Self-Medication

Self-Medication

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago…just in case you are like, “Oh hot dang…I need to send her a text or a coffee or chocolate!” I mean, you can still do that, but my yesterday-yesterday was good! My couple-weeks-ago-yesterday, not so much…

Yesterday was not a good one, ya’ll. It was a tough go. I was angry. I was yelling at ERRRRRRRone. My anxiety was through the roof. 

Today, as I was on my morning run, I realized something: I was using the three things that were stressing me the most to self-medicate. 

What does it mean to self-medicate, you ask? Self-medication is when you attempt to feel better by addressing the symptoms and not the actual issues. In other words, when you feel worthless, sad, anxious, stressed, angry, or hurt, you try to eradicate those feelings instead of uncovering why you are reacting these ways

Self medicating is lazy, temporal. You will feel better for a minute, sure. But self-medication creates an incredibly unhealthy cycle. I will use myself as an example, but you have to promise not to judge. Here are my three main stressors from the other day:

  • Money
  • Chocolate
  • Social Media/TV

You said you wouldn’t judge. I realize mine look benign. Maybe yours are pills, alcohol, pornography, sex, whatever. Our vices are our vices. If it’s keeping us from truly getting healthy, if it’s distracting us from the main issues, it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s deadly. But back to me. 

I have been so obsessed with money. I’ve been obsessed because I haven’t been disciplined and living on a budget. Spending money has always given me a high…I’ve learned this over the years and specifically when I was diagnosed with Borderline (reckless spending is a symptom). So when I’m feeling down, I buy an outfit or something for the house or for the kids and I feel better…for the moment. But then I get upset because I’ve overspent on a budget category and now I’m stressed. So what do I do? You probably guessed it…Hello Amazon!

I really work hard to stay fit and healthy. Chocolate, as you know, does not keep you fit and healthy. On a hard day, I attempt to cheer myself up with something sweet. I’m an all or nothing gal. I can’t just have two or three M&Ms. I have to eat dozens, which doesn’t make me feel well physically and then that affects me mentally and emotionally. So I’m down again and so are the chocolate morsels…down my throat that is (insert hand on head emoji).

When I’m feeling hurt, ignored, or rejected, then I turn to social media, cause like, duh, this seems like a really wise idea. People there will like me. Or I’ll make them like me by producing content that they will enjoy. I fall down the rabbit hole of comparison and jealousy and I end up only feeling worse and empty. So back to shopping on Amazon with a bag of chocolates.

You see, we are all looking for love, acceptance, worth and security. But we are looking to everyone and everything other than Jesus. And this creates unhealed hurts, unresolved issues, and unmet needs that we are trying to heal, resolve and meet…on our own. 

Some of you know exactly what your unhealed hurts, unresolved issues and unmet needs are…but some of you have no idea because you’ve been white knuckling your life and self-medicating for so long, you don’t even see it anymore!

You may have to go back…waaaaay back…to figure out what unhealed hurt, unresolved issue and/or unmet need is making you get angry with your spouse over stupid things, or why you push your kids too hard, or why you work too much, or why you have to have everything just so, or why you are always afraid, or you have no friends, or none of your marriages have worked. You have been looking to other people for love, acceptance, worth and security – and people were never created to give you these things. Only Jesus can.

So you are self-medicating in order to cope…

Through counselling, I’ve been able to recognize my triggers and my coping strategies and I’ve been able to work to rewire my mind to think healthily and to then respond to these fight or flight situations appropriately. Did you know that anxiety and depression are basically adrenaline rushes? You sense danger and you fight or have an anxiety attack, or you take flight and hunker down in depression. 

This is why my Three C’s for Healing (corny, I know), are:

  1. Christ
  2. Community
  3. Counselling

Jesus is the only One Who can truly heal you and put your life back together. He wants to enter into the pain with you (the unhealed hurts, unresolved issues, and unmet needs) and He wants to offer you the love, acceptance, worth and security you need to live a WHOLE, HEALTHY life. 

