Daily Encounter

~ When you Can't Forgive and Forget

       "Be generous to one another, sympathetic, forgiving each other, as readily as God forgave you in Christ." (Ephesians 4:32) "I am having trouble forgiving someone," writes a Daily Encounter reader. "It was a horrible thing this person did to me and hasn't apologized and acts as if all is normal. I am filled with resentment and hatred. What this person did, can't be fixed. I want so bad to resolve my feelings but I don't know what to do to be fixed. I want so bad to resolve my feelings but don't know what to do to get over what happened." This person was being very honest about admitting their feelings which is the first step for resolving any problem. But if we need an apology from the one who hurt us to be able to forgive them, we'd all be in a mess because this often doesn't happen.
       To forgive (even when the offending person does apologize) we need to resolve our resentment and hatred (both of which are stored up hurt/anger). Once we resolve these feelings, the path is open for forgiveness and it becomes much easier. In fact, until we resolve these feelings, it is impossible to truly forgive as the resentment and hatred will keep popping up their ugly heads. So how do we do this? We can write a letter to the one who has hurt us and never, never send the first draft and maybe never send any draft at all. (And if we do, we need to be sure to speak the truth in love.) In our writing we need to express the depths of our feelings of hurt and anger, right from the gut. This is what David did in several of the Psalms. You may need to do this a number of times until all the feelings of hurt and anger have dissipated. As long as these feelings are bottled up, the person who has hurt us is in control of our emotions and response towards them.
      Next, we can go alone in our car to a private place and park where we will be safe. Wind up the windows (turn the car radio on if it helps) and pretend the person we are mad at is with us and say to them everything we would really like to tell them, expressing all our hurt and angry feelings. Do this, say for a half hour or more as needed. Then go back and do this a number of times spending less and less time, each time we go until all our negative feelings are gone. The Bible says not to let the sun go down while we are feeling angry. This is because unresolved anger is an emotional poison, so we need to resolve it as quickly as possible. However, if we still can't resolve our anger, we need to see a good therapist or counselor who can help us work through and resolve our anger. If we can't resolve it alone, we can't afford not to go to a therapist. If we don't, our future medical bills will be much higher.
      Finally, we need to express our feelings to God. He knows how we feel anyhow (and loves us regardless), and ask him to help us to resolve them and to be able to forgive the one who has hurt us. Remember, unresolved anger is like an emotional cancer and either we get the 'cancer' or the 'cancer' gets us. And, as another has said, "Failing to forgive is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die".

Suggested prayer:
Dear God, please help me to always be honest with my feelings and learn to express them to you and to a safe and trusted friend. And where I can't seem to resolve these feelings and I am unable to forgive _______ (name of person), please lead me to the help I need to resolve any and all feelings of resentment, hurt, anger, hatred, and bitterness and be able to fully forgive the one who has hurt me, just as you have forgiven me for all of my sins and failures. Thank you for healing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, In Jesus name i pray, amen
~ Forgiveness: The Power to Heal

      Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?: Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times"  (matthew 18:21-22

Some years ago during a visit to Yellowstone Park, one writer observed that the only animal that the grizzly bear would share his food with, was a skunk. It wasn't that the grizzly wanted to share his food but rather that he chose to. With one swing of his powerful paw he could have crushed the skunk. So why did he allow the skunk to eat with him? Because he knew the high cost to getting even. Clever bear! Undoubtedly he learned the hard way.
      Strange that we humans often are not as smart. Sometimes, we carry grudges for years, often repressing them from conscious memory, and end up hurting ourselves more than the ones we would like to get even with. We fail to see how damaging an unforgiving spirit is. Physicians and counselors alike attest to the damage done by an unforgiving spirit. Some medical doctors estimate that the majority of illnesses they treat are related to emotional problems such as resentment, which is a lack of forgiveness. And counselors see the roots of bitterness reflected in depression, anxiety and destroyed relationships.
      I read one report of an astonished patient who was told by his doctor, "If you don't cut out your resentments, I may have to cut out a part of your intestinal tract." Fortunately, the man took the doctor's advice. He had been nursing a bitter grudge against a former business partner. He went to see this man, resolved their differences and forgave him.   When he returned to the doctor, his physical condition had cleared up.
      That advice isn't new of course. The greatest physician who ever lived, Jesus Christ, pointed out 2,000 years ago the importance of forgiveness. When he encouraged us to "forgive seventy-seven times", he was thinking of our emotional and physical well being as much as our spiritual. In his book, 'None of These Diseases' , Dr. S. I. McMillen reported that a forgiving spirit could save us from 'ulcerative colitis, toxic goiters, high blood pressure, and scores of other deseases, including ulcers, asthma, arthritis, neuro-dematitis and heart ailments - all possible effects of resentment.

Suggested prayer: Dear God, if there is any unforgiving spirit in my heart, please confront me with this reality and help me to resolve this so I can be free to forgive others as you have so freely forgiven me. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer, gratefully in Jesus name i pray, amen.

"for nothing is impossible to God" - Luke 1:37
Forgiveness: The Power to set you free.

