been helping on the process of becoming a healthier person I too have found more conflict than peace with people. I have come to realize that I have had many toxic people in my life than not, I suppose because that was the circle I was in. However, I have met some wonderful women in recent years and am getting closer to them which is such a blessing, and also gotten reacquainted with a dear friend from high school who is also working on getting healthy. All I can do from now on is to speak up for myself and hope people will respect my boundaries, if not the relationships will have to change because I need to be who God made me to be.
    Anyway, the more I seek God’s help to forgive, the more people and hurts come to my mind. God is so good because I believe He will continue until I am free of all those old hurts, dealing with them one by one. As Leslie said, I also have to first realize the need to forgive, then begin by asking God to help me, then walk in that spirit until it is finished. It has taken years in some cases, but He is faithful to complete what He has begun! On more than one occasion I have dreamt that I am embracing someone I have prayed for help forgiving. When I wake up I have a peace and know that forgiveness has taken place. I have been praying for God’s help “dropping the charges” on anyone that has hurt me – ever. I don’t want toxic feelings to reside within me anymore. I also journal my feelings to get them out in the open. I’m so grateful to be His work-in-progress.
    Thank you all for your prayers and insights, and thanks Leslie 🙂

  10. Lynette on May 20, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Forgiveness is for ourselves and NOT for the other person. Like Amy said, forgiveness is about turning the situation and the other person(s) over to God. It’s about letting go of retribution, revenge and our need to make someone “pay” for our pain. it’s about trusting God to work in my life and theirs!

    Peter Horrobin, founder of Ellel Ministries has written a great little book on forgiveness titled “The Most Powerful Prayer on Earth.” This is a book that is perfect for sharing and passing on to others. I have distributed dozens – usually after someone marvels at how I’ve been able to forgive and let go of the two decades of emotional abuse and neglect by my (now ex-) husband.

    He writes about three facets of forgiveness:
    1. forgiving the other person (which doesn’t include forgetting or ignoring what they have done!)
    2. forgiving ourselves.
    3. “forgiving” God. This doesn’t mean that God needs our forgiveness, but we do need to let go of blaming God for our situation.

    God has done amazing work in my life – including emotional and physical healing – but only after I made the decision to walk out in truth and chose to forgive. Charles Kraft wrote ” Often we would like to change the facts of a painful experience locked in the memory. But that cannot be done. What happened happened. The facts cannot be changed. The attitude can, however. And healing comes when the attitude is changed – from anger and hatred to forgiveness.” When we forgive, “…the spiritual superglue of unforgiveness will never get a chance to attach the ropes of bitterness to our hearts” (Horrobin).

    Forgiveness follows the path laid out for us by Jesus – in the Lord’s Prayer and his example on the cross. He preached and practiced unlimited forgiveness. Jesus modeled for us a life of doing God’s work and letting the rest go. It is our relationship to and our desire to walk in obedience to Christ who strengthens us…to follow His example.

    As Lou Ann writes above, the ability to forgive comes through our “relationship with Christ who strengthens us.” The example of forgiveness is Christ himself. The reasons to forgive are that we are forgiven, we are instructed to forgive, and our relationship with God depends on whether or not we forgive others! (Notice that no where is it mentioned that the other person must show that s/he deserves to be forgiven!)

  11. Felicity Ann on May 27, 2013 at 8:35 am

    The hardest person to forgive is myself. I once heard that this attitude was an insult to God because If He forgives me, who am I to not forgive myself? Am I greater than God that I should hold forgiveness towards me? This perspective helped me for a while but once I committed another sin or mistake I went back to not being able to forgive myself. This is so hard yet I want to let go of unforgiveness. My problem becomes greater when I fail to succeed in a romantic relationship. I think about what I did wrong over and over again and how I could have changed it or make it better. How do I stop this? I’ve been unforgiving towards me for the past 6 months and is eating me alive. I’d really like to be free and forgiven by myself just like God forgives me and wants me to be free of guilt.

    • Leslie Vernick on May 27, 2013 at 10:29 am

      Felicity Ann, Thanks for your poignant question about self-forgiveness. I think it’s something many of us struggle with and I will take your question and answer it more fully in next week’s blog.

