Forgiveness Is A Process

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So in the last post we looked at making the decision to forgive. It’s important – without making that decision, you’re not going anywhere. The next part is starting the process of actually forgiving. Welcome to Day Thirteen of 30 Days to Forgiveness!

Wouldn’t it be nice if forgiveness were simply a decision and we could stop there? Okay, I forgive you, and you, and … Unfortunately it’s nowhere near that easy.

Forgiveness is difficult, so don’t feel bad about how much you’re struggling. It is not a feeling and it certainly does not come naturally to us.

In some ways, forgiveness is more like a habit. We make the decision to forgive, and that gets us started, but then we need to spend a lot of time reminding ourselves of that decision until it become a habit, until it becomes automatic.

When you wake up in the morning, before the sun is up, and the blankets are heavy and warm but your room is dark and cool, do you really want to spring out of bed?

I don’t!

My instinctual reaction is to pull back into that dark, safe place of sleep and dreams. But if I stay there, nothing will get done and I’ll get sluggish and lazy.

We really aren’t meant to waste away our days snuggling into warm blankets and soft pillows.

Well, when we begin the process of forgiveness, we often want to retreat back to our “safe” prison of anger and pain, and we can come up with a lot of justifications and excuses for why we should.

We’re not meant to waste away our days there, either!

It takes a conscious effort to forgive, and sometimes we have to stay consciously aware of it for quite some time.

Forgiveness, while it starts as a decision, is a process.

How long does it take to forgive? That’s going to depend on a lot of things, like what you need to forgive, how painful the hurt was, and how committed you are to the process.

Prayer and meditation are both great tools to help you along this journey of forgiveness. (If you’re worried that meditation is not for Christians – I talk more about this in a future post)

Keeping a journal is another great way to support yourself during this process. And of course you shouldn’t discount talking to people. This could be a close friend, a family member, or even a therapist that helps you through your grieving process as well as the process of forgiveness.

The process of forgiveness isn’t easy or quick. That’s why you need to make this decision wholeheartedly. It will take effort, commitment, and a lot of time spent in prayer. It may mean tears as you face things you thought you had buried, and it will involve setbacks in which you feel you will never get past the pain.

But it’s worth it.

There is, of course, a … well, let’s not call it a shortcut, because it isn’t. You see, you’ll know you have finished the process of forgiveness when you can feel that weight lift away. I love how the classic book The Pilgrim’s Progress talks about our “burden” that must be laid at the Cross. That makes it sound very easy, doesn’t it? It should be. Just drop that pain and anger at the feet of Jesus and leave it there, right? The problem is that we keep sneaking back and picking it up again.

There is always room at that Cross, though, and always a place to put down your burden of shame and anger and guilt … even if we are coming back for the thousandth time.

You’ll know you’ve completed your journey of forgiveness when you are no longer sneaking back to pick it up again.

You’ll know you’re there when you can look at someone who spit in your face and still feel peace and love instead of anger and pain.

There are days that I’m there, and days that I’m just as spitting angry and revengeful as ever.

But I have seen glimpses of it and I know it’s possible. It’s the mystery to how Jesus could look down from that cross and ask God to forgive the soldiers.

That love and peace is there for us, too. One step at a time, as we forgive those who hurt us, we make our way there.

Forgiveness Is a Decision (Day Twelve)

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Today we’re going to look at the fact that forgiveness is a decision that must be made. Nothing happens until you make that decision. In the next post, we’ll be looking at the actual process of forgiveness.

Now, we already talked before about what forgiveness is not, but I forgot something. Forgiveness is not an emotion.

Forgiveness is not an emotion.

You are not going to suddenly become overwhelmed by the feeling that you must forgive. It’s a conscious decision that you need to make with your rational mind. Now some Christians will point out that a relationship with God will fill you with love towards other people, and it’s true. If you commit yourself to seeing other people as God does, you will come to love and forgive them. But … and this is a really big but … I’ve known far too many God-loving Christians who show themselves very capable of ignoring that and choosing unforgiveness.

It’s unfortunate, and it harms them in all the ways I’ve discussed before, but it’s still true. No one gets an easy out on this one. Forgiveness requires a choice. You must decide to overcome your feelings of anger and disappointment.

There’s nothing easy about it. The decision to forgive is just the first step in a longer process that we’ll talk about in the next post. And yes, God and prayer and soul-searching are involved. While I believe that I can do all things – including forgiving the “unforgiveable” – through Christ who strengthens me, I’ve noticed that He doesn’t do very much in our lives if we’ve decided to be a lump on the couch stewing in our regrets and anger.

Until you make the decision, nothing is going to change and the process of healing can’t start.

Don’t get all wishy-washy with it, either. It’s far too easy to say “I forgive you” and not mean it at all. Sometimes we say it because it’s expected, or we think it’s expected. Sometimes we see it as the easy way out of an uncomfortable situation. But don’t expect anything to change just by mouthing insincere words.

There has to be real meaning behind the words, and you must have decided to forgive for the right reason. We have already discussed the problem of false forgiveness. Superficially, that looks like forgiveness, but it feels wrong, and it doesn’t produce the healing that we want.

As I said, forgiveness is not an emotion. But it does have an effect on our emotions. Once we make the choice to forgive and start down the path, we can start to heal. It starts with forgiving ourselves, and then forgiving the wrongs done to us and the pain that others have caused. As we move along the path, we can feel forgiveness regarding the things and people we’ve lost because of the actions of other people.

For a while, it takes regular, daily reminders. Today, I will practice forgiveness. Today, and just for today, I will make the decision to examine my heart for bitterness and anger and stay with the process of forgiveness.

Are you ready? In the next post, we’re going to get into some meat and potatoes stuff. We’ll look at exactly how we start the process of forgiveness.