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and authentic, we open the door for others to speak into our lives and help us to see our blind spots that have the potential to derail our lives. Scripture says in Proverbs 18:1 that people who isolate themselves are not wise. Let people in…it makes life so much easier and worthwhile.

And finally, some of you just need to get into counseling so that you can get past whatever is holding your life hostage. We were created to live FULL, ABUNDANT lives. If this isn’t characterizing your life right now, then what are you waiting for? Why wouldn’t you want to do whatever it takes to be FREE and FULL?

Be on the lookout with your kids…when we don’t do the hard work of healing and getting healthy, they inherent these wonderful vices and find their own! Healing starts with us, the parents…and then it trickles down! 

So let’s do this! Let’s stop self-medicating and let’s allow Christ, community and counseling do their thing in our lives!

Christmas: Broken, Lost, Forgotten.

Christmas: Broken, Lost, Forgotten.

Broken. Lost. Forgotten. Do any of these words resonate in the deepest parts of you? Is your heart tearing in two? Have you been walking in darkness for so long, you don’t even remember what light looks and feels like? Does anyone even know the real you?

Christmas has a way of underscoring these emotions. In the midst of the lights and songs and presents and food and company, Our brokenness turns into despair. Our searching turns into desperation. Our worthlessness turns into despondency. 

Broken. Lost. Forgotten. See, it’s funny, because in two thousand years, not a whole lot has changed.

The shepherds were broken. Cue 5 They were the outcasts of the society. Because they cared for the sheep that would later be used as sacrifices for the people’s sins, the shepherds were considered the lowest of the low. How did they get here? Could they rewind time and rewrite their stories? Was it too late for them? They were Broken.

The wise men were lost. They were constantly probing the heavens for meaning. Signs. Direction. The funny thing was, they had power. They had wealth. They had it all. And yet, they couldn’t escape this nagging feeling that they were missing something. What was life all about? Why were they here? Is there more? They were Lost.

And Mary, Mary was forgotten. A fourteen year old girl, engaged to Joseph. When she couldn’t hide her pregnancy anymore, no one believed her story. Not even her betrothed. She was going to be discarded. What did she do to deserve this? Was all of this her fault? Why would God allow this? She was Forgotten. 

But their stories don’t end there.

You see, while the shepherds were sitting in their brokenness overlooking the small, quiet town of Bethlehem, a host of Angels’ light PIERCED the darkness. They were announcing the King of Heaven’s birth and the shepherds, THE SHEPHERDS, were the first to hear. Their brokenness enabled them to hear the sound of hope so loudly, they couldn’t help but go and worship. A King born in a manger? HE was Someone they could relate with. He met them right where they were and Their brokenness was overtaken by hope.

One dark night, a star shone brighter than the others. What was this celestial being? As the wise men searched for the significance of this star, they discovered a prophecy about a King Who would be born in Bethlehem. Intrigued, they set out to find this King. They weren’t incredibly sure of what or whom they would find, but they knew one thing: They were no longer lost. This star signified the fact that there was more: There was a King of Heaven Who finds us in our searching and leads us to Himself.

And as for our sweet Mary, after traveling on a donkey for days, she and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem. Once again, she feels forgotten. God couldn’t even make sure she had a safe place to deliver HIS Son? But as Jesus’s cry rang through the silent night, an eerie peace and awe overtook Mary. As she raises her weary, tear stained face, she locks eyes with random shepherds and hears the echoes of Angel choirs. Who was this child? All she knew was that She was now a part of an unforgettable story.

Jesus changed their lives. He turned brokenness into wholeness. He takes those who are lost and gives them purpose. He makes the forgotten unforgettable.

Our Immanuel. God with US.

Immanuel

Immanuel

Christmas. For some of us, this season fills us with childlike joy and excitement. The lights, parties, decorations, cookies, presents, family members…everything about Christmas energizes us and leaves us counting down the months until December. Maybe we don’t even wait until December…maybe we deck our halls in November. Heck, some of us wish we worked in Christmas Shops so we never had to go without the holiday!

