Category Archives: Blameshifting

Forgiveness…Can’t be done..Or can it? “Victim” to Victor

I was literally gasping for air…physically choking on my own avalanche of emotion and confusion.  What did they just say? I can’t grasp this? What does this mean? Does it mean what I think it does? The relationship was severed….instantly with nothing I could do but reel physically in shock and the crushing kaleidoscope of emotions that were threatening to drown me….. trying to come up with a way to take the next step, let alone walk to my car and drive away…

I had trusted that person with my soul, my deepest pain, my heart, and they had simply dismissed me with a “flick of the hand.”  They had promised to support and help and assured me they were trustworthy…. and then..BANG they were not!!!

….when I most needed them to be.  It reminded me of the words of a song

“I leaned my back up against an oak…I thought it was a trusty tree…but first, it bent and then it broke (Bob Dylan).”

Only in my case, there was no bend!  It was an instant SNAP and CRASH!  What was even more crushing is I had no one to talk to about it. No one who could understand what this terrible tear meant in my soul. Part of me died that day and I was sure it would never EVER revive again!  The ensuing weeks and months were lived in a mindless numb shell as I carried on the functions of life without a soul.  I literally felt like a switch had been snapped between rational logic and emotion.

Those of you who know me may be shocked to know I felt that way..after all,…I am the MK (missionary kid) who knows more verses and Biblical songs by heart than most people I know…. because I was raised memorizing them and loved singing so have been called a walking hymnbook by some… But that was my reality at that point. My world was instantly catapulted into an emotional vault that words could not touch for a time.

I had been trying to learn how to trust again and the one person I thought I could trust to help me, had proved untrustworthy and walked away.  The picture I had in my mind was of being rowed out on a dark night into deep water and then told to get out of the boat and start swimming. The assurances of support and guidance were there until I was in the water and then… they were GONE! I was left to find my way back to land in the dark in water over my head… good thing I had learned how to swim as a child… but in the depths and not being sure which was land????…. God led me back to land in ways no person could.

I felt like I had been taken in for open heart surgery and then left on the table to figure out how to sew myself up, get up and walk out of there without any help from anyone. I did sew up and walk out by God’s grace alone. But in the process infection set in… and I was in a dark place of confusion between indescribable grief, despair and anguish once I processed what had happened. I would certainly never trust THEM again or ANYONE else for that matter.  Because I had no one to talk to at that point, the pain, gut-wrenching sense of loss, and confusion got buried into deep crevices in my soul like puss does in infection.  God left me alone with that dark place for a time, because we all need to know how helpless we really are before God can do anything with us… before He intervened … but that is for later. It took a full year for the emotional confusion to clear enough for me to fully grasp truth again and for God to use some wise people to carefully reinvite me into the world of trust again.

I was driving to a place of retreat and on the way was begging Him to help me out of this, to find a way back to hope and light and life if it was ever possible to recover from this kind of utter crushing? I was listening to the audio version of Andy Stanley’s Enemies of the Heart.  Trying to figure out how to get past this to a point of forgiveness… I finally understood in a powerful way how Jesus felt when his disciples deserted him in his hour of greatest need for emotional support. Andy’s book was a HUGE help in unraveling how to think about all this, but it took time for me to absorb the truths while battling the emotional blocks.  My mind still whirled and at times would be caught in a downward spiral of “How could they? and I  didn’t deserve this!!!  They completely misunderstood and misused me!! and I am all alone!! and No one understands!!”  You may also be familiar with the  “beat me up” or “beat them up.” ideas that plague the mind in these dark moments of the soul? The Psalms are replete with David’s thoughts like this.

I was aware in the fog of emotion that I was in a battle of a lifetime to regain control of my mind and in doing so I would be able to stop this emotional volcano. I had no idea how to do it. So I begged God for help and below is what I did.  (I have now told enough people these steps that I thought it was time to put it in one place so I can send people here who ask me how I was able to, not only forgive, but enjoy spending time with this person again.)

“I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons
are not learned by His letting us have our way in the end,
but by His making us wait,
bearing with us in love and patience
until we are able to honestly pray
what He taught His disciples to pray:
Thy will be done.”
~ Elizabeth Elliot
(for those who may not know her story, her husband was killed senselessly.
You can read about it, in this book. Through Gates of Splendor)
I love how God patiently waits when we are in these dark places until we can see Him and then gently helps us to walk out of it. He truly is the Gentle Shepherd!
