The twinkling lights on the Christmas tree and the smell of turkey roasting in the oven bring back fond memories for most people. The sounds of holiday carols in the air, snow crunching beneath your boots or children laughing make most couples yearn for the magic of the holiday season. But for some, Christmas brings back painful memories–of a dad who never came, a parent who was too drunk to carve the turkey–or even bake one, or of a marriage broken and shattered like a fragile ornament that has crashed to the floor. What do you do when the holiday season brings back painful memories? What do you do when you want to have a happy holiday, but you and your spouse are growing further and further apart with each passing day? You can choose to forgive.
We just signed a contract to write an entire book on forgiveness because we’ve seen so many amazing relational miracles because of the power that is found in choosing to forgive. In our society we have a difficult time with the concept of forgiveness. We think that it is just forgetting, sweeping an issue under the rug, or just not talking about a hurt–or worse yet–thinking that it isn’t politically correct to even make a value judgement on an action done against us. We may also falsely believe that we should wait to forgive until we feel forgiving–forgiveness isn’t a feeling. Forgiveness is a choice.
We may also think that forgiveness is reconciliation — but forgiveness is a vertical act between an individual and God. Sometimes, following the choice to forgive, reconciliation can take place, but reconciliation takes two people both willing to forgive.What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is specific. To truly forgive, name in prayer before God the specific person or persons(s) and the specific actions or attitudes that wounded you. The more specific you are in prayer the more you will sense the freedom and healing from God.God created forgiveness–He is the master example by his choice to die for us. God knows all about us–and He still chose to forgive!
Forgiveness acknowledges a wrong: Admit that the action against you was wrong. If you are wondering if an action is wrong, check out the Bible. God clearly gives principles for right and wrong in His Word. Many times people have difficulty admitting that a wrong was committed because they don’t want to seem judgmental. But if no wrong was committed–then you just have a bad attitude that you need to get over!
Forgiveness is not expecting the person to come back and make up for the wrong. Too often we live our lives on hold waiting for the person who hurt us to run back and throw themselves at our feet and beg for mercy. It rarely happens! And even if someone does come back and offer to try to make up for the wrong, they can never take back what they did. No fur coat, or fancy car or expensive gift can take back the hurt. To forgive is to choose to take someone off our hook–and place them on God’s hook, and let God deal with them in His way and in His timing.
Forgiveness is choosing not to label or manipulate a person with the wrong. If you still have to manipulate then the person who hurt you still has emotional and spiritual controls in your life–you want only God to control the heartstrings of your life. It is a choice to quit name calling, labeling, or using a wrong in an argument–but choosing to stop these actions will free you. It is as if you are taking the “victim” label off of your own heart. Choose to see the person as God sees them–a sinner, separated from God’s plan. Looking at people through God’s eyes will bring you the freedom, peace and joy you are looking for.
Forgiveness is not allowing another’s actions to stop your own growth. The most loving thing you can do for yourself, your marriage, and your family is to choose to grow–no matter what has happened in your past. This Christmas give everyone who knows you a gift–get the help you need to get on with life. Buy our book, Marriage in the Whirlwind and read the chapter on Forgiveness, call a Christian counselor, join a small group that is Biblically based and will support your growth or read a book on healthy living like Boundaries (by Cloud and Townsend), Making Peace with Your Past (by Sledge) or The Tribute (Raine). If you are looking for the real meaning of Christmas, choose to forgive. Forgive yourself, forgive a parent, forgive a spouse, a child or a friend, but by a choice of your will–FORGIVE. Christmas is For-giving!
Pastor Bill and Pam Farrel are on “Pure Pleasure” a show bringing you practical insights for your peronal relationships. KSDO AM 1130 each Sunday evening from 8 to 10 pm. Call in at 560-1130