Pain Never Cancels Out Pain (Day Eleven)

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One of those difficult conversations that I have with my children are explaining that we all get hurt by people around us. Misunderstandings, differences in belief and thought, and sometimes plain old malice, we are hurt by people we love dearly and by those we barely know, but paying back hurt with hurt, or holding onto our anger never helps anyone.

Recently, I had one of those conversations, with one child crying from a toy block thrown to their head and the other getting a bitten arm bandaged. He hit me first. No, she took the car I was playing with.

How much does it really matter, though? Or, more importantly, did biting his arm make her head hurt any less?

It’s hard for any of us to get past pain, anger and resentment.

It’s very common to want to get even – to hurt them back and pay pain with pain, preferably more than we received. We could look back into the Old Testament and see the concept of “an eye for an eye”. What most people don’t realize is that this was meant to limit how people were dealing with wrongs.

That says a lot for our natural tendencies, doesn’t it? Our instincts are to not only lash out for wrongs done but to pay it back with interest.

I have said it before – God created us to be loving and full of joy, but since the Fall, we really are a bunch of selfish stinkers. The need to get even is deeply engrained in our social conscience.

What happens when we give in to that and repay pain with pain, hurt with hurt, wrong with wrong?

The pain we give out can never cancel out the pain we received. Never. It just doesn’t work that way and it never did. Our social conscience really needs to learn the lesson of experience!

Paying back the wrongs only adds to the pain and sparks another round of retribution from the other side. This becomes a never ending cycle of pain and anger.

We have all heard about the famous Hatfield and McCoy feud from the late 1800s. It started out as a simple disagreement – over a hog, of all things – and quickly turned into a feud that lasted for generations. That feud spiraled out of control so badly that we use the term ‘Hatfields and McCoys” to indicate a stupid and unending family feud.

In each act of retribution, the families attempted to cancel out pain received with pain given.

It’s very obvious that it didn’t work.

A lot of pain and death could have been avoided if the first act of wrongdoing, or perceived wrongdoing, was forgiven. How sad to look back at generations of hurt and realize this. In the case of the Hatfields and the McCoys, it seems pretty obvious that they should have taken a step back and forgiven each other the previous wrongs. It would have saved everyone from the feud that resulted.

Just as in our own lives, this wasn’t so clear to the two warring families.

Practicing forgiveness is difficult. We don’t want to forgive anyone when we’re hurting, and we usually want the other person to pay for what they’ve done. Forgiving feels too much like giving in and giving up.

Thankfully, that’s not what happens at all.

Instead, forgiveness happens when we choose to move past the pain and anger. Revenge and dishing out more pain can’t cancel out the pain we feel … but forgiveness can.

If we are really honest with ourselves, we don’t want revenge. We don’t honestly want to inflict more pain. What we actually want is to heal and move on, and we mistakenly believe that retribution will do it. In fact, forgiveness is what gets us there.

Again, it doesn’t mean that we like and trust the person who hurt us, and it doesn’t mean we have to resume a relationship with them. But it does mean that we give up on those feelings of anger and the need to get even in order to find peace.

Once we make that decision to forgive, to give up on all thoughts of paying back pain with pain, we are on the path to peace and healing.

Let’s Talk About Forgiving Yourself (Day Ten)

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Forgiving yourself … have I lost anyone yet? Come on back, my friend, this is important.

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about forgiving others. Usually that’s what we think about regarding forgiveness, isn’t it? We think about people who have done us wrong.

And while we’ve talked about how important forgiving others is for your emotional and mental health, we haven’t really talked about you. That is, forgiving yourself, why it’s so very difficult and why it’s every bit as important as forgiving others.

In our forgiveness journey, there is one person we need to forgive above everyone else. And until that's done, we are pretty much stalled.

It’s okay if you struggle with this, because honestly, we all do. Forgiving yourself is harder than forgiving anyone else. There’s no one on this planet who is harder on me than I am! We’re our own worst critics and of course, we remember every stupid decision and harmful mistake we made.

It is so very hard to admit and let go of our mistakes.

Back in 1960, my grandfather made the decision to leave his secure job as a grocery store manager in a small city and to move his family back to small town Nova Scotia. The reason, from what I’ve been told, is that my grandmother missed her mother. In 1960, living a thousand miles from family meant you didn’t speak with or see them very much at all.

The decision was a bad one. Let’s be honest, it was a phenomenally bad decision, since he couldn’t get along with his mother-in-law and couldn’t find a job. He nursed his anger at himself, began drinking to dull his pain, and became violent and abusive.

One poor decision, which could have been handled had it been faced and acknowledged openly, turned into several generations of pain and hurt.

It’s impossible to love yourself until you can forgive yourself. And it’s impossible to truly forgive others until we face our own failings and forgive ourselves.

What happens when we look at our past mistakes, face them squarely and honestly, and then forgive ourselves?

Our sense of personal worth grows.

A while ago, I went through the Bible to find all the descriptions of how God sees us in Christ. It was powerful and you can download it right here (no sign up form required). You are not supposed to see yourself as worthless.

With a more accurate sense of your worth will come a newfound confidence that will serve you well.

Life is much easier and a lot more fun when you see yourself clearly and accurately, when accept your flaws and mistakes, forgive yourself for them, and accept yourself for the beautiful, worthy person that you truly are.

It’s easier said than done, though, isn’t it?

Forgiving yourself is harder than it sounds and it certainly doesn’t come easy to most of us. If you are lacking in an awareness of your worth, of how you are seen through the loving eyes of God, it will be even harder.

So let’s break it down.

First, admit your mistakes. Among most Christians, the wording will be to “confess your sins”. If that terminology makes you uncomfortable, it’s okay. In this context, a sin is a wrong that you have done to yourself or to others. It is something that you have done that hurts someone.