And for the rest of us, this season is a stark reminder of all the ways we have failed and the fact that we are alone. Whether we have lost a family member, been harshly separated from one, or feel as though we have failed our families, we would rather close our eyes and fast-forward through this holiday that seems to be a vain attempt to mask the pain for a month. Reality sets in thirty days later reminding us of our failures and aloneness.

But maybe we have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. Sure, you’ve heard that before, haven’t you? “Let’s remember the reason for the season!” “Keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas!” We put up the nativity scenes, we read through Luke 2, we tell our children this is Jesus’ birthday, we say “Merry CHRISTmas!” and not “Happy Holidays!”. But has it all become so rote that we truly miss out on one of the most fundamental crux’s to our faith? Have our traditions and catchy phrases numbed us to something more?

Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Go back in time with me…stand from afar and watch as Mary, who is full term now, tries to find a comfortable position on the donkey while she fights her contractions. You can see the pain written across her face. But this isn’t just the pain from the contractions…she has been ridiculed, doubted, and abandoned by her community due to this pregnancy. She’s young…under 20 years of age young. Get a glimpse of her thoughts…what kind of delivery will this be? What does a baby conceived by the Holy Spirit look like? Will Joseph be able to love this boy? Does he still love me because he wants to or because he has to now? Will we be good parents?

Watch Joseph’s face as he frantically looks for the smoothest part of the dusty dirt road while at the same time hopelessly searching for a suitable location for Mary to deliver. The past ten months have been nothing short of Hell for his reputation. But he loved Mary…he believed God…and he would love and raise this boy as well. He made his mind up months ago and he was determined to stay to the course.

Now, come with me into the stable, the most unlikely maternity ward. Listen to Mary scream as she starts to push. Hear Joseph console her. Watch as their son enters the world a takes his first breath. Joseph, an unfit midwife, runs to get water and whatever clean linens he can find. Mary, relieved the worse is over, takes a deep breath and clings to her son.

Do you see the look in her eyes as she stares at him for the first time? She knows that the baby she is holding was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She was told He was the Son of God, that He would save His people from their sins, that He, this tiny life whose fingers were wrapped around her one finger, whose very existence was dependent on her now, that He would be called “Immanuel, which means, God with us.”

Joseph runs back into stable with little pieces of cloth he got from the Inn next door…these linens were probably dish rags. No matter. He needed something with which to clean his son and make sure he was warm. His son. Funny how everything changes when you see that little person for the first time. This was his baby. Held by his wife. The ridicule and embarrassment seemed nothing to Joseph now.

He catches Mary’s eye and they both freeze. The enormity of what just happened is beginning to sink in. They can’t speak, because neither of them have the words. They don’t really know how this all happened, or what they are supposed to do now, or what their future is going to look like. All they know is that they have each other and this precious life, “Immanuel, God with us.” God with them.

Over the next 33 years, Mary would watch the most fascinating life that ever walked the face of the earth. She would see Him change water into wine, heal blind men, raise people from the dead, cast out demons, and feed thousands. She would watch as He graciously interacted with prostitutes, tax collectors, sinners, and lepers. She would hear Him condemn the righteous and religious. And then, she would see Him nailed to a cross. The same person she held in her arms that night in a stable, would have His arms outstretched on a Roman cross. Was this how it was supposed to end? This wasn’t what she signed up for. She thought the Messiah would come and establish His Kingdom. She thought she would be spared from heartache. What was God doing? Was she missing something? She had lost everything for Him. Her reputation, her family, her peace of mind…and now for what? How could God do this to her? How could He do this to her?

And then…three days later…everything changed.

Three days later, Mary saw her son. Oh, but He was no longer her son. No, now He was her Savior. And everything made sense. Her confusion, her pain, her aloneness, her isolation…all of it culminated in the moment she saw Him alive. She got it. She understood why her son, the Messiah, had to die.

So He could offer scandalous grace to those who do not deserve it. To those who truly believe they are too broken, too dirty, too wayward, too unreligious, too unworthy, too unacceptable.