I  have learned a great deal in the months and years since then, but to begin with, this was the first most important step and lesson. .. I can say much more about the Biblical verses. I knew those but I had never been in a place like this where words meant nothing and I could not control the raging emotional overload. A pressure cooker had exploded all over my soul and I had to find a way to put the pieces back together.  I will develop more of the Biblical part of this in the coming weeks but for now, this had to be step one!
 I am going to be very practical with this because the pat “you just need to forgive them” was simply not working!!
I needed a real way to get out of this tunnel of emotion!!!
The first thing I needed to think was “not forgiving was actually giving ammunition to them. It was hurting me, not them. It was allowing them to continue to ruin my life.” That was NOT ok with me. I NEVER wanted them to ever have any control over me again!
Once I fully realized that I was not willing to give them that kind of control over my emotions and mind anymore. They had betrayed me.  Jesus Never did. He had to be the controller of my mind and emotions!
Then I learned that forgiveness is a process… it’s not a one-time Act. Every time thoughts of that person came into my mind I had to intentionally tell God I needed help to forget them.
Then I had to force my mind to go somewhere else regardless of how my emotions were raging.  It truly was one of the most difficult things I have ever done!!! But I was determined to win by God’s grace!
I knew I could not take it on all at once so I picked one the specific times of day that were often trigger points. Usually, times when I could be alone with my thoughts, like when getting dressed or showering or driving to work.
I picked…
driving to work time.
Then EVERY day for 3 weeks, I refused to allow thoughts of that situation to control my mind for that time.  When a thought would hit, I would intentionally force my mind elsewhere by praying, singing good songs, like these ones,   Beside Gentle Streams: Hope for Hurting Hearts.  or this one Don’t be Afraid, reciting verses, calling someone to encourage them, or things like that.
The first day was impossible but I  got a few mins of relief, the rest of the week was nearly impossible..lots of tears…begging God for help…
When God wants to do something big,
He starts with an impossibility,
then it is difficult,
and then it is done!
~Hudson Taylor
The second week got a little bit better. I would play good music, I would think about the things I loved…I would pray, I would sing or play good music.
By the third week, I could see the thought pattern was finally breaking and with it some of the deep crushing emotion. So I picked another point of the day that I used to dwell on those thoughts and went after it in the same way. It was easier but still a challenge.
I kept working at it till each point of the day was broken, despite setbacks, and in time the pain Eased, the soul-crushing grief became manageable and I could move on.  I learned the real truth of the verse “having your senses exercised…Hebrews 5:14” (that word exercise in greek is the word we get  “gym” from. We develop brain cells just the way we develop other muscles in the body by working them which gives all new meaning to Romans 12:1-2 and especially the phrase “renewing your mind…”.  I have learned lots about the science behind mind, emotion connection as well. (more later)
My motivator was that these people were no longer allowed to control my emotions and my life. God was the only one who got to do that!
Thinking this way rather than trying to determine whether or not they deserved it, helped,….they didn’t deserve forgiveness…neither did I….none of us “deserve” it, we were all eternally condemned till Jesus died for us… We have to turn to Him, recognize him as God, believe that his death on the cross paid the penalty and ask for His forgiveness ourselves to guarantee a place in heaven. Keeping this truth in focus also helped!
It really had to be about getting back my life, my heart, my emotions, My Hope in Christ, My joy in Him, my ability to serve Him, separate from any other person.
What God has done since then is more writing and God’s work in progress.
Gentle Shepherd
Oh, the Lord is my Gentle Shepherd showing me the way.
Through the darkness, through the sunshine,
He will never lead astray.
He is with me ev’ry moment, He’s in my heart to stay.
Oh I feel His arms around me, and I hear Him gently say:
~~~~~
I am the Gentle Shepherd watching over you.
I am the Gentle Shepherd and I’ll surely see you through.
I have been where you’re going and I know what you have to do.
Oh, I am the Gentle Shepherd, and I gave my life for you.
~~~~~
If you’re looking for a Saviour, looking for a friend,
Oh let Jesus be your Shepherd, He will love you till the end.
The door is always open, come now and don’t delay.
And He’ll be your loving Shepherd; He will guide you all the way.
~~~~~
He is the Gentle Shepherd, watching over you.
He is the Gentle Shepherd, and He’ll surely see you through.
He has been where you’re going, and he knows what you have to do.