  12. tryingtodogood on June 12, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Please dear ladies, I would like your comments and insights. From my previous comments on this blog you may know that my husband has been emotionally abusive since the beginning of our 31 year marriage. I have been learning and growing over the last 2 1/2 years on how to change my behavior and have learned how to set and enforce boundaries and become closer to God.
    Realizing 2 months ago that he has been abusive (I used to think it was just normal marital disagreements) has been heartbreaking. I became a shell of the person I was when we married. And by the way, he withheld major facts about his past, and poured on the charm before the wedding so I didn’t have a clue what I was getting into.
    I have been numb and withdrawn since this realization, but I have been praying for several years for God to help me purge my heart of any unforgiveness toward anyone and although my husband’s abuses are many and longstanding, I feel I need to forgive him – again, even though I know he’ll repeat the behavior (he continues to see nothing wrong on his end but always turns it around to be my fault).
    Anyway, I was reading something yesterday by a respected christian author that said abuse is not biblical grounds for divorce. Also, 1 Cor. 13:5b states that love keeps no record of wrongs. Does that mean we are stuck forever? It seems to me that when one partner continues to hurt and abuse the other – without regard or any desire to stop equals a breach of the covenant.
    Even though it has been extremely painful to realize that I have been abused, and to remember so many hurtful instances over the years, it hurts almost as bad to feel this anger and apathy toward my husband. I have suffered so much physical and mental distress during our marriage because of the turmoil that if I can truly forgive him maybe I can finally be a healthier person. But then what?

    • Brenda B on June 13, 2013 at 6:59 pm

      For me, I left last week. l Corinthians 7:10-11 (NIV) says that a wife should not separate from her husband, BUT, if she does she should only reconcile with her husband. Perhaps he has not committed adultery but he doesn’t treat you as he should. I don’t believe that Christ expects us to stay in an unsafe environment. He didn’t until it was His time. He left when people would harm or completely disbelief His truths. He moved on. I no longer think it is mandatory for me to stay in the same house. I have filed for legal separation and I don’t feel at all like the Lord is opposed. I made the decision in counsel with a Christian counselor,without anger, praying that my husband would find Christ, repent and allow Him to change his life. At this point, I do not think it would change our relationship, but God can do anything. I do not feel that my husband will ever change as long as I am with him and have seen everyday that my decision is correct.

    • Walkingthesamepath on June 14, 2013 at 12:32 am

      My heart aches with you, tryingtodogood! I wrestled with these same issues for years and had many well-meaning people counsel me to suck it up…and, like you, I felt like I was disintegrating.

      You mentioned 1Cor 15 about keeping no record of wrong. If you back up a few chapters to chapter 5, Paul writes that we are not to associate with those who purposely choose to continue in sin. If your husband has been lovingly confronted about his abusive behavior in a biblical way (first on your own and then with the support of others) and has not repented, then you need to separate yourself from this relationship.

      If your read further in 1Cor 15 to verse 33, Paul quotes a Greek comedy and says,”bad company corrupts good character.” You wrote that this relationship has changed you into a “shell of the person you were.” I finally realize that God was calling me to hate the evil that was in our marriage relationship and seek good so that I could truly live (Amos 5:14 & 15).

      Your name “tryingtodogood” speaks volumes about where your heart is. My prayer for you is that you will hear and respond to what Holy Spirit is calling you to do. Stop listening to all the different voices out there…including me! There will be people with arguments on all sides of this issue. I almost drove myself crazy trying to understand all the perspectives on biblical divorce!

      After years of struggling with this issue, I finally put aside all the books and websites, took my Bible and got alone with God. He showed me that I’d become a Pharisee, intent on keeping the rule “thou shalt not divorce.” Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for trying to live life according to rules. Jesus came to bring us Truth. We have been given Holy Spirit to guide us to Truth. For me, it came down to giving up trying to live according to everyone else’s rules and seeking to walk in God’s truth. What that meant for my marriage was that I felt called to make a stand for Truth and stop (tacitly) calling evil “good.” As a beloved child of God, I had to take a stand against evil and separate myself from the abuser.

      You are a precious daughter of the Most High God of the Angel Armies! God cares for you so much that he collects your tears. He takes such delight in you that He rejoices over you with singing (Zeph 3:17). God loves you so much that He sent Jesus to the cross to redeem you. Really soak in your identity from God’s perspective.

      Once we focus is on our relationship with God, then it is easier to see our human relationships from God’s perspective. At the point where we can see others as God sees them, it becomes possible to forgive them. With forgiveness comes the ability to let go of the anger, pain and hurt. It is then that we can care enough about ourselves AND our abuser AND our marriage to separate ourselves from the abuse and the person who is abusing us. We are commanded to love our enemy…but they are our enemies, not our friends!