A journal helps here. Sit down and objectively list the wrongs that you’ve done and that are standing in your way. Don’t pretend you don’t know what they are. There are sins in my life that I would never admit to another living soul, but I know and God knows.

Writing them down is good because you have a visual record as you deal with each and cross them out. Don’t be too quick with the strike-out, though. Make sure each is fully dealt with first.

The next step is to think about what you would have done differently, given the chance. Knowing what you know now, what would you change?

That’s clear in your mind, right? Now take a step back and ask yourself this – DID you know that at the time? What I mean is, this hindsight that lets you know that it was a really, really bad decision … did you know that then?

That decision or action that you look back at and can’t forgive yourself for – did you know all of the consequences at the time? Or did you make the best decision with what you knew then?

My grandfather wanted to make his wife happy, and he probably missed home, too. He was making the best decision he could make at the time, but his inability to forgive himself for the bad decision caused decades of pain.

There is a decision that I made a long time ago, which caused me – and other people I love dearly – a great deal of hurt. For years, I had many sleepless nights and tear-soaked pillows because I couldn’t forgive myself for what happened.

If only … if only … if only.

I would have dreams in which I would go back in time and change things.

The problem was, though, there was nothing I could have changed. It took me a long time to fully realize that I did the very best I knew at the time, even if it did end up horribly wrong. The fallout from that decision is still with me, and it still hurts every day, but I no longer punish myself for causing it.

Nor will I allow others to use it against me, to manipulate or blackmail me emotionally over it.

You have those times in your life, too. Maybe you didn’t make the best decisions, but you had to grow and things had to change before you could realize that. It’s time to forgive your past self for the decisions that you made and to be thankful for those mistakes.

Thankful! It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But the truth is that those decisions formed the person you are today. We learn from our mistakes and all of our experiences, good and bad, mold and shape us.

Now, what’s next? There’s another part to confessing the wrongs you’ve done. I once heard a wise person say that not all wrongs or sins must be confessed publicly. Some do, but not all.In our forgiveness journey, there is one person we need to forgive above everyone else. And until that's done, we are pretty much stalled.

If the wrong you did is against God or against yourself, you need to deal with that privately in prayer. Why do we tell God our failings and mistakes? It’s not for Him – He already knows. We confess our wrongdoing in prayer because it is a very important part of forgiving ourselves and healing.

If the wrong you did is against another person, true healing requires that you admit it to them (and to God). I know – that’s really, really difficult. Even within a marriage, it can be very difficult to admit that we did something wrong.

The hardest type of confession, though, is when we have wronged our church or the public. That requires public confession (and a whole lot of private prayer, before, during and after).

The last step is what Christianity calls repentance. It literally means to turn your mind away from something. When we repent of the wrongs we’ve done, it doesn’t mean that we beat ourselves up, put on a figurative hair shirt, and moan about how we’re terrible people. Really, it doesn’t, and it’s a shame that anyone in the church ever thought it did. In fact, I’d say that true repentance might even be the opposite of that.

Repentance means to turn your thoughts away from the thing you’ve done and vow to do better in the future, with God’s help. You’ve grown and become a different person. Forgive yourself for the things you wish you had not done, be done with the guilt and shame and move forward.

The amazing thing is that, when we do things God’s way, we end up as happier, more joy-filled, confident people. No hair shirts required.

Don’t You Think It’s Time To Take Back Control? (Day Nine)

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Years ago, sitting in home economics class, I first heard the word victim with regards to sexual assault. It bothered me then and it bothers me now. We are taught to use terms like “a victim of …” So a person might be a victim of sexual assault, a victim of domestic violence, a victim of …

That victim mentality is taught everywhere, but I’m not sure why. I mean, I don’t know why anyone thinks we need to be taught to be victims!

It’s actually very easy to play the victim. The damsel in distress doesn’t have to do a lot of work, she just sits back and waits for her knight in shining armour to come and rescue her. Nurturing our victim status makes us feel righteous and gives us justification for holding on to our grudges.

No one needs to teach us that. For most of us, victimhood is the default reaction when something bad happens.

It’s much easier to blame someone else and make it their fault. It doesn’t matter if it actually is their fault or not, does it? I remember seeing a t-shirt once that said, “I know it’s not your fault, but I’m going to blame you anyway.”

Stop laughing – you’ve probably done it at least once. I know I have.

Playing the victim does something very important. It lets us sit back and react instead of proactively taking control and responsibility for our thoughts and feelings. We aren’t causing those terrible feelings – THAT terrible person is.

One thing that I tell my children often, and it confuses some people, is that no one can truly “make” you feel any emotion. At our home, no one is allowed to get away with saying “You’re making me angry!” No, the truth is that you are choosing to be angry and just blaming someone else.

This victim mentality comes with a heavy price tag. What you give up is your independence and happiness. Ouch. That’s a lot to give up.

Isn’t it time to take back control of your own feelings and your own life?

The first step is forgiveness. (You knew I was going to say that, right?) When you give someone for a wrong done to you, you take an important step towards taking control. It doesn’t matter if the wrong was actual or imagined.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone what happened or that you forget what they did, as we’ve talked about before. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will love the person or that you’ll even choose to interact with them in the future (although, if you choose to, you can know do it wisely). It simply means that you make the decisions for yourself that it’s time to let things go and move on.

Forgiveness means taking control of your own future and destiny – or moreimportantly, removing that control from someone who may not even realize that they are controlling you.

A while ago, I spoke with someone who had run into a friend of her ex-husband. My friend was shocked because, thirty years after a brief teenage marriage, the man still hates her for having ruined his life. She had almost entirely forgotten about that short but sad episode and she was completely horrified to realize that his anger towards her, nurtured over the decades, was affecting his daily life. Even if she had been a horrible person and had caused all of their problems, why would anyone want to let an event decades ago ruin their present life?