To those who think God could never love them, Jesus Christ is God with Us and proved otherwise. Jesus Christ is the living proof that God desperately wants a relationship with you…with me.

But we fight Him. We fight the Savior of the world. We would rather try to convince Him that we aren’t worth it, while He holds open His outstretched, pierced hands and claims otherwise.

What are you waiting for? Why not give in to a love that has the power to heal you at your depths. Why not surrender to a peace that calms the raging storms within you. Why not?

What do you need this Christmas? I guess the better question is: Who do you need this Christmas? Do you need someone to guide you through a new season, someone to give you answers to the tough questions ahead, someone to tell you how to handle that difficult situation? Then you need a Wonderful Counselor.

Do you nee a miracle? Do you need strength to face another day? Are you not sure how to get around the obstacles in your path? You need a Mighty God.

Do you need to feel safe and secure again? Do you need a protector, a comforter, and encourager? Do you need to feel loved and unconditionally accepted? Then you need an Everlasting Father.

Maybe you need a Savior. Maybe you are at the end of your rope…you know there is a God, but you have no idea how to interact with Him or why He would even want to be with you. All you know is that this can’t be all there is to life. You are drowning in darkness and you see no escape. You need a Prince of Peace.

Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross for YOU. He died because He wants a relationship with YOU and the only way to make that happen is to pay for your sins once and for all. He proved He was capable of that when He rose from the dead three days later. Call out to Him. Tell Him you believe! Tell Him He is your Savior. It is that easy! And rest in the presence of Immanuel, God with Us.

Fighting for Counseling

Fighting for Counseling

Whenever I talk about counseling, I get four different reactions from people:

  1. I don’t need to go.
  2. I’m not ready to go.
  3. I went and it didn’t work.
  4. I love my therapist and have been with him/her for years!

Which reaction do you relate the most with? I’ve been all four at some point in my life, but for the past ten years I’ve been a Number Four. Counselling is such a process…as is the decision to finally go to counselling. I’m a firm believer that we could all benefit from counselling because we are all broken, but not all of us are willing to admit that we need help, and that’s okay. It takes time…but here are a few things to consider when you think you are almost there…

Counseling takes:

  • Humility – Acknowledging our brokenness and choosing to stop deflecting on and blaming others.
  • Acceptance – Accepting our brokenness and no longer overcompensating for or hiding it.
  • Vulnerability – We won’t be able to be vulnerable if we haven’t acknowledged and accepted our brokenness.
  • Perseverance – Counseling is not a quick fix. It took us years to get where we are…it will take time to unwire our brains and to reframe our triggers.
  • Celebration – Celebrating the victories and the days when we do the opposite of what we used to do to cope.

If you went to counseling and it didn’t work, one of two things happened: You either didn’t find the right counselor, or you really didn’t put in the work you needed to (and I’m saying this in SO MUCH LOVE, fam). Let me explain…

  1. Finding the right counselor: You really do need to connect and build trust with your counselor. If you don’t trust and respect your counselor, you will not be able to hear the hard things your counselor will have to say from time to time. And your counselor SHOULD be saying hard things. Counselling is not just a vent session. Yes, we do need to get things off of our chest and counseling is perfect for that. I vent ALL THE TIME in counseling. But I am also self-aware enough to know that my venting originates from my fear and anger, both of which are unhealthy and need addressed. So after I vent, I ask Kevin what needs to change about my perspective of whatever I am venting about. You need to find a counselor that has your best interests in mind and won’t tell you what you want to hear, but will be an advocate for you and your relationships. Not all counselors are equal and all counselors are fallible! So I always suggest that you find a counselor based on a referral from someone you know and trust. This is the best way to get in with someone that’s good. Also, check out my Scar Stories Podcast (also available on SoundCloud and Apple Podcasts) with Megan Richardson for more tips on how to find a counselor and get started in counseling: Scar Stories: Megan Richardson, LFMT (Counseling) – YouTube
  2. Putting in the work: I truly believe that God can redeem any relationship (as long as it is safe – I want to be clear that we need distance and safety from abusive relationships) that we are willing to fight for. Some of us come into counseling looking to be told we are the victims and have the right to walk away. I have to tell you that wherever you go, there you are. In other words, if you don’t deal with YOUR brokenness, even if you walk away, your brokenness will follow you and start to rear its ugly head in your next relationship. You have to be willing to deal with YOURSELF. Nine times out of ten when we are dealing with relational conflicts, the crux of the problem is within us…and if we could humble ourselves and choose to be vulnerable no matter how uncomfortable it is, we will begin to see changes. but you HAVE TO TALK. Don’t go in with an attitude. Tell the counselor what you know the counselor needs to know. Fight the fear – you are safe! Counselors are trained to hear your mess and to help untangle your thoughts and emotions. This is the absolute best gift you can give yourself and your relationships.