      "Bear with one another; forgive each other if one of you has a complaint against another. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same."
Colossians 3:13

      Some time ago in an article in Time magazine, inspired by Pope John Paul's forgiveness of his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca; journalist Lance Morrow wrote, "The psychological case for forgiveness is over whelmingly persuasive. Not to forgive is to be imprisioned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business. Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another's control. If one does not forgive, then one is controlled by the other's initiatives and is locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always.
      The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. But to forgive is to be free from the past. Jesus Christ pointed out another disturbing truth about an unforgiving spirit when he said "Yes, if you forgive others of their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours, but if you do not forgive others, your  Father will not forgive your failings either." (Matthew 6:14-15) I believe what Christ meant was that an unforgiving spirit on my part is a sure sign that I haven't truly shown remorse to God for all my failures nor experienced fully his forgiveness. Furthermore, an unforgiving attitude is destructive to personal relationships.
      It goes without saying that many close relationships, especially marriage, are destroyed not so much by what has been done but by what hasn't been done - forgiving one another. Wherever I fail to forgive another, a wall of resentment builds up between us and eventually we become estranged. But once I forgive, feelings of love can be restored if that is appropriate. I say "if that is appropriate" because there are times, such as in cases of abuse or a lack of repentance, when forgiveness should not lead to restoration of the relationship. To forgive another, however, is not to ignore justice. Pope John Paul forgave his would-be-assassin, but the man stayed in prison, and rightly so. And where we want others to forgive us, we will want to do all in our power to make a just restitution. Even God's forgiveness demanded justice in that he gave his only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for the penalty for all our sins through his death on the cross; for death is both God's judgement and the natural consequence of all sin. thus the greatest forgiveness we can ever receive is that of God's forgiveness, by confessing our sins to him and asking Jesus Christ to come into our heart and life as our personal Savior. To help you do this, read the article "How to be Sure You're a Real Christian" at

Suggested prayer: Dear God, please help me to become fully aware of the depth of your forgiveness for me so that I will be so much more willing and able to forgive all who have ever hurt me. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer, gratefully in Jesus name i pray, amen.
When You Still Can't Forgive

"But who can detect his own failings? Wash away my hidden faults" - Psalm 19:12

Perhaps you or someone you know has gone through all the "forgiveness steps" we have written about, but still can't find it in their heart to forgive someone who has hurt them deeply. There is one major reason why this can happen. It's when we are unable to tell when we are reacting in proportion to what has happened or when we are over-reacting. We over-react when what someone has done to us triggers anger from past events that has never been resolved. Because of this, it is very difficult (if not almost impossible) to forgive someone for something that happened in the present when we haven't forgiven someone else for what has happened in the past. And unfortunately, what we fail to resolve, we are destined to repeat in one form or another.
      For example, while this is perhaps an extreme case, James Townsend tells about Mildred McWhorter who "has worked for nearly 30 years with troubled families at a mission center surrounded by dilapidated houses in north Houston, Texas. She is known as 'Miss Mac' to folks in the area. Once she spotted eight year old Gilbert walking with his hands over his head. When asked why he was doing that, Gilbert replied "I can't tell you. My mama did it." She found that large sections of skin under each arm had been rubbed away and blood was running down Gilbert's side. Eventually Mis Mac learned that Gilbert's mother had put a burlap sack over his head and arms. She had tied his arms over a clothes line where he hung for hours. If Gilbert cried, his mother would beat him with a broom or pull his hair out. She did this because Gilbert reminded her of her father. Mis Mac spent months working with this troubled family, which contained nine children. When family hurts and resentments go unresolved, as they apparently had between Gilbert's mother and father, they can be passed on to hurt the next generation.
      In working with hunddreds of divorcees in recent years, it seems that only a small percentage are willing to be ruthlessly honest with themselves to see and admit what they contributed to their failed marriage. Most want to blame their spouse for the breakup. They simply don't see or even want to see how much their over reaction caused by unresolved relationships (especially with one or both of their partents) was a major contributing factor (or even the primary cause) of their failed relationship and/or relationships.
      It is no wonder that the Bible 'hammers home' the tremendous importance to forgive everybody who has ever hurt us, whether it was yesterday or on day one of our life. This is not an over statement for a child who was rejected from birth or hurt in childhood has deep pain, has deep pain that needs to be confronted and resolved through to forgiveness in order to fully live as an adult. It is a fact of life that hurt people hurt people. Thus every hurt needs to be healed and every 'hurter' needs to be forgiven, not so much for their sake, but for the hurt one's sake and that of their loved one.

Remember, forgiveness is a process, not a quickie event!

Suggested prayer: Dear God, please help me to see if there is a deeper cause behind any physical, emotional or spiritual symptom I may have and lead me to the help I need to resolve these issues. Help me to face any impaired relationship with a friend or loved one, lead me to the help I need to resolve this. Help me to forgive any and all who have ever hurt me. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer, gratefully in Jesus name i pray, amen.

1James Townsend, Peloubet's Sunday School Notes 1993-1994
Eligin, Illinois; David C. Cook Publishing Co., 1990
~ by Dick Innes - midi Change My Heart O God
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