When you forgive, you make room for the fun, happy and exciting things ahead.

Let me make this very clear – you can’t choose to be happy and invite positive experiences into your life while you’re busy plotting revenge and harboring anger. Instead of living a full life, you’ll end up sitting in a lonely apartment, ruining your own life while the person you hate so much is living well.

You cannot take control AND play victim at the same time.

Yes, when bad things happen, and when someone has “spitefully used you”, it’s quite normal to feel angry. And quite honestly, angry is better than depression. If anger pushes you out of depression, that’s a good thing, but don’t stay there. If you get stuck in your anger, you’ll never move forward.

The Freeing Feeling Of Forgiveness (Day Eight)

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A few times as this series as progressed, I have mentioned the freedom that comes from forgiveness. Today I want to share a powerful quote on forgiveness with you.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.~Lewis B. Smedes

In that quote you can find the key to why forgiveness is so important. Once you start forgiving – true forgiveness, not the ‘look at how righteous I am’ false forgiveness – you will find that the feelings that come with it are very freeing.

We often don’t realize just how much we’re held back by the pain, anger, grudges and resentment that we hold. By choosing to hold a grudge, we create a prison that keeps us trapped in those negative feelings. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m no stranger to this.

Once we truly step onto the path to true forgiveness, though, and commit to the work and effort and soul-searching involved, we find that we are setting ourselves free.

Does it really come as a surprise?

Far too many people think that forgiveness is about the other person. They think that we forgive in order to release the person who wronged us. After all, the other person knows what they did, and if they’re a decent person at all, they must feel bad about it. Right?

And so, when you feel that way, you hold back on the gift of forgiveness, believing that you’re withholding something that they want but aren’t willing to ask for.

Okay, that happens.

But not nearly as often as you might think.

We’re all, at heart, quite selfish, and we all think that it’s all about us.

So, in most situations, while you’re stewing and holding on to your anger, waiting for them to come forth and beg for the gift of forgiveness, they’ve moved on and aren’t wasting a thought to the matter.

Since we’re sitting there, holding on to that grudge, though, we can’t move on. We can’t get to the point where we let go of the negative feelings. And while we’re wrapped up in that anger and pain, we miss out on all the good stuff around us.

Forgiveness can fix that.

It’s important to realize that forgiveness really isn’t about making the other party feel better. Even if that happens sometimes, it’s a very secondary consideration. Forgiveness isn’t about letting them get away with something, accepting their toxic behavior or bringing them back into our lives.

Not even close.

You can forgive someone for your own sake and still choose to have nothing at all to do with them in the future.

You can choose to forgive someone and let them back into your life (or not) without the same trusting and close relationship you once had.

The important thing is that, once you truly forgive those who hurt you, you have choices. It is very possible to look at someone who wronged you terribly, forgive them completely and then feel compassionate love for them. After all, we’re all hurting in our own way, and so much of the pain we cause others is because of hurts we haven’t faced and forgiven!

But you don’t have to bring them back into your life at all.

You might choose to have that person in your life in some form.

You might choose to never speak to them again and send them off on their life with forgiveness, love and best wishes.

Whatever you choose, and it is totally your choice, forgiveness means that you cut the ties that gave them power over you, your emotions and your actions. The thought of what happened no longer causes you anger and pain, and that’s a very freeing feeling indeed.

That’s when you’ll know you’ve truly forgiven, when the feeling that comes is one of peace and freedom. Examine your feelings as you root out the grudges and hurts. This is the peace that allowed Jesus to look down and ask forgiveness for those who were torturing and killing him as they were in the act of doing it.

If you’re looking for a couple of amazing resources that will help you grow in your faith, which go along very well with our study on forgiveness, I can’t say enough good things about these:

My husband and I are working through this fabulous little Bible study and devotional together this spring – and making a commitment to doing it each spring. We Choose Rebirth is for couples who want to renew their relationship. Like this Forgiveness series, it will challenge you in ways you may not have expected!

Restored & Renewed is a fabulous Bible Study, geared toward women. With beautiful printables that affirm our worth in Christ, colouring pages to help us relax and so much more, this devotional, Bible Study and journal package are just what you need to renew your soul in just a few minutes a day.

Did you miss the rest of this series?

Day one – Why It is a Daily Choice

Day two – What IS Forgiveness?

Day three – What Forgiveness is NOT

Day four – Why It is SO Important

Day five – Why It’s a Bad Idea to Ignore It!

Day six – The Forgiveness and Depression Connection

Day seven – When Forgiveness Gives a False Sense of Power

Day eight – The Freeing Power of Forgiveness

When Forgiveness Gives You A False Sense Of Power (Day Seven)

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Stick with me here. I’m going somewhere with this.

There’s an interesting thing that happens when we forgive people for the wrong reasons. I’m not saying it’s a good thing. It’s absolutely not good, but the reaction, and the story we tell ourselves, is extremely interesting. And almost all of us have done it.

There are two things that tend to happen.

Someone does you wrong. They spitefully use you. It really doesn’t matter what happened, whether it’s large or small or even if it was real or imagined.

Regardless, you feel slighted and angry.

You’re full of righteous anger.

That anger gives you a lot of energy.

Because you know you are in the right (whether you are or not), you hold onto that anger and resentment.

You’re not going to get pushed around. You’re strong. You’re angry. That hurt keeps you going, and that’s a good thing because they are going to pay for what they did to you.

They hurt you and they’re bad. You, though, are strong. In your mind, you’re hurling all sorts of angry thoughts and feelings at them, plotting your revenge.