I have to tell you, that when I first started in counseling, I was so hurt and angry and scared. But I was at an absolute dead end. This was my last resort and since it was, I was going to give it EVERYTHING I had, no matter what I felt inside. I fought HARD for myself – I knew so much of what I was facing relationally was because of the mess inside of me and if I could just get that sorted out, I would start to understand my relational conflicts better. I chose NOT to be the victim. I chose to OWN my brokenness and the roles I had played. I chose to forgive even when people didn’t ask for it. I chose to trust. I chose to surround myself in community with people who were fighting with me and for me. These were all choices I made. It took everything I had…but fam, I did it! And look at me now! If you only knew…

So…this is a question I ask regularly: What are you waiting for? It’s not enough to just get into counseling. You have to do the WORK. Are you willing? Are you ready? Honestly, what do you have to lose and why wouldn’t you? I’m asking for a friend…and you are THAT friend. Love you.

For the Men: Acceptance

For the Men: Acceptance

When we were working on this website, I told the designers that I wanted to make sure that this was not only a safe place for women, but also for men.

Did you know that according to Psychology Today, 75% of suicide victims are men? A man will kill himself every 20 minutes. Did you also know that men abuse substances at a rate of 3 to 1? These facts are incredibly personal to me because my brother was addicted to pain pills and committed suicide. He was often times too embarrassed to get the help he needed and then too angry to hear the help he was offered. I wonder how many of you are in that same boat?

I’ve had several conversations with men in the past few weeks regarding mental health. Each of these guys is hurting, but feels helpless and alone for various reasons:

  • They are afraid to be vulnerable.
  • Society tells them they can’t be weak.
  • Culture says they have to be the main breadwinners.
  • Mental health is an emotional issue and men aren’t emotional.
  • Men can compartmentalize so they don’t struggle with anxiety and depression.
  • They can’t keep leaning on their spouses or they will leave.

The harrowing fact of the matter is each of the above reasons are contributing factors as to why men are not seeking and/or getting help. They are suffering in silence. Mental Health has been stigmatized for so long – and woman started to break through the stigma – but I feel like we’ve left the men high and dry.

Men, I am writing this to you. I think the first step in you getting help is “Acceptance“. Society and culture have taught that you are responsible to fix everything while still remaining in control of all of your emotions. Emotional men are weak. Unstable. Insecure. Unable to lead. We’ve told you to stuff all of your feelings deep inside and refused you the time and space to process. Then we wonder why you withdraw, check out, leave, drink, get addicted, have affairs, get angry.

I know some of you are suffering. You are hurting so badly and you are so confused. Why would a good God allow this? Why can’t He fix it? Why can’t you fix it? Have you done enough to try? Is there something else to try? Some of you feel so numb, you aren’t even sure you believe in God anymore. You are angry at yourself and that anger is getting taken out on everyone close to you. You don’t know how to talk to your loved ones about any of this because you feel like all you’ve done is take advantage of them. You wonder how much longer they will put up with you.