      ‘May your spirit be tuned to hear Holy Spirit and your heart open to God’s healing love. You are precious, my dear sister! You have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet 1:19) God is your God of Truth. Seek Him and He will show you the way of wisdom (Prov 4:11)

    • janet on June 14, 2013 at 11:12 am

      hello there trying to do good: I have been where you are at right now… you made several statements. you feel you need to forgive him-again. this is very good that you take god’s teaching to heart and want to please god. I have several questions for you to consider about god’s action of forgiveness. what specifically are you forgiving him for? and have you consistently enforced his hurtful behavior with natural consequences? have you discussed healthy behavior ideas with a competent counselor who is like Miss Leslie so that you can learn healthy new behavior for the benefit of the both of you? are you confused about the pain you experience from his hurt as meaning you haven’t forgiven? (I know that when my husband hurts me, I used to block that hurt and numb myself because when I felt the pain it caused me to believe that this meant that I did not forgive him. That is completely untrue, but was taught by many churches and Christians. That is not how it is in the bible. ) (what I do now is feel the hurt, I cry and I tell god that what he did to me was very wrong and that it hurts me and I cry. I tell god that I will forgive him because you god have forgiven me. I ask god to help me have the correct timing to talk to my husband about these things and to put the proper boundaries in place with the right timing and I ask god for his vengeance and his justice in the situation when I do all I can at that moment in a godly fashion and to help me trust HIM that he sees this and that god will help me to take the appropriate action with the right timing) I learned that I was often impatient and I had expectations that now that I know about these truths, that there would be a change right now… how wrong I was! … I then learned that I had to take things one step at a time. I found that I had to learn how to experience my god given emotions and stop stuffing them and that I had to make sure the counsel that I received was real. I also learned that I could read the bible and the spirit inside of me would help me see what real godly relationships are like. The examples between god and his people and between him and Jesus, and Jesus and his family and his disciples were the cornerstone of the truth that I ran to when confusion and deceit set in. has god ever scared anyone into doing anything? No. has Jesus ever guilted or manipulated anyone into doing things? No. did god ever make Jesus do anything? No. did god use Jesus to get himself ahead in life? No. does god always have to be right about everything? No. (even though I know god is right about everything, he does not force his way on me) the questions go on and on. The relationship between god and Jesus and how god relates to me is how I hold onto truth about relationships. If god doesn’t do it that way, well then it’s wrong! A good book that I read which provided an immense about of research and fact, which I have never found in any other book, is by Craig s keener. One is called Paul, women and wives and the other is called …an marries another. If I may be so bold for a moment… you asked for comments and insights, not to minimize what you are going through, ( I go through verbal abuse daily, even though I know what actions I can take with god, I am still staying and I am waiting for the right timing, it is so hard!) but perhaps you can consider that you really know all the facts about your behavior and your husband’s behavior and you know all the facts about marriage and divorce and remarriage before you jump into any important decisions like divorce. I encourage you, that just because a book is by a well know Christian author, that you really read your bible also and listen to the spirit that is inside of you Rom 8:11. The spirit and the bible and your study of facts will guide you. I will be so bold right now to say… many Christian authors offer opinions which were based on opinions over years and years with no real study of the subject. We have to show ourselves approved, we have to study it for ourselves. We can do it. God gave us a huge blessing with our wonderful brain. We must use this blessing and be guided by his spirit. I encourage you to do these things for yourself. You will have tremendous peace in the middle of the storm.. but you have to do your part to get there. You can do it my sister… look how far you have come already. It is so hard and I want to give up too some days. But pray for patience, discernment and wisdom and keep visiting this blog here, where people love you here and validate what you are going through… you can do it, even though it is hard and it hurts. I cry every day….every day I am hurt… but I trust god with the timing… and it is almost here…. Your sister in Christ… Janet my heart was to help…

    • Gina on June 15, 2013 at 2:39 am

      Dear Tryingtodogood:

      My heart breaks for you in your pain. I’m so sorry. You sound like you need someone to hold you while you cry. Consider yourself hugged . . .