And they don’t care.

Looks really don’t kill and no one has yet come to a bad end simply because they’re hated. Otherwise, this would be a very empty planet because all of us are hated by someone.

The only thing happening in this scenario is that you’re angry and miserable, your life is focused on that person you despise, and you can’t have healthy relationships because that ‘ghost’ is constantly showing up.

We’ve established that that is the path towards misery and depression, right? You understand how that works.

So let’s switch it around and change things a little bit. Change the reaction.

You’ve been hurt. The pastor said something on Sunday that was just … well, how could he? You feel betrayed and angry and can’t think of it without tears. With everything he knows about you, and then to say that to you, in front of everyone. You saw the look of shock in faces.

That’s okay, you tell yourself. You’ll forgive him. DEEEP breath … okay, he’s forgiven.

Now, don’t you feel benevolent and righteous? You’re such a good person, certainly a much better person than that pastor. He said that awful thing to you, accused you of … well, you’ll forgive him.

You’re still angry, of course, After all, who wouldn’t be?

But you’ve chosen to be the better person and forgive him for those terrible things he said. (After all, isn’t that what the forgiveness series has been teaching for the past week?)

Clearly, he just needs prayer, the poor soul.

God has promised to forgive us IF we forgive others, and you want your blessing from God. So, you’ll be selfless and choose to forgive that awful thing the pastor said. God will reward you for being so selfless, so righteous.

It’s not up to you to keep accounts. The Bible says so. God will keep score.

It really was awful, though. Every time you think about it, you pat yourself on the back for being the better person, the true Christian, by forgiving.

Can you see the serious flaw here?

This isn’t actually forgiveness! It certainly isn’t selfless and there’s nothing remotely Christian about insisting that you’re going to be ‘the better person’ and let God do the punishing! Instead what you’re doing is expecting a reward for your ‘good’ behavior and you’re just finding another way to wish harm on the person who hurt you.

It’s just that by pushing it out onto God, you’re making yourself feel better about your lack of forgiveness! You’re not fooling God, by the way, just yourself!

Granting false forgiveness – “Well, I’ll be the better person and forgive you, but God will deal with your punishment!” – is no healthier than choosing not to practice forgiveness. Both are dangerous paths to walk and neither one benefits you.

If you choose not to forgive, you are holding onto pain and anger and using it as a shield. It walls you off from other, healthy, relationships.

If you choose to offer false forgiveness, though, you’re fishing for recognition and praise for good acts that don’t actually reflect a changed heart. The pain and hurt and bitterness are still there, simply covered in a mask of false religion.

In either case, you aren’t practicing true forgiveness and you can’t move on. When we truly forgive, we get to a point where we can get past the pain and anger and let joy back into our lives. Whether we’re personally plotting revenge or hoping for God to do it for us, we’re still focusing on the wrong thing.

Ignoring forgiveness and offering false forgiveness are both paths that lead to an unhealthy destination.

If you’re looking for a couple of amazing resources that will help you grow in your faith, which go along very well with our study on forgiveness, I can’t say enough good things about these:

My husband and I are working through this fabulous little Bible study and devotional together this spring – and making a commitment to doing it each spring. We Choose Rebirth is for couples who want to renew their relationship. Like this Forgiveness series, it will challenge you in ways you may not have expected!

Restored & Renewed is a fabulous Bible Study, geared toward women. With beautiful printables that affirm our worth in Christ, colouring pages to help us relax and so much more, this devotional, Bible Study and journal package are just what you need to renew your soul in just a few minutes a day.

The Connection Between Forgiveness & Depression (Day Six)

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In the last post, we briefly touched on some of the negatives associated with ignoring forgiveness, and I mentioned depression. Today I want to dig into that a little more deeply.

What is the connection between forgiveness and depression?

Well, I know I said that forgiveness is about you. And it is. But the truth is that it’s not just about you. When we choose to hold onto a grudge, the chances of all involved ending up depressed are fairly high.

If you’re thinking that you’re fine with being miserable as long as you bring them down, too, you really need to keep going through this series. And I love you lots, really and truly, but … well, let’s just keep working on that anger, shall we?

Forgiveness and depression - what's the connection? Can we make ourselves healthier by choosing to forgive?

Anyway, the point is that by choosing not to forgive, you’re hurting yourself and you’re also potentially putting those around you in a dark place as well. That means your spouse, your children and your friends. It means the people who love you and want you to be happy.

There have been some studies down at universities in the United States that show a definite link between forgiveness and depression, and that certainly fits with what I’ve seen over the years.

When we choose to hold onto grudges and hurts and feelings of resentment, we feel less connected to the people around us. When we feel less connected, we have less capability for happiness and positive feelings and experiences … sounds like depression to me.

The good news is that it works both ways.

When we are depressed, it is very difficult to think about positive things. In fact, our brain changes so that we see everything negatively.

When we consciously and purposefully fill our minds with positive thoughts, we can mitigate or reverse those changes.

So let’s see if I can explain this better. We’ll pick one of those awful hurts from an earlier post. You are the adult child of an alcoholic. While depressed, every time you think about your mother, the thoughts are negative and bitter. She was drunk when you came home from school. You were always embarrassed. Other people had a real mother, but you just had this lush that screamed unforgivable things at you. Worse than screaming, though, was when she’d start hitting. Or throwing things. You’ll never forget the day she decided she hated the dinner plates and smashed every one of them, one by one, at your feet.

Look at those memories straight on.

They are there and they’re not going away. All of that awful mess is part of the story that made you, with your strengths and your compassion for others and all of your experience and knowledge.

Now, while accepting your mother exactly as she is, start working on forgiving her.

It wasn’t okay, not a bit of what happened, and it wasn’t right, and it’s totally fine to state that aloud and emphatically. It was NOT right and it was NOT okay.