Oh, He is the Gentle Shepherd, and He gave His life for you.
He is the Gentle Shepherd.
words by Duane Nichols, music by Duane Nichols and Mary Lynn Van Gelderen
recorded on Come and Sing by the Stouffer Men.

Misconceptions: dealing with grief and answers.

Misconceptions about Grief and some Biblical practical thoughts.

A dear friend who has suffered greatly and is now helping others like 2 Corinthians 1 tells us, to comfort, posed a question on FB this week. “What is the greatest misconception of grief that you have experienced?”

In a matter of minutes my mind came up with this list based on the things I have seen, read, heard and personally experienced. I only listed them there, so I want to take the time to develop the answers to each of these Biblically, hopefully for your encouragement and practical use. If enough people express interest I will work on developing a pamphlet that you can order from me.

These are listed as they came to mind so there really is nothing special about the order.  The goal is to supply some key principles to consider when talking to others about their grief. It is likely not completely exhaustive, but it is a good place to start with the common things folks have encountered.

  1. People think they can determine how you grieve is based on how they do.

The Holy Spirit knows our frame, He remembers that we are but dust (Ps 103:14) and because He knows us, He also knows how we handle suffering. If we look at how Jesus handled Mary and Martha in John 11: over the death of their brother, we see very quickly that He dealt with these two ladies differently based on their personalities.  Martha was immediately questioning and talking so Jesus answered her according to her words. Mary was much quieter and Jesus wept with her in silence.

  1. People think they know how long you can grieve.

We know that Job’s friends sat for an entire week in Job 2 before they spoke “because they saw how deep his grief was,” and they only spoke after Job did. (how many of us would sit beside someone who was deeply suffering and not speak for an entire week?) Next, we see that God allowed that discussion to play out for 32 chapters before He said anything.  Then He addressed both Job for his need to develop deeper trust AND his friends for their error in counseling a grieving person!  I was listening to a sermon several years back on Elijah and his “depression.” (1 Kings 19) The speaker proceeded to talk about how Elijah was just on a “pity party” and needed to get up and get back in the battle. This preacher failed to consider some very important things that are noted in the passage. One was the marathon Elijah had just run in Chapter 18. He was utterly exhausted when he was attacked  and threatened by Jezebel. That is when  the devil is most likely to try to take us down. (note that he waited till Jesus was weak and hungry to come after him…Luke 4) More importantly he missed the key phrase where God gave Elijah food,  let him rest, then fed him again with food that nourished him “for 40 days “(1 King 19.8). God knew how long Elijah needed to rest before he could get back to work.  Even when the resting period was done and he was ready to move forward, God did not speak through storms and earthquakes, He spoke in a still small voice with questions.  He never rebuked Elijah for his feeling of being alone, He let him speak and then when he was done saying his piece, God simply told him what he needed to do next. What is even more interesting to consider here is that Elijah was a very outspoken man, so it was surprising to see that when he needed encouragement, he did not get an outspoken rebuke from God. Instead he was given a very gentle question… We can think we are very sure how we need to address people, but we must be careful to ask questions to determine what we are really dealing with first!

  1. People think that your emotional scar is going to disappear/go away.

Emotional scars remain in the same way physical scars do. Like God has given us so many examples through Jesus ministry where he used physical things to demonstrate spiritual unseen things, God also gave us the physical scar to show us what we cannot see inside someone else’s heart.  Scars do heal but the flesh never looks the same.

  1. People fail to see the deepness of the wound.

The verse I think of here is “This kind cometh not out but by prayer and fasting. Matt 17:21.”  I do realize contextually Jesus was discussing why the disciples could not cast out a demon for a man. However, I think the principle applies where we need to consider that there may be harder things going on for a person grieving than we see and we need to be committing them to much more prayer.

  1. People fail to realize that some wounds take longer to drain and heal then others.

I had an experience at one point in my life that helped me learn this principle. I developed this terrible cyst on my back and it was in a place where I could not reach it or do anything to drain it myself. I tried to no avail but it needed to be opened in order to drain. I went to a medical friend. She did not want to hurt me so did nothing. I paid a doctor to look at it.  She said “its not ready to be dealt with yet. ( it was 2 inches across and very painful.) I ended up at someone’s home who took the time to open and do the initial drain that took a couple of hours that day. Then the next days she did more and for days after it continued to drain till it finally healed and I have a permanent indent in a spot on my back from it.  The multitude of applications this produced in my mind are another blog, but the main point here is that some people need more time to talk about, write about, process and work through their grief than others do. Puss needs to be gotten out folks. Some comes quick ,some takes much longer.  I think there is a reason why we are exhorted to forbear with one another. (Eph 4:2)

  1. People think grief is a sin.

Jesus Wept (John 11:32) Nuff said!!

