I was sitting in my recliner physically frozen and emotionally numb. My then 9-year-old daughter asked, “Daddy, are you okay?” Not wanting to tell her about my internal battle, I responded, “Yea, I’m okay”. But I was far from okay.
For the first time in my life, I was facing a new enemy: depression.
If you’ve ever fought this battle, you know how exhausting it is. Some days start off fine. But then, without notice, a fog rolls in and pulls you into an emotional sinkhole. What Winston Churchill referred to as his personal “black dog” was a “gray fog” for me.
I’d never struggled with this before! How did I end up here?
#ForgivenessFriday is about unleashing forgiveness in the hearts of people. (Click HERE to read the beginning of this series.)
In late 2008, my pastor/best friend and I were suddenly “former friends”. One of the tragic results of our broken friendship was the negative impact it had on the hundreds of mutual relationships we shared. All of the beautiful smiles, warm hugs, and easy laughter seemed to have been erased. (You can click HERE to read why our friendship ended.)
I was profoundly sad. Many of us were. I wanted to move on. Many of us did. But I just couldn’t. Forgiveness felt as close as a distant planet.
In the aftermath, I became depressed. I would later discover that carrying a grudge while ignoring my heart was a recipe for depression.
Did you know that your heart has a voice? I didn’t. Did you know that your feelings are trying to tell you something important? I didn’t. Did you know that listening to your heart’s voice is part of the forgiveness process? I didn’t!
I usually have two extreme responses to my emotions:
1. I let them control me
2. I ignore them completely
Feelings are great indicators but terrible leaders. Our feelings shouldn’t lead but they shouldn’t be ignored.
I was ignoring my heart but demanding it produce forgiveness. That’s like ignoring my body’s health and expecting it to run a marathon or like ignoring the warning lights on my car’s dashboard and expecting it to drive me across the country. My heart was saying, “When you’re ready to listen, we’ll talk.” But I just kept screaming, “Be quiet and give me forgiveness!” This daily inner argument continued for months and eventually my exhausted heart sank into depression.
Feelings are an important part of the forgiveness process. They reveal how pain is impacting our heart. Why is this important? The heart is the forgiveness “launching pad” according to Matt. 18:35.
Identify my feelings? Isn’t that what therapists and women do? I just felt “bad” and needed to forgive so I could feel “good”. Turns out that approach didn’t work out too well for me.
With the help of a friend, I eventually identified three specific feelings my heart experienced: a deep hurt and a profound sadness which eventually turned into anger. I understand now that my attempt to constantly suppress my anger led to my depression.
According to Dr. Chip Dodd’s book, The Voice of the Heart, all emotions are God-given and intended for good . . . even my anger. (Productive anger was displayed by Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Jesus.)
Do you want to forgive? Do you know how the pain of your offense has impacted your heart (forgiveness launching pad)? Listening to your heart is a spiritual discipline. Identifying your feeling(s) allows you to listen and fully surrender more of yourself to God.
Last Friday, I talked about the importance of identifying the specific injustice. (Click HERE for a list of typical injustices.)
Next, identify the impact of the injustice on your heart.
To help you identify it’s impact, ask yourself, “When I think about (name your injustice), what’s the main emotion I feel?” Identify your feeling(s) from the list of eight below.
After you identify your feeling(s), don’t lead it lead you but don’t ignore it. Instead, do these three things:
1. Feel the feeling(s) fully
2. Tell the truth about what you feel
3. Surrender control of that feeling(s) to God.
Your heart is the forgiveness launching pad. Listen to your heart’s voice before you demand it produce forgiveness.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Prov. 4:23
Know someone struggling to forgive? Will you forward this to them?
Dr. Dodd’s list of 8 feelings w/benefit & impairment:
Feeling — Benefit — Impairment
1) Hurt - Names woundedness & begins healing - Resentment
2) Sadness - Allows us to value/honor what’s present & missed – Self-pity
3) Loneliness - Allows us to ask for help, reach out relationally – Apathy
4) Fear - Helps us practice/prepare for accomplishment - Anxiety/Rage
5) Anger - Helps us tell the truth/dare to hope - Depression/Perfection
6) Shame - Awakens us to humility - Toxic shame/Pride/Rage
7) Guilt - Gives us freedom to seek forgiveness - Pride/Toxic shame
8) Gladness - Reveals the richness of life - Happiness/Entertainment
When I ask my kids, “How are you doing?” Without any thought they often give the auto-reply: “Good.”