Love might have to come later, so don’t worry about that right now. You’re just starting. What you need to do now is to start working on separating your negative feelings, which are hurting you every day, from the actions of your mother. It will take time and practice to identify the negative feelings, accept them and release them.

What happened in the past will always be there, and you can’t change that, but you can disassociate them from those awful feelings that drag you down.

There’s nothing special about that example of the violent, alcoholic mother. Perhaps you have a child who has rejected you and all you hold dear, and there are memories that just leave you gasping with hurt. Or you may have physical scars from a violent spouse.

Face those hurts. Look them straight on, name them and then start the process of stepping away from them. The thing that hurt you will always be there. It is in the past and can’t be changed. But you choose whether you let it continue to affect you every day.

Giving – and receiving – forgiveness has a powerful impact on lifting depression.

This doesn’t come natural to us.

Remember Captain Kirk saying that we’re killers and we must simply choose to not kill – today? Violence and hatred and grudges are our natural lot. Forgiveness is something that we must learn, and it’s something we can ultimately only do with God’s help. This is the power of the Cross, at Easter and throughout the year, that we can drop our burden of pain and shame and hurt there and, with the help of God, leave it there.

Despite our violent tendencies, we’re social creatures who crave and physically need connections with other people. We’re so pack-oriented, in fact, that we’ll bond with small furry animals! Actively forgiving, and building connections with other people, helps us to work well together and brings us joy and happiness because that’s how we’re made – regardless of how we act.

This can help lift us out of depression or prevent it in the first place.

It boils down to this – you have a choice. No matter how big the hurt or how much you think you need to hang on to, the ball is always in your court. You can choose to hold on to grudges, resentment, anger and pain, and greatly increase the risk of depression for yourself and those around you, or you can choose forgiveness.

Letting go of that anger and pain makes room for much happier feelings.

Forgiveness and depression - what's the connection? Can we make ourselves healthier by choosing to forgive?

Why It’s A Bad Idea To Ignore Forgiveness (Day Five)

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Let’s talk about forgiveness!

My entire readership suddenly looks baffled and wonders if Marie has lost it. Haven’t we been talking about forgiveness for several days now?

Let’s be more specific, then.

We’ve had a basic overview of forgiveness. We’ve discussed what it is, what it is not (which is just as important) and why it’s so very important to choose forgiveness.

But what happens when you choose to ignore forgiveness? Because make no doubt, it’s your choice.

Some of you are glaring at the screen now, ready to close this post, because you’re thinking I don’t understand. Your pain is so very strong and raw, and the hurt done to you is so incredibly overwhelming, that you just can’t bring yourself to forgive and move on.

If I understood how badly you’ve been hurt, I wouldn’t be so cruel as to suggest you’re choosing to be unforgiving.

Perhaps you were sexually abused as a young child.

You could be the child of an alcoholic who witnessed abuse and toxic relationships throughout childhood.

Your pain could come from rape. Date rape is a vile, under-reported crime that causes lifetime scars. Violent stranger rape creates its own trauma.

It might be that those who were supposed to love and protect you were instead physically and emotionally violent. When you were a child. Or a teenager. Or a new spouse. Or while in the hospital recovering from childbirth.

Maybe you’ve had children torn from your arms. Parental alienation – by the other parent, by the courts, by anyone – could emotionally tear your children away from you, and children have been killed, too.

I get it.

Really and truly, I understand exactly how you’re feeling right now.

There are times and situations in which forgiveness feels absolutely impossible, and no amount of reading or even therapy is going to make it easier.

There are times when, let’s be honest, you just don’t want to forgive. Move on? Baby, that prison of hurt and pain just feels a bit too good right now, because it’s yours and no one can take it away from you, and you’re going to wallow in it for a bit.

It’s okay, sometimes, for a little while, to feel resentful and angry.

Unless you’re spiritually at the point where you can be dying on a Roman cross and calling forgiveness and mercy upon your murderers …. No?

Not there yet?

It’s okay, neither am I.

What’s important, though, is that you start getting yourself into the right state of mind. You don’t want to be stuck in that world of anger, resentment and revenge. It’s not a healthy place to be and it will lead to so very many problems. That’s a place where you can’t have truly healthy relationships with other people, you can’t feel good about the world, and you can’t feel happy and content.

It’s also a place where you can’t connect with God, and I have to tell you, that’s probably the worst place of all. There’s a four letter word to describe what it feels like to lose access to the Presence of God.

Ignoring Forgiveness Keeps You Stuck

When you’re holding onto those feelings of resentment, it’s impossible to move on with your life. You might think you’re managing, but you’re not.

The saddest part of that – the other person has long moved on and most likely barely thinks of you!

True story – I know of a man is constantly plotting ways to ruin his ex-wife’s life.

He loathes her and wastes no chance to tell everyone how she destroyed him. Misunderstandings, the mistakes of youth, fights that escalated for stupid reasons – their marriage had ended for pretty much the standard reasons that young marriages fail. But he can’t let go. He’s on his fourth wife since her, and the anger still bubbles away, wrecking his relationships and her happiness.

Meanwhile, she has remarried (and stayed married) and has happily settled down into a nice community as far away from him as she can. Mention him and she’ll look surprised for a moment and then a little sad. It would have been nice, she’ll tell you, if they could have at least stayed friendly, but it is what it is. The last time he screamed at his family in a grocery store parking lot, she realized they needed to move. She recognizes that she wasn’t the wife he should have been, although not quite to the extent that she says, but then it seems all of her husbands have been “horrible”. At any rate, since she can do nothing to change the past, she has made sure to improve her relationships going forward.

For the record …. I know of four different former couples who all fit into that description, switching the genders a little! It’s sad to see, but it’s so very common.

