Have I Really Forgiven?

Forgiveness.jpgWhen I was reading my book Hope Focused Marriage Counseling written by Everett Worthington last night I came across something about incomplete forgiveness. It talked about how sometimes we think we have forgiven someone but we might not have fully forgiven. What it talked about next really got my attention and got me thinking. Do I feel a sense of happiness or satisfaction when I find out that something bad happened to or went wrong for someone I have “forgiven”? This was tough for me to read and really convicted me. Here I am thinking I’ve been obedient and have forgiven specific people who have hurt me, yet reading this made me realize I really haven’t.

Think about someone who has caused you pain that you think you have forgiven. If you found out tomorrow that something went wrong for him or her would you be happy about it? or would you feel compassion? My answer to this question definitely did not thrill me. To be honest with you, after reading this my initial thought was how in the world can I truly and completely forgive? What I realized was that forgiveness is a choice, one that takes purposeful action and God’s grace.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

This verse tells me that I am to lay down my bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking. When I feel a sense of satisfaction at the expense of someone I claim to have forgiven I am not obeying this command. Additionally, as I mentioned before, If I have truly forgiven someone I should feel kindness and compassion towards him or her, especially when things go wrong. This can truly seem like an impossible thing to do, which is why I must rely on God’s continuing mercy and grace to accomplish this.

We have to remind ourselves of the forgiveness and grace that we received from God through Christ in order to offer this to another. One thing I have found helpful when I am lacking forgiveness is to pray for those I can’t seem to forgive. That God would bless them, encourage them, and heal them as He has healed me. Asking God to help me forgive is also something that has made a huge difference for me. Praying for strength to forgive doesn’t mean you are failing, it means you admit that you need God to accomplish such a difficult task. I’m still on my journey of forgiveness and hope that this encourages you on yours as well.

4 Signs that Indicate I’m not Actively Believing God

bibleAm I living as though I believe God? This is a question I recently asked myself after talking to some friends about why we often fail to pray about things and instead try to figure them out on our own. Does this ever happen to you? I came to the conclusion that sometimes the reason I don’t pray or seek God on things is because I’m not really believing Him. What do I mean by this? Well, I’m certainly not saying i’m not believing IN God or that He is with me, what I’m saying is I’m not actively believing what He tells me in His Word. I hate that I do this and would love more than anything to stop forever!

So how can I know when I’m not believing God? First of all I have to take a critical look at myself to figure this out. Self-awareness is the key to being capable of noticing these kinds of things in yourself and making changes. For more on that check out my blog 7 Tips for Increasing Self-awareness here.

Here is a list of things that might indicate that I’m not believing God:

When I’m worrying about tomorrow: I despise when I do this. It does nothing but bring me down and discourage me. The Bible tells me not to worry about tomorrow, but rather to focus on today, trusting that God knows what I need and will faithfully provide it (Matthew 6:31-34). This honestly applies to worrying about all sorts of things. Thankfully this is something I have improved on substantially over the years thanks to God proving himself over and over again.. I wish I would have caught on a little bit sooner though. Whenever I start getting anxious about things like internship hours, care for my daughter, a conflict with a friend, unforeseen financial burdens, etc., and am wondering how I’m going to manage, I remind myself of what God’s Word says and that I need to actively believe it. Not worrying about this kind of stuff proves that I really do believe that God knows about it and will faithfully work it out for my good as He says He will for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). True freedom from anxiety comes from believing this truth and living it out. God will take care of it. Not always in the way we want, but even then we can know that it will all work out. All I have to worry about is doing my part today, while trusting Him for tomorrow.

When I pray without faith: Recognizing this one requires that I honestly think about my attitude and mindset while praying. Am I praying just to pray? Because I should? Or am I praying because I believe that I can enter into God’s presence, worship Him, and experience His power, knowing that He hears me and will answer my prayers in whatever way seems best to Him. This can be so hard for me. Sometimes I feel like God isn’t really listening to me and even if He is I’m not believing He will actually answer my prayers. Maybe I’m thinking that what I’m praying for is just too difficult for God. You know, like redeeming someone I love from a dark and empty life, changing their heart, or maybe giving me His wisdom and guidance to make the best decisions in life. What it all comes down to is whether or not I believe God’s Word.

Psalm 34:15: The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.

Mark 11:24: Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

Jamies 5:16: Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Do I really believe what these verses tell me? When I’m praying without faith I’m indicating to God that I don’t. Don’t think I’m saying that this means that God will give me whatever I want and will do whatever I say. It doesn’t work this way. Praying with faith means believing that He hears and that He can answer, staying faithful to Him even if he chooses not to in the way that I hope.

When I’m hoping for, “revenge”: I’m sure I’m not the only person who has been deeply wounded by another individual. I have caught myself in the past thinking negatively and hoping for something to happen that might make me feel better, hoping they will have to “pay” for what they’ve done. When this happens I know that I’m not believing God’s word. Romans 12:19 tells me “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” I need to remember that God has my back and will take care of me. Additionally, 1 Thessalonians 5:15 says “See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.” This can be really hard to do, especially when you have been mistreated, but if we believe God’s Word then we can know that He will give us strength to let it go and feel love and forgiveness towards that person who hurt us.