      I think Leslie’s recent blog about putting your marriage in the right place of priority is applicable, as well as the one about “Does God want me to suffer?” and “Is Marriage Supposed to be for better or worse?”. (Leslie has so many great ones!) I would also suggest the book, “Mending the Soul”, by Steven Tracy, that I mentioned earlier. It has a great chapter on forgiveness. And then there’s Leslie’s “Emotionally Destructive Marriage”, coming soon! I’ll be getting that!

      Regarding forgiveness, it does NOT equal trusting the repeat offender, and it does NOT equal enabling him to continue in sin. Forgiveness can help the forgiver, but should not be used in hopes of changing the offender’s behavior. (It won’t.)

      For me, forgiving my various abusers did not directly make me a healthier person. (I have still not arrived at perfect forgiveness, and that’s okay.) Though forgiveness is a part of the process, there is SO much more to becoming healthy. Long story short, I became healthier by getting into a Christian 12-step support group weekly for years, and through about 6 months of weekly personal counseling with a woman who was trained in “Mending the Soul” and abuse issues.

      There is nothing you can do to change your husband’s behavior toward you. Thinking to yourself, “If I could just be a good enough wife, he would stop abusing me,” is futile, because his abusive behavior is NOT your fault. I used to think this way myself. Trying to be “good enough” or “submissive enough” so that he will or won’t treat you a certain way only gives him more power over you. It puts him in the “God spot” of your heart, where he doesn’t belong. Once I learned and began to live this truth (with help, of course), I started to get healthier. I came to realize that my personal health had to come before my marriage, or I would literally die of depression, despair, and loss of identity. I had to don my proverbial oxygen mask (which I’m still wearing – ha!) before I could possibly help my family with theirs.

      Perhaps you could seek legal separation rather than divorce. I was advised to give my husband the ultimatum that he seek professional help or else I would have to seek legal separation. There is nothing un-Biblical about that. You can protect yourself and seek personal help while remaining faithful to your husband. I know it’s MUCH easier said than done, but just a thought.

      Finally, I am still learning to separate people’s sins against me from God’s character. When a person sins against me, God is NOT an accomplice. God is not okay with the ways people sin against me. He does not help them hurt me, but rather Satan does. God gives other people the same choice of good or evil that He gives to me. They sometimes (or often) choose evil, which hurts me; but this does not diminish my great worth in God’s heart. He would not treat me that way, and so I CAN trust Him.

  13. tryingtodogood on June 17, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Thank you so much ladies for your gracious counsel and love. I am filled with the warmth of God’s love as I read your words. I feel such hope and know for sure now that this relationship has never been as God designed, and not only does He want me to be healthy, but I feel driven to help other women as well. There is a future for me, as it says in Jer. 29:11, and I am beginning to see it! A few weeks ago I heard a study about getting out of God’s way,and felt that I was being shown that my husband won’t change unless I remove myself from our home. That just seems so unfair though, and drastic. And I still have no job, nor any family to take me in. If I did I would be gone, I think about leaving every day, but I do believe that God will show me a way in His time. I do seek Him daily, and I wait.
    Hugs to you all.

    • Brenda B on June 17, 2013 at 2:14 pm

      1. Pray for a job and for provision of new shelter. 2. Apply and find a job that God will provide. 3. Look for and find apartment, room, whatever it takes. Perhaps someone at your church has something or knows someone who does. Remember God will provide all our needs.

      When I knew that God was in the seperation of my husband things started happening quickly. I was already working but finding an apartment, hiring movers and moving all happened within a week. God was at work. I would never have been able to do this on my own. Also, both of my daughters ended up here to help. He supplied everything. He deserves all the glory and I praise Him for His strength when I had none.

      • tryingtodogood on July 15, 2013 at 1:10 pm

        Thank you so much for your encouraging words. You are so right and I believe God will work everything out for my good too. I am using all my strength to focus on what the Lord is trying to teach me and to do the healing work to restore the person I am to be 🙂 He is faithful to complete the work He has begun!

    • janet tobler on June 17, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      you are an encouragement and inspiration. your bravery and seeking help me to stay strong also on my journey. I am strengthened by your faith. thank you trying to do good.

    • walkingthesamepath on June 25, 2013 at 11:41 pm

      You serve a BIG God who is the husband to the widow and father to the orphan. As others have advised, do what you can and be prepared for God to move in unexpected and creative ways!

      You CAN to all things in Christ who strengthens you. Isaiah 41:10 “Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.”

      • tryingtodogood on July 15, 2013 at 1:11 pm

        Thank you! Amen 🙂

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