  1. People forget about God’s condemnation of Job’s friends for not speaking right about Him and why God had done what He had done. Job 42:7

 

  1. People don’t know how to answer so say nothing or tell you to stop talking.

Saying nothing is not bad. Just being there in presence and silence can be very comforting. Even Job’s friends recognized that Job 2:13 and they visually looked for the clues to see that Job was suffering.

In reference to telling you to stop talking about your grief. I will develop more in another post about the concept of biblical processing versus venting. Biblical processing in short drains puss and helps to heal a wound. Venting with no desire to understand change or grow is different. The Psalms are replete with examples of anger and frustration expressed, that in the end always turned to a desire to see and understand and rest in the Lord in a new way. That is Biblical processing. Venting is self focused and not intent on growth.

  1. Often People don’t realize that the loss (of an arm to use the physical visual) cannot be just “gotten over.” Life has to be approached completely differently. You simply cannot do the things you did before that same way.

This is simply practical understanding. When you lose a limb you have to learn how to compensate without it. You are never the same but that does not mean you have to be useless. The same is true with a loss. You are never the same and you do have to learn to compensate.  When Paul went through things he talked about experiencing some level of trauma/trial as shown by how he was physically weak. 1 Cor 2:3, 2 Cor 12:-10. Yet even in his weakness Paul realized he could be strong because that is when the Holy Spirit stepped in to empower him. People need time to figure out how to deal with and create a new “normal.”

  1. The first year is not always the worst year. The second and following can be more so because all the support the first year goes away in the years later when things happen that still hit you hard.  My twin was cleaning a cupboard in the years after my dad’s death and pulled a box of Sugar Crisp out and started weeping. ( and then very quickly laughing because of the absurdity of crying over a box of cereal) It was dad’s favorite cereal. You can’t plan for those things! They just happen and you have to recognize the grief, work through it to move on.  I was driving on a highway 10 years after my dad’s death and a truck rolled by with the phrase “jack of all trades.” on the side of it. I immediately started sobbing because my dad was capable of fixing anything completely!

 

  1. Many forget the admonition of Prov 18:13.  You cannot answer till you fully hear or you are a fool.

People need to be willing to ask the right questions before they make quick statements.

  1. Some forget the principle of 2 Cor 1. We comfort how God has comforted us. We cannot help someone else if we have not embraced our own suffering before God and learned how He really comforts. The bible also says the reason the Holy Spirit is our Great High Priest is because He was touched with the feelings of our weakness! Heb 4:15

 

  1. People forget 2 key principles in Phil 3

Verse :10 Paul says he wants to know Christ in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering. We all want the power of His resurrection. We do not readily embrace the fellowship of His suffering!

Verse 13 says “forgetting those things which are behind.” The context of what Paul is discussing here is that he is forgetting all his accolades, all he did well, and he is pressing TOWARD suffering for Christ. So those who try to quote this verse as the reason to just “get over” suffering are, in fact, misquoting scripture.

  1. People forget 2 Cor 12:9 we are strong when we are WEAK and God is strong in us. Suffering and loss absolutely weakens us! But in it, as we embrace our loving Savior, He strengthens us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

  1. In this culture people think weeping is weakness. John 11:35 negates that. Jesus was not weak!

 

  1. The claim that “Time heals all wounds.” Time does heal but it does not make scars go away. Just because a scar is not visible does not mean it is not there. I can’t see your mind but I know you have one.  I can’t see the cancer that ravages someone’s body but it is still there and has to be dealt with. Emotional scars are also there and like a physical scar, if it is bumped or scraped will peel and sometimes reopen, so emotional wounds can be reopened when bumped.

 

  1. Some people think you are manipulating and having a pity party when in fact you are truly confused and need time and help to process the grief.