When I’m not sharing the gospel: This is a tough one for me to admit. There have been many times where I feel so ashamed of how frequently, or infrequently for that matter, I’ve shared the truth of Jesus Christ with people. I have to ask myself why this is the case and be honest with myself in my response. First of all, do I really believe that people around me are broken and lost, in need of a savior, and secondly do I believe that through sharing the truth of Christ a person’s life can be truly changed? There have been times when I’ve struggled, convincing myself that nobody wants to hear it, or nobody will care. I’m so ashamed to admit this. If I really believe in God’s power then all I have to worry about is planting the seed of the gospel of Christ, God will do the work in the heart of the hearer.

When I’m living as though I truly believe God I’m free of worry and anxiety, praying with a bold and courageous faith, loving and forgiving those who have hurt me, and sharing Jesus Christ with the people around me. These are some signs that indicate that I’m on the right track.

 

5 Tips for Processing and Healing From Pain

man in yellow field

The more you ignore and avoid pain the deeper it is buried in the subconscious, escaping your awareness. The unfortunate thing about this is that even though the pain is hidden its effects are not. Healing from pain requires self-awareness and a willingness to do something about it once you’ve discovered it.

Below are some tips that have helped me to discover, work through, and heal from my own pain, which I hope will help you as well:

Examine your feelings: You might be totally aware of pain that you have never dealt with, as this is sometimes the case. Often, however, many people have ignored and avoided pain for so long that they aren’t aware of it or how it impacts their lives. For example, If you’ve never processed the pain of your parents divorce this can greatly effect your marriage. Maybe every time you and your spouse have a simple argument common to most marriages you have a total breakdown, turning it into a much bigger issue. This might be due to the emergence of your feelings and fears of rejection and abandonment from the pain of the divorce. These feelings are automatic, and while they seem rational to you, they typically seem irrational to others and can cause serious problems. You have to examine these feelings in order to discover where they are coming from so that you can process it and heal. Ask yourself these questions, “Why do I feel the way that I feel?” and why do I do what I do?” Through asking this question you might discover that a simple argument with your spouse really should not cause you intense fear of abandonment and rejection. This can open the door of understanding that something deeper is going on. Understanding your feelings and actions, especially ones that are negatively impacting your life, is critical.

Talk about it with someone you trust: Once you have discovered and acknowledged your pain that needs to be healed its important to talk about it with someone you trust. Talking about it not only reveals your feelings tied to the pain but it also uncovers beliefs you have developed about yourself and the world based on your pain. Talking about it can be a difficult thing to do but it is necessary for healing and truly moving forward without the effects lingering and causing you more issues. If you feel like you don’t have someone you trust to talk to consider seeing a professional counselor. The idea of talking about your pain to someone you don’t know intimately might be scary, but remember, the right counselor wont judge you and will listen to you with sincere care.

Allow yourself to feel your feelings: when you work hard to avoid pain you end up transferring your feelings associated with it onto unrelated people and situations. You might feel rejected by a parent but because you haven’t faced the pain you transfer this feeling onto your spouse or a friend. Allow yourself to feel rejected by the right person, experience the feeling and work through it. One good way to feel and experience your feelings are by writing them down and reading them aloud. This can be a huge breakthrough for you. Allow yourself to cry and feel the intensity of your pain. Feelings are meant to be expressed, not ignored.  One common saying about depression is that it is anger turned inward. Anger that is suppressed and ignored doesn’t just disappear, it eventually becomes a part of who you are, seeping into all areas of your life. Additionally, encourage the people in your life to express their feelings as well rather than avoid them. The more comfortable you are with your own feelings the more comfortable you will become with the feelings of others.

Surrender to God and allow Him to comfort you: Considering the importance of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, this step is the most important for me when dealing with pain. God wants nothing more than to offer you His love, peace, and comfort during times of pain. For a lot of people this might seem confusing given the common belief that God allows painful things to happen, but this is for a different discussion and blog post.. In my own life, I have experienced true healing when I go before God and ask Him to comfort me in my pain and provide me with His hope. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ I strongly urge you to consider giving Him a chance at being your savior, it will forever change your life. It is also important to the best of your ability to surround yourself with people who will offer you love and comfort as well.

Work towards forgiveness: This can be really hard and can take a long time. Forgiveness is so important for processing pain, whether you need to forgive yourself or someone else, this step is crucial to the process. Just remember, forgiving someone does not depend on that person being sorry, but on you making a choice to do it so that you can move on. Think about what happens to you when you don’t forgive? When I don’t forgive someone else I start to develop bitterness towards that person and become irritable and angry. This can even lead to fatigue, anxiety, and a loss in energy. Think about the impact this can have. I know that when I make the choice to forgive someone I am able to fully move beyond the pain. Now an important thing to remember is that you cannot skip all of the other steps and move right to forgiveness, as this will likely be a superficial thing that wont last. Forgiveness should follow acknowledging pain, talking about it with someone you trust, expressing your feelings, and experiencing true comfort.