That person you’re hating on and holding a grudge against, are they even sparing a thought to what happened? In all likelihood, they’ve moved on with life and aren’t feeling worried or bad about it. In fact, it’s quite possible that they’ve completely forgotten whatever it is that you’re nursing in your prison of anger.

And there you are, stuck in that miserable, painful emotional place, holding on to your grudge because it somehow is going to make things right. You see, in the example above, does it matter which spouse was in the wrong, if either of them even were?

Which of them is happier, more content and enjoying life?

Can you see how forgiveness is about you?

Holding On To Anger Keeps Out Happiness

All of that anger makes it hard to make room for positive feelings.

Truthfully, you can’t be happy and angry at the same time, and you’ve spent a long time holding on to that hatred. It crowds out all the good emotions.

When you begin to forgive, and choose to love even those who harm you and spitefully use you, the anger and hurt makes room in your heart for joy and happiness.

If that’s not a great reason to make a serious effort to forgive, I don’t know what is!

It May Even Cause Depression

When you’re stuck in that dark place, you’re retraining your brain to negative, dark emotions. They are always there and, as I said, anger and happiness can’t coexist.

This is a path that leads to depression.

Is it worth it? Is the dubious pleasure you get from nursing that grudge worth risking depression? Even if you are totally in the right and they are totally in the wrong, how does it help you to keep that grudge going?

Yes, there are generally other factors that come into play with depression (and I’ve mentioned before that I suffer from seasonal bouts of depression), but learning how to forgive goes a long way towards easing the darkness.

That feeling of freedom that comes when you truly forgive will go a long way towards helping you feel better. Depression seems to drop you into a deep, dark hole with no sunshine. Forgiveness helps you to let a bit of sunshine in.

Please take this warning seriously.

Ignoring forgiveness will never hurt anyone else more than it hurts you.

Why Forgiveness Is So Important (Day Four)

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When we forgive, a self-built prison of anger and pain comes down and we move on with our lives. But what happens when we ignore forgiveness? When we hold onto anger, hurt, grudges and feelings of revenge, it prevents us from moving on. That means that end up feeling stuck and trapped in the anger.

10 Best Survival Skills for Natural Calamities

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Tomorrow is never certain.  We never know when there might be a dissonance which can disrupt the comfortable nature we are used to on a daily basis. There are many different emergency events which some people prepare for but, unfortunately, most of us tend to ignore. At some point in our lives, we will have

Dealing with Holiday Tension When the Family Gets Together

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Families. They can be a wonderful blessing, and they help make us who we are. But oh, can’t they be a major pain in the neck during the holidays. In fact, they can be both a wonderful blessing and a pain in the neck at the same time. Most of us are under a lot of stress during the Christmas season. With a long school holiday, storm days if you’re in a cold region, and lots of social gatherings, we usually see a lot more of each other at this time than during the rest of the year. Stress and

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Sometimes Christmas Just Sucks

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Life comes in seasons. Some years are wonderful, with laughter, few worries and plenty of good. Other years, though, it seems that the tears never stop. In the good years, the entire holiday season can be joyful and fun. When life takes a turn for the worse, though, we might just wish Christmas would go away. And that’s okay. Yesterday I wrote about enjoying Christmas even if it’s not perfect. Don’t hold back your Christmas joy just because the ornaments are made of paper and the turkey was donated. Laugh and smile and enjoy what you have even if you

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From Survival Blog: Is Being Prepared Getting In The Way of Living?, by M.

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What are you preparing for? Are you getting ready to survive an EMP attack? A financial meltdown? Flu pandemic? Nuclear holocaust? Regardless of what we are preparing for, sometimes it is healthy to ask ourselves how we are living in the meantime. Those of us who feel a need to prepare do it with a passion, but are we preparing in sensible ways that allow us to enjoy life each day, or are we so busy watching and waiting for the chaos of life to justify the time and money we’ve spent on our “preps” that we miss a lot of the important business of living in the moment?

I was born in the late 50’s and grew up just outside of Washington, D.C. The Cuban missile crisis happened while I was in kindergarten. To this day, I remember it vividly. We were sent home early from school wearing name tags. When my sister and I walked up to our house, my father was loading up the car so we were ready to flee at a moment’s notice. Around that same time, I remember touring a fallout shelter, which my parents were considering buying and burying in the backyard. Living where we did, they thought long and hard about that one. Lots of our neighbors did, too. A few years later, I remember standing on the porch of our suburban D.C. home with my father after Martin Luther King had been killed. Riots quickly erupted. We could hear the explosions in downtown D.C., only a few miles away, from the rioting and devastation. The experience was chilling. Then Richard Nixon resigned after Watergate. I was in college at the time and working a summer job at the Pentagon. I listened as people I worked with, who came from all different backgrounds, actively talked amongst themselves and wondered if the government was going to fall and if the guidelines provided by the Constitution were gone forever. I remember sitting in line for gas during the gas crisis of the 70’s and creeping along mile after slow mile (on odd or even days, according to your license plate number) for a turn to fill up the tank. When I married a career Army man, we spent years living overseas, mostly off-base in German and English neighborhoods. During the first Gulf war, while my husband was deployed to the Gulf, military families living off base were given very specific safety instructions. One of the things I had to do every morning was get down on my hands and knees to check under the car before I drove our children to school to see if there was anything suspicious under there. I would always keep the children inside while I turned the key in the ignition, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything and the car didn’t explode. Sound to you like maybe I was overreacting? My husband was the duty officer of the day when the Red Army faction tried to blow up the NATO school in southern Germany with a car bomb in the 80’s. He only survived because of a faulty timing mechanism on the bomb. 