Carefully asked questions and NOT making assumptions are incredibly important here! If someone says essentially, “I am just having a pity party and leave me alone,” that is one thing, but if someone is genuinely confused in the process of deep grief, they need to be more carefully helped and allowed to process their questions and confusion. Jesus let Martha speak her piece and then answered her. God let Job speak his piece so we all have a clear picture of his areas of confusion and anger etc. Then He answered him with lots of carefully worded questions. 1 Cor 2:11 says that no man knows the spirit of a man except that man. and only when someone states that they will choose to use their grief as a crutch or pity party can you address them this way. Most people who are grieving are genuinely gasping for air trying to survive until they learn a new normal. It is incredibly easy to stand outside of someone else’s sorrow and pass judgment. God gives grace for each person’s sorrow and He times their healing just like some folks get over cancer and others die from the exact same form. We do have to pass through the valley of Baca (suffering) and make pools of hope for those who come behind Ps 84:6 But no one can be the Holy Spirit in someone else’s life. Our job is to listen and ask them what God is showing/teaching them. Or gently ask them what they understand about what a particular verse means. Ps 54-56 are helpful places to start.

  1. People forget that grief is a process not just a moment.

Refer back to my comments earlier about how God handled Elijah and Job. and # 17 we do need to work the process. I have seen information that talks about anywhere from 5 to 15 stages of grief.  The bottom line is  that grief is a process and people have to work through the process at the pace God sets for them and  we need to learn the things God wants us to learn but we have to do this on God’s time table not man’s.

  1. People Misquote verses like “forgetting what is behind and pressing forward.” (see number 13) The context of that is Paul forgetting his accomplishments and pressing toward the fellowship of Jesus suffering…

 

  1. Fellowship is not an instafix. Fellowship means time spent with a fellow in his ship. Ships riding in storms can’t just go dock at the landing. They have to wait for the storm to subside before it is safe to dock!

 

  1. People forget that the skin heals faster than the tissue underneath. My brother had open heart surgery. I tore my baby toe nearly off. I can tell you that the skin heals but the tissue underneath needs more time. I started walking on my foot too soon and reopened the wound because the muscles etc. were not healed under the skin. This is true in loss and grief as well. Deeper grief takes longer to heal.

 

  1. People forget that there are many ways to express grief beyond what they are comfortable with. Some need writing, drawing, talking, hiking, quietness, to name a few.

 

  1. Some People think because you grew up in a Christian home and can quote half the Bible that you know how to deal with grief and don’t need their extended help and understanding. And you should be able to just get over it and be full of joy because we are supposed to rejoice in our trials like James 1 says.

 

While we know the truth of something, we cannot anticipate all the things we will do when we experience it. When you learned to drive a car, you took the paper test but you did not know a thing about pushing the brake or gas at the right time or how much till you got behind the wheel, or how hard to stop or start or how fast to go around corners, or how to maneuver to parallel park. You must experience and work the process and so it is with grief. When I first drove, I ran into a brick wall on a motor bike because I did not know how to turn or hit the brake right. Now that I have driven over 500,000 miles in all kinds of weather and several types of cars /bikes, with various transmissions and axles, there are things about driving I don’t even think about.  But I had to learn. In the days, weeks and months following my dad’s death I could hardly get through an hour with out gasping back sobs. Now 18 years later I can still be caught off guard by a comment someone makes but it does not feel like the “brick wall” of those early days because I have learned how to gently apply the breaks in my mind and redirect after the initial shock of emotion subsides.  Dad is part of who I am, that will NEVER go away.  I have learned how to embrace that while continuing with my life but that took time and understanding from those around me.

Knowledge puffs up. Experience teaches you (1 Cor 13.) You gain wisdom through the things God allows in your life.  God does say He tests us to see if we will follow Him (2 Chron 32:31, Ps 11:4; 26:2; 139:23; Jer 17:10; 1 Pet 4:12) and in the case of Paul He said he would see the great things he would suffer for Jesus sake.(Acts 9:16)  Suffering is part of life and we can have joy in the sorrow but the Bible does say too, that the whole creation travails in pain waiting for the adoption of our bodies. (Roms 8:22) We do feel pain physically and emotionally. Roms 8:26 says the Holy Spirit helps our weaknesses with groanings that cannot be uttered.

From personal experience I can tell you that you can experience an unusual peace and joy at the same time that tears are streaming down your face (or ripping your soul) with deep grief. It is a crazy mix of emotions that is not unbiblical or ungodly. It is the natural process of grief.

“Counting something all joy” like James 1 says, is a thought in the mind first (the word count is a mental process here) it is not instantly an emotion. The emotion takes time to follow.