Acceptance. You are broken. There is not a blasted thing you can do about it. We are all broken: We live in a broken world. We won’t be fixed this side of Heaven. Jesus never promised that…so you thinking you will pray, read, attend or work this away is just not true. God is not withholding healing from you because He doesn’t think you deserve it. He believes you deserve LIFE, that’s why He sent His Son to die on the cross for your brokenness, so you could have Jesus’s life! But you have to stop fighting against your brokenness and learn to lean into it. Lean into your weakness. Don’t you remember what Paul said in the Scriptures? When he was at his weakest, he was at his strongest. How can that be? Because there is freedom in letting down the façade. You spend so much energy fighting your brokenness, hiding your brokenness, ignoring your brokenness. When you finally accept your brokenness, you can begin to use your energy to get healthy…to process the past, to understand the present and to anticipate the future. You can begin to discover your triggers and what landmines to avoid with your friends, spouses, and families. You can begin to fight against the generational baggage and offer your marriage and your children something that was never offered to you: Forgiveness, Grace, Freedom.

You know you aren’t the only man battling mental illness. Statistics say thousands upon thousands of men are suffering in silence. What if we came around you and supported you and cheered you on as you began to accept your past and who you are today and then you fight for the health of your future? What if you stopped living as a victim to your past and started pursuing the health of your future?

What does this look like?

  • It looks like reaching out.
  • It looks like communicating.
  • It looks like community.
  • It looks like counseling.
  • It looks like vulnerability.

And I know for most of you, that doesn’t look fun. But what is your alternative? In an effort to look strong, are you going to lose your family? Your sanity? Your finances? Your job? Your friends? Your life? We are here and we are cheering you on, men! Real strength is found in admitting weakness. In owning weakness. And then in healing that weakness. So, are you ready? Let’s get after it together!

Forgiveness Part 2

Forgiveness Part 2

So we’ve been talking all about forgiveness (go back and read Forgiveness Part 1 if you haven’t already). Let’s dive back in and continue…

Once I claim Jesus’ death and resurrection as my only hope for Salvation, I receive Christ’s life: His past, present, future all become mine. When God sees me, He sees Jesus. I have nothing to prove to Him. I don’t have to earn His approval. I have it. That’s why Paul says in Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery…or Christ will be of no advantage to you.”

So how does Christ become an “advantage” for us? He frees us up! We don’t need to walk around tied up in knots by anger, bitterness, and hatred of ourselves or of others! We realize that Christ gave up His rights and laid down His life to redeem us. He nailed our offenses to His cross. And not only did He nail our offenses, He nailed the offenses of those who have hurt us to His cross. We have no right to refuse forgiveness to people God has already forgiven, whether or not they ask for it. Oof.

If I do not believe I am forgiven and loved by God, I will not be able to forgive and love other people. If I only have head knowledge of the forgiveness and grace (I know the verses) and don’t actually believe and experience them (live them), then I am just as screwed (I sat and tried to think of another way to put that, but I couldn’t. Sorry).

When I accepted Jesus as my Savior at four years old, I really didn’t grasp His forgiveness and grace. I mean, c’mon…I was four and the worst thing I had done is lie about my ruffle underwear (my mom had this thing about me wearing ruffle underwear on Sundays and I HATED it). I knew I was going to Hell and instead wanted to spend eternity with Jesus (just a word here to all of my fundamental legalists: Those who say “If someone’s main concern at his/her time of Salvation is just to escape Hell may not truly be saved”, get over yourselves and read the Bible. Jesus spoke four times more about Hell then Heaven and so obviously wanted people to realize the severity of it in hopes that they would not want to go there. It is people like you who made me terrified for years that I may not be saved when I most certainly am. Thanks). Anyways… 🙂

While I am thankful that I accepted Jesus as my Savior at a young age, I had a head knowledge of God’s grace, but not the experimental knowledge. I grew up thinking that I was “okay” because I had not committed any of the “really bad sins”. However, when I got into college and my young adult years, I began to realize that when I failed, and failed miserably, I had a hard time accepting the fact that I truly was forgiven and already had God’s favor and so didn’t need to live defeated and/or in fear. But isn’t that the Gospel? It wasn’t until that first year of marriage when I had utterly destroyed my reputation and who I thought I was completely disintegrated that I realized I had nothing to offer Jesus for His forgiveness. I could only receive it. And it’s that same forgiveness that I can extend to those who hurt me.

