HE'S NOT YOUR PRINCE CHARMING: how to forgive the little stuff
For the next few weeks we will be reposting from He’s Not Your Prince Charming, reaching way back in the archives to remind and reteach and rethink what we’ve been learning together. I have asked my blog team to help choose their favorites, and I am hoping you will add fresh comments to shed new light on these posts.
In the meantime I will be writing ahead for the new series, studying, reading, thinking, and praying about what to say and how to say it. Any suggestions and thoughts about what you’re wondering about will be most welcome— after all, you are my girls!
From my heart,
Last week I said: “I think its time we all moved past the resentment that makes us crabby and cranky and cold to our men.”
We talked about the need to forgive, to let go of the anger that controls our spirits and contorts our view of conflict. And I’m not just talking about those horrendous offenses that leave women mortally wounded. Because it is often those less-than –earth-shattering irritations that we forget need to acknowledge and forgive in order to heal up properly. Kind of like paper cuts that render our fingers hot and throbbing but don’t actually send us to the emergency room.
The little stuff.
This week I promised I’d show you how to forgive, but first I need to tell you what forgiveness is not. Because if we lump forgiveness in with all the other ingredients of conflict resolution we end up with a messy goop of impossible expectations.
Here’s what I don’t mean by forgiveness:
Some relationships cannot be immediately reconciled by simply pardoning the person who hurt you. Abuse, for example. Or unfaithfulness. There are wounds that go so deep that only major surgery can heal them.
Forgiveness is not the same as making excuses. Last week I wrote:
“Make believe doesn’t work here girls. You can’t pretend he didn’t mean it or it doesn’t hurt or you’re not mad… That’s just stuffing it and as we all know, that ugliness has a way of either seeping out of our pores or blowing up in our faces… And making excuses isn’t effective in the long run. He’s tired, pressured, stressed… but that can only go on for so long and then what?”
“The only way for the ‘forgive-and forget mentality’ to be practiced is through radical denial, deception, or pretense.” It is not possible for us to forget, only to choose to “not remember” over and over again.
So, now that we’ve cleared away some of the debris attached to the concept of forgiveness, what do I do with all those bitter feelings that crop up when that husband or boyfriend or parent or friend wrongs me?
Here’s where to start:
1. Be honest with God. No playing pretend games or shaming yourself for feeling the way you do. Tell Him all about it. Be specific. What exactly happened, what exactly do you need to choose to forgive? Say it out loud.
2. Ask God for help. Only He can wrestle my immensely dominating will into sweet submission. Forgiveness goes against the grain of every base instinct we have.
3. Trust God with the outcome. Anger is a means of control and of protection. To release this weapon requires that I entrust myself (my feelings, my heart, my future) into the hands of the only One who can keep me safe in the midst of all the hurt this life entails.
4. Untwist the lies. You have an enemy who works with the offenses of others to smother us with untruth. Satan cannot stand our reflection of God’s beauty. He will use the hurts of others to try to convince us that we are ugly and awful and less-than. We need to separate those enemy-fed lies from what actually happened.
5. Repent of my reaction. No one can make me angry. Anger is always, always, always a choice. What I do with that anger is my responsibility. We mess up relationships by getting on that roller coaster ride of you-hurt-me, so I-hurt-you-back, but you-started-it! The only way off is through recognizing my wrong response and repenting.
6. Choose to forgive with my will. My long time mentor, Muriel Cook writes:
The world says, “If you don’t feel like doing something, don’t do it, because it’s not honest.” I’ve learned a secret: if I operate with my will, my emotions will eventually follow. But if I follow my feelings, my will goes along.
7. Act out forgiveness with my actions. Then Muriel illustrates her point with a story I’ve told my own daughters over and over again:
Let me show you what I mean. Every morning when the alarm goes off, my will and my emotions have an argument. My will says, “You’ve got to get up. You have to go to work today.” My emotions respond, “Oh, no, I can’t. I don’t feel good.” I never feel well in the morning. Now I have a decision to make. Am I going to stay in bed or get up? If I stay in bed, my will stays in bed too. So I get up with my will, go to the bathroom, and brush my teeth. My emotions still protest. It is only after I take a shower, drink a cup of tea, and start moving around that my emotions catch up with my will and I’m a whole person.
We do something similar when we forgive. We use our will, for Jesus’ sake, because He asks us to, and sooner or later our emotions follow.
That’s it girls. Forgiveness does not require years and years of professional counseling. It is not a process as much as it is a heroic act of our wills. The process part is the sluggish following of our feelings to catch up with what we choose to do with our wills.
If you’re finding yourself reacting to your man in unfriendly ways— snapping and snarling or withdrawing and colding him out, might the real cause be an unforgiving spirit?
Take this list with you and go on a long walk with the Father. Pour it out to Him. Let Him clean off the grunginess of unforgiveness. Let Him renew your love for your husband or your boyfriend or that guy who hurts your feelings. Let Him wash all those hurts away and leave you sparkling with the joy of your freedom.
From my heart,
PS: Here’s what we need: How do you act when you’re mad at something minor? Or have your feelings hurt. Can you tell us stories, even laugh at yourself? You might help us to be a little more honest with ourselves…