These truths can be gently shared in small doses when someone is ready for them but they are not the first things to say when someone is gasping for air in a tidal wave of emotion.

Feel free to comment and if needed let me know things you think I should add.

Be Sure Your Sin will Find You Out!

There you are skipping down the road in time to the sunshine, oblivious to everything except the sunshine and your agenda and then it happens…I am thinking about this story because it is pouring rain outside today and that makes me think of water and….well ……you know how the mind jumps from subject to subject…at least mine does…but where was I..? oh yes skipping down the road.. in time to the sunshine…

Actually, this story was not about what happened to me. It is about what happened to someone else because of me and water.

I would love to paint the beautiful sunny ocean scene and forget about the real water in this story and the consequences of my actions.. but sigh… I can’t. It is one of those little tales I have told over and over ….exposing my guilt in the process but also the powerful lesson I learned.

The date was Friday the 13th…If you know me well you know I don’t pay any attention to that date more than any other, but I was at Boylston Home at this time and so the girls I was caring for had, of course, heard all the tales about this supposedly ominous date. As they were getting dressed they told me the tales. I told them hogwash and headed downstairs. I managed to catch my foot on the stairwell and slid down the last 4 steps. They of course hooted and asserted I should pay attention to the date. I logically dismissed it as my carelessness. Some other things happened too and I dismissed them, but I had more to learn about carelessness and lack of diligence and that is where the water comes in… just in case you were wondering what all this had to do with water…

So the girls were happily shooed out the door to school and I was in the kitchen chatting with the other worker on duty with me. I noticed a mug on the counter that needed to be put in the sink so swiped it quickly toward the sink being silly.  In the process, I emptied the half-full contents of water out across the kitchen floor. I looked at Jen, my coworker, who was shaking her head laughing at me because… you know.. the date and all…

I, in disgust at myself, said to her. “Really? That is ridiculous! I am not going to clean that up. It’s just one too many things gone wrong this morning!” She smiled and walked out of the kitchen. It was my responsibility to deal with. I did not.

An hour later, 3 of we childcare workers were all standing talking in the kitchen and my boss, who was over 6 feet tall, came happily waltzing into the kitchen… in time to the sunshine….hit that water and nosedived across the kitchen floor! Yes, ladies and gentlemen this REALLY happened! He gingerly picked himself up and looked around pointing and saying “there’s water all over the floor! Where did that come from?” We all stood completely stunned for a moment knowing this was not a laughing matter. He went down very hard! I swooped for the cloth and got the water cleaned up… The rest of the day the verse “be sure your sin will find you out.” (Num 32:26) came to mind. The context of this verse is when Israel promised to help their brothers and Moses told them they had better follow through or they would be held accountable for it by God…fit my situation. I did not follow through on a responsibility and I caused someone else to suffer as a result. God remembers these things.

When someone thinks they needed you and you did not do what they wanted.

I was reading a blog today that talked about dealing with the accusations of someone who was demanding attention and the blogger discussed the fact that the individual who was attacking was essentially not trusting God enough.  Having experienced some things in my life these are my thoughts.

Several topics are needing to be addressed here, Forgiveness, trust, boundaries, true love, confrontation, blame-shifting, mercy.

Having experienced my own situations like this and unfortunately once being the one making the accusations I have a double-sided perspective on this that has caused me to pursue answers. These are things I have learned.

When someone accuses me I start by asking a very important question.

  1. Am I guilty of this selfishness that has been levied against me. If so, how must I change and be more Christlike? If not, how must I carefully confront the sin? You can’t do this till you ask some careful questions because “he who answers a matter before he fully hears it is a fool..” Proverbs 18:13
  2. Have I misread her confusion as accusation. 1Co_2:11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? There are situations where people genuinely do not know how to engage in relationships and I need to be willing to deal with some anger to help them see how to relate as adults but only if they are demonstrating the humility to change and look at their relational misunderstanding. I was in a situation once where I was seeking counsel and at a time of very real need and confusion reached out to someone who said she would help. She left me hanging instead of following through on her commitment. It left me confused because she had invited me to ask.  When I came back with a hurt, questioning email (never a good idea BTW– go talk to people who say they care at that level and Biblically go back again with someone else if you can’t get resolution Matt 18) she accused me of manipulation. I can honestly say, as God is my witness, because of the things I was dealing with, that manipulation was the farthest thing from my mind. I needed genuine help.  That accusation devastated me.  To discern this takes two things.. Patience and careful questioning.  The next time this happened the new person was more mature and wiser and started asking questions and went to the root of my confusion knowing what she was really dealing with (first by not assuming I was intent on evil thinking) and with genuine loving, carefully-crafted Biblical questions and guidance helped me gain a whole new level of understanding in relationships.