Chuck Swindoll says, “Truth be told, it’s God’s forgiveness of us that makes possible our forgiving others…It’s important to understand that we can never forgive others, horizontally, if not for what Christ has already done for us, vertically. Not until we fully accept and appropriate God’s infinite and complete forgiveness on our behalf can we carry out the tough assignment of forgiving others…To refuse to forgive is hypocritical. Because we have been the recipients of maximum mercy, who are we to suddenly demand justice from others? The compassion that God demonstrates on our behalf calls for us to do the same toward others. Anything less is downright hypocritical.”

This is tough stuff. Please know, I am wrestling through this stuff (let’s be honest, this crap) with you. It sucks. But, we have to get our hands dirty and “Get ‘er done!” So, let’s talk through some steps to take if we want to get down and dirty and forgive others. Once again, Swindoll gives us some guidance based on God’s Word.

  1. “Focus fully on God’s forgiveness of you (Psalm 103; Psalm 116).”

Swindoll says, “The extent to which you can envision God’s forgiveness of you, to that same measure you will be given the capacity to forgive others.” If I am spending all of my energy praising God and basking in the freedom of His forgiveness and grace for me, I am not going to have any time and emotion left over to be bitter. You are going to get sick and tired of me saying this, but I don’t care: You have to preach the Gospel to yourself! Forgiveness seems so unfair until you realize what God did for you through Christ was infinitely unfair.

  1. “Deal directly and honestly with any resentment you currently hold against anyone.” Oh no.

“That is one of the most regrettable mistakes a Christian can make. Limited forgiveness is like conditional love – a poor substitute for the genuine item. It’s no forgiveness at all.” Chuck went there. God takes my sin from me…I am not defined by it. How can I not do this for someone else or, more importantly, believe it for myself??? 

When you are dealing with forgiving someone else, you don’t have to think about his/her offense and then pretend like it never happened. Nope. Name his/her offense. Realize this person stole something from you. Determine what that is (a childhood, marriage, job, relationship, memory, innocence, virginity, etc). Come on…go there. Now, brace yourself: Can he/she ever pay you back fully as though it never happened? Can they ever give you a proper explanation as to why they did what they did? Can they? You have to honestly answer these questions. Why? Because it ultimately is going to help you. You hang on to the pain because you think it is going to somehow justify what happened. And, you are going to make the other person pay by withholding the relationship. Or you are afraid if you let it all go completely, the other person is going to get away with whatever he/she did. But none of those thoughts are true. You can never be paid back and that person’s suffering isn’t going to do it for you. And you have no control over consequences or what happens to that person anyways. That doesn’t mean you convince yourself that it never happened. No, it did. But you aren’t going to hold it against the person anymore and make them pay for it because they never can and it will only torment you. Do you want to live tormented? I never said this was going to be easy. Christ’s death on the cross certainly wasn’t. 

Remember, forgiveness is always for you, not for the other person. Forgiveness allows us to heal and then to live in freedom. But it’s a choice to really believe that the Gospel is true and then to live it. It takes courage. So, how brave are you?

Chip Ingram says Forgiveness is made up of three parts: Forgive, Forgiving, and Forgiven.

You make the initial decision to forgive. Then every time you get angry or bitter, you forgive again and again (“forgiving” is the “momentary forgiveness” we talked about before). Then, at some point down the road, you will realize that you have forgiven…that person’s name gets brought up and you don’t experience the torment anymore. Realize though, sometimes this take years and years.

I want to say one more thing before we end this series on forgiveness: I am not speaking here to abuse victims of any kind. You will need to work through forgiveness in therapy and counseling because you will need to be wise about setting up boundaries and protection. It is absolutely possible to heal from abuse, but you will need to walk through that abuse with a community.