On a final note, if you have worked on processing pain but you still seem to be experiencing difficult symptoms, I strongly encourage seeking out a therapist trained in Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART). As I’ve used this therapy in my work with clients I have seen years long pain and trauma processed and eliminated in a truly miraculous way! I have also experienced significant healing in my own therapy using ART.

Hopefully these tips are helpful for you and encourage you to take some steps toward processing rather than avoiding your pain. I promise you that, although it might be painful initially, it will be well worth it.

What are some things that have helped you process your own pain?

7 Tips For Increasing Self-Awareness

%22Until you make the unconscious councils, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.%22Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires. Being self-aware enables you to truly know yourself as a separate individual: your feelings, beliefs, desires, weaknesses, strengths, and motives, and to also know how you impact the lives of those around you. In contrast, being unaware cannot only wreak havoc on your own life, but on the lives of others as well. Increasing your self-awareness is only the beginning, paving the way for growth and effective change.

Here are some tips for increasing your self-awareness:

Determine who you want to be: If you don’t know who you want to be, it will be easier to ignore who you are. For example, I have determined that I want to be a compassionate person. Because of this I am more aware of my lack of compassion with certain people and in certain situations. My ability to see this deficiency only became possible when I determined my desire to be compassionate. Before, I was somewhat oblivious to it. Now when I am lacking compassion I try to be more aware of it and am able to change it. Begin by thinking about the person you want to be. Write down a few words that come to your mind that describe that aspired personality. Then analyze if those words currently define you or not. In doing this you become more aware of who you are today, and more capable of becoming who you want to be.

Take a personality test: I have learned so much about myself through personality tests. By simply answering some questions, honestly of course, you can gain valuable insights about yourself. An awesome and free test can be taken here. As you read about your personality type things start to make sense that never made sense before. Taking the test helped me recognize that I often take on the burdens of others, becoming overly involved emotionally. My empathy and concern for others is a strength, but it can quickly become a weakness. I have learned how to be responsible TO people rather than FOR people, and how to encourage and guide towards change, rather than “fix”.

Seek trusted feedback: this is a tough one. I for one don’t always like hearing what other people have to say regarding my behavior, especially if its negative. When feedback comes from a trusted individual, who cares for you deeply, it’s important to pay attention to it. There is almost always some valuable truth in it. Having a trusted mentor or accountability partner is a great way to do it. Find someone who will not only call you out on your weaknesses and blind spots, but will also point out your strengths and abilities, offering encouragement along the way. On your own you will fail, but with help and support from others you can overcome and succeed in ways that you never thought possible.

Examine your motives: Examining behavior is not enough; you need to look at the motive behind the behavior. For example, a good deed might make somebody appear selfless, but if buried beneath the good deed is a desire for praise from others it might actually be selfish. It can be the opposite as well. Someone who works excessive hours and makes a lot of money might appear to some as a workaholic or materialistic, but you might look beneath the service and find that he works so hard in order to fund several orphanages in third world countries. Looking at our own behavior or the behavior of others without understanding motives is futile.

Pray, Pray, and Pray: For me personally, prayer is number one when it comes to self-awareness. Who better to spend time with than the one who created me? The devil has done nothing but seek to destroy me and to keep me from the beautiful plans that God has for me. He doesn’t want us to become who God intended us to be; he wants us to be lost and broken, unaware of all we are capable of becoming and accomplishing through Jesus Christ and His perfect love. Additionally, we all have secret sins that we are totally oblivious too. Through prayer God can reveal those hidden places of darkness in our hearts, enabling us to become aware and overcome. In the Psalms King David said, “who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults.” (Psalm 19:12) Through continual prayer God can help me become aware of the secret sins in my life and enable me to overcome.

Examine the way others respond to you: We all know that person who acts in such a way that drives everybody crazy! Its obvious based on body language, awkward comments, facial expressions, and avoidance. You wish somebody would just say something to stop it. Being around people like this causes me to think about my behaviors and how they affect others. How do people react to me when I’m around them? Do they seem uncomfortable, desperate to get away, down, annoyed? This can tell you a lot.  Our goal should be to positively impact the people around us, building them up rather than bringing them down. Examine the way the people around you respond to you and this will give you valuable insights into your behavior.

Get Professional Help: Sometimes deep-rooted pain and issues can block our ability to be self-aware. If you are working hard to ignore painful parts of your life you will likely block out important aspects of the self as well. In this case, working with a professional counselor can help to uncover and heal hidden trauma and pain. Maybe you are carrying around pain that desperately needs to be healed. Don’t allow fear or judgment to keep you from getting the help that you need so that you can become who God created you to be.