So what else is new, you might ask. You say that you already know we live in an unsettled world. My point in rehearsing my little history is to share the fact that, although I grew up in a home where we were always prepared and my husband and I continued to practice always being prepared, I never felt like a prepper. I applaud prepping. I respect independence and self-sufficiency. However, I see too many people today who are so busy prepping that they seem to have forgotten how to live happily in the here and now. I offer up the following guidelines as examples of my own benchmarks. They are my mental safeguards that help me to be prepared but keep me from crossing over into an unhealthy obsession with prepping. And yes, there is such a thing as an unhealthy obsession with prepping. Any virtue carried to an unhealthy extreme becomes a liability. 

Rule #1: Prepping supplies cannot spill over into the comfortable living areas of my home. I don’t care how valuable certain items might be for bartering after the SHTF, if they interfere with my ability to provide a comfortable living environment for my family, then they have no place in my home. Making memories in the here and now is important, and I don’t want my child’s predominate memory being that there was never a clear path to walk between rooms and that she was embarrassed to invite a friend over because the clutter was so bad. I believe in stocking up; I really do. I have a tower of TP out in the shed and buckets of wheat in the downstairs closet to prove it. However, my family members feel like they live in a clean, comfortable home, well, at least most of the time.

Rule #2: Every spare minute cannot be devoted to prepping. Prepping takes time and careful thought, but every hour spent prepping is an hour that you will never get back with your family for family memories. We combine the two when it makes sense. Working in our garden together as a family teaches many valuable lessons. However, if the kids are endlessly waiting around to play football with their dad and he is always too busy because it is more important to organize his bug out bag, then the wrong lesson is being taught. I have watched parents justify all of their time spent prepping by saying that they are doing it for their family. In my experience, children would rather have their parents’ time than just about any other resource. Okay, so maybe they won’t have the coolest gadgets or the greatest variety of foods in a crisis situation. But if they have good memories with their parents in the here and now, most will consider that a more-than-fair trade-off. There is also a much greater likelihood that they will function more effectively as a family unit and know how to support each other. They will also probably be happier and more adaptable.

Rule #3: Prepping decisions need to be jointly agreed on by both spouses. Otherwise, resentment simmers and eventually boils over. The biggest argument my husband and I ever had (and this is the truth) was about shipping empty Clorox bottles I had saved for water storage from Massachusetts to England during a military move. He was livid that I would even think of expecting the U.S. taxpayers to spend their hard-earned dollars on such folly. My position was that it had taken me two years to save up that many empty bottles. I made enough sacrifices as a military spouse already. It wasn’t fair that every two years I had to go back and start from zero again. In the end, we compromised. Mostly, I gave in. We shipped a few empty bottles– just enough so I could start a water storage plan as soon as our baggage arrived. The rest were thrown away. Prepping decisions always involve time or money, and both are important resources. Both parties need to be equally invested in those decisions. Even if one party is willing to do all of the gardening chores, both parties need to be in agreement on the amount of lawn to dedicate to the garden as opposed to, say, a hot tub and pool.

Rule #4: Specialization is smart. Be grateful for the skills of others. They save you boatloads of time and effort, which allows you more time to enjoy the genuine pleasures of life. None of us is good at everything. I am really good at sewing, storing and preserving food, and gardening, but I am hopeless at figuring out solar energy configurations and options. In fact, pretty much anything having to do with energy seems to slip right out of my brain, no matter how many times I try to get it to stick up there. Luckily for me, my brother helped me to set up a very efficient and functional off-grid solar system that would power our freezer, fans, wheat grinder, lights, and other small electrical appliances if the power went out. I am now looking for a smallish fridge that will work well given the capacity of the system. My brother is my best source of advice. Likewise, he was thinking there was no point in his trying to garden at his cabin, which sits above 8000 feet in the Rockies. I was able to share with him some tomato seeds I had that were developed in Russia during Soviet times for a short, cool summer growing season. He hasn’t planted them yet, but the growing seasons aren’t that different, and I think there is a good chance that they will work. Being able to share your individual areas of specializations with those you trust can save everyone valuable time, which can then be spent on simply enjoying life.

Rule #5: Keep the Sabbath Day holy. I find that if I focus on worshiping my Savior on the Sabbath, my time during the rest of the week is expanded to compensate. My financial resources also seem to stretch further. It has to do with the economy of heaven, and it really does work. My husband and I never prep on the Sabbath, and we feel that we have been blessed in our preparedness efforts as a result. Try it for yourself. If there is a particular area of being prepared that challenges you, or if you are short of funds for a particular purchase and you can’t see where the money is going to come from, or if your spouse or other family members are not as supportive of your efforts as they could be, try simply keeping the Sabbath day holy; test the Lord. He always comes through. I can say that miracles have happened in my own life by following this simple principle.

No matter how many years we are blessed with, life is short. While there is no denying that we live in a dangerous world that challenges us with a multitude of different scenarios to prepare for, we always need to be mindful of the need to live our lives each day with gratitude and joy and to set the example for other family members in this as well. Peace comes from being prepared, yes, but joy comes from living. Here’s to finding a sensible balance.

From the excellent Survival Blog managed by Hugh and owned by JWR. I think they are OK with stuff being reposted as long as it is attributed to them. 

My thoughts:
I wish I would have read and internalized this excellent article a long time ago. I would write a rule very similar to the one about not spending every minute on prepping that says not to spend every spare dollar on prepping. Balance kiddos. Figure out a reasonable amount of money to put towards preparedness. Also put money towards entertainment, travel and whatever other stuff you enjoy.

The part about relationships, heck if I know. For me this wasn’t a huge marital issue. Preparedness relate conflicts were mostly about space with stuff trickling into living space. Beyond that I am 0/1 for marriages so I do not feel qualified to give advice there.