I have also been in relationships that despite continual attempts to help them see and change, they refused and asserted their rights.  Then the Word of God is also clear. (More below)

  1. Forgiveness cannot be granted unless it is asked for on the human level, otherwise every person on this planet gets to go to heaven, no matter what, because God is the ultimate forgiver. So what does this look like biblically?

Forgiveness is first Vertical. Mar 11:25  And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Mar 11:26  But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.  Before God I choose to hold no animosity towards this person. We all MUST do this. This means letting go of my right to retribution before God where He can truly make it right.

Forgiveness is also Horizontal. Luk 17:3  Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.

That means I rebuke the other person (in a spirit of meekness knowing I can also be tempted Gal 6:1) But s/he also has to repent. Which means s/he has to ask for forgiveness before I can grant it.  This does not mean I am holding on to anything because I already placed it before God. It simply means that I can’t say “I forgive you” to someone who does not ask for it.  God does not forgive us until we ask Him.  A very important point here is the term “repent” which means change your mind AND change your direction. If people ask for forgiveness but they make no attempt to change, they have NOT repented and you need to consider if you should “cast them out” (Proverbs 19:25; 22:10) of the ability to associate with you or if you are “casting pearls before swine and they will rend you”(Matt 7:6) so you must flee if they continue in sin. (More under boundaries below).

  1. Forgiveness is not a one-time act. It is an ongoing choice to not engage in negative thoughts about that person and as things are triggered, even when they are not there, we have to choose once again to take it back to God until it no longer triggers us.  For some that is a once or twice process because the wound is a skin scrape. For others it is an ongoing process because the wound is deep, like heart surgery, and like a physical wound, needs time to fully heal.  Modern medical research has shown that the same area of the brain is activated when you suffer an emotional wound as is activated when you suffer a physical wound. Emotional wounds do leave scars inside that need to heal. They cannot be seen but they are VERY real!
  2. Thankfully God has never commanded that we trust anyone but Him. Trust is earned and can be broken. Once broken it must be re-earned and as Proverbs 18:19 says “a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city.” There is a reason for this!  It is not about the brother being bitter. It is because offenses deeply wound and healing takes time and can be very hard to do.  This is completely separate from Love. Unconditional love is NOT the same as unconditional trust and just like you don’t cast your pearls before swine, you do not trust someone who has not earned it by long use and reliability. Or a demonstration of true repentance in action.
  3. Healthy relational engagement means that at times we have to say “no more!” Jesus got away by Himself at times. He eluded the angry, accusing crowd. He confronted the accusing Pharisees. In Acts, Paul escaped in a basket from his accusers. He confronted his accusers as well. More examples are in the Word. The verses “They went out from us because they were not of us (1 John 2:19).” and “cast out the scorner so contention will cease.” (Pro 22:10) come to mind here.  We hate to call a fellow believer a scorner, but at times this is actually the case.
  4. True love does not allow sin upon a brother. (Lev 19:17) Love is not all mushy. It is compassionate and it is also. It is also neutheteo, (the greek word “admonish” in Romans 15:14 I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another) means able also to exhort one another and means at times confronting Jude 21-22 says “on some have compassion making a difference.” But it also says “others pull from the fire, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”  Compassion comes first but repeated unrighteousness needs to feel the fire.
  5. Questions prick the conscience, accusations harden the will.
  6. One of the most gracious experiences I have ever had was when I reacted in anger to another person’s failure to follow through and she responded in anger back, initially, but later came back to me and did what I would consider over restitution for the offense because she cared more about the relationship then her agenda to prove I was demanding too much. I needed to learn that, I, in fact, was not considering everything that was on her schedule and needed to think more of what she needed. She put so much value on the relationship that she sacrificed later in a way that greatly humbled me!  It taught me a whole new level of what love looks like!  It let me know how much more I NEED to learn of what AGAPE looks like. She did this because she knew I was invested in truth and in the relationship with her as fellow believers. She would not do this with someone who was unrepentant.

Just my thoughts😉