I know I need to teach my kids how to identify what they are feeling so that they can be more aware of what’s going on in their heart and be able to communicate that.
“As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” – Prov. 27:19
Imagine if your children could quickly identify their feelings.
With that desire I read Chip Dodd’s book, The Voice of the Heart. According to Dr. Dodd, there are only eight feelings: Hurt, loneliness, sadness, anger, fear, shame, guilt, and gladness.
Why is love not on the list? According to Dodd, “Love is not on the list because love is so much more than a feeling . . . Love has feelings in it, but love is more than a feeling.”
Why is only one feeling positive? According to Dodd, “Each feeling is positive because of where it can lead . . . all eight feelings are good . . . it’s my behavior that is good or bad; feelings themselves are good – each feeling is a gift from God.”
Each feeling has its own purpose:
Hurt leads to healing
Loneliness moves us to intimacy
Sadness expresses value and honor
Anger hungers for life
Fear awakens us to danger and begins wisdom
Shame maintains humility and mercy
Guilt brings forgiveness
Gladness proves hope of the heart to be true
Why identify your feelings? “Wherever you lack awareness of your heart, no room exists for God.”
So you identify your feeling. Then what? According to Dr. Dodd, the response to identifying your feeling is a three-step process:
1. You’re able to fully feel your feeling
2. You tell the truth about what is happening inside of you
3. You surrender control to God
On Saturday, I challenged my oldest two daughters to memorize the list of eight feelings for a $.50 reward (I know, I’m cheap). They memorized the list quickly.
As my oldest daughter and I were riding in the car to church yesterday, she said, “Dad, can you list the eight feelings?” I smiled and together we remembered the full list. Then she said, “I’m a little nervous right now so I guess that comes from fear right?”
“Yes, I guess so. Why are you a little nervous?” I asked. “This morning I’m visiting ‘Breakaway’ (our middle school ministry) for the first time.”
So together, we walked through the three-step process to:
1. Fully feel your feelings (we talked about the origin and physical effects of fear)
2. Spoke about the truth of what was happening inside of her
3. Encouraged her to surrender control of this feeling to God.
I LOVED the smile on her face. Though she remained nervous, she was able to embrace her opportunity and her need for God’s help.
What do you do to help your children identify and communicate their feelings?
Why #ForgivenessFriday? Together, we’re unleashing forgiveness in hearts.
Last year, I read a book that changed everything for me! Three years after my original hurt, I finally began the forgiveness process when I read The Forgiving Life by Robert Enright.
Today, I want you to hear from Dr. Enright who graciously agreed to this interview.
Dr. Enright, you outline 3 discoveries needed to begin the forgiveness process: 1) Identify the person you need to forgive, 2) Identify your injustice, and 3) Identify the impact of each injustice in your life.
1. Isn’t it already obvious whom we need to forgive?
It rarely is obvious whom we need to forgive. For example, when a husband and a wife are consistently angry with each other, frequently there are unresolved anger issues from childhood. The spouses forget this and focus instead only on one another. If they will resolve the anger in their relationship, they may have to first forgive people from long ago who hurt them and left emotional scars.
2. I was personally shocked to discover how helpful it was to identify my specific injustice. Why is this so helpful?
It puts into perspective the exact nature of the offenses against us. It is difficult to forgive people if we are vague about what happened, or even who hurt us (as in question 1 above).
3. Why is identifying the impact of the injustice on our life so important?
We so often “stuff” the pain in over-work or over-drink or over-just-about-anything-else. We distract ourselves from the pain. When we stop and take stock of all the built-up pain we realize that we have a lot of emotional work to do and forgiveness helps with that.
4. The Forgiveness Landscape in chapter eight is the most detailed approach to forgiveness I have discovered. (You also make these tools available at http://www.mindgarden.com/forgiveness/.) Why is this helpful?
Filling out the Forgiveness Landscape Scale (in the book, The Forgiving Life, or at the Mind Garden site) can be very eye-opening. People are quite surprised when they generate the list of people at whom they still harbor anger, even after many years. This can be an invaluable experience of seeing who hurt us and wiping the resentment-slate clean, and how amazing would that be to be free of resentments that can go back decades.
5. Scripture teaches that we are body, mind, and soul (heart). Our hurts impact our mind and our heart. Should our forgiveness process address both?
Yes, we need to do both, clearly see all the injustices against us and then to assess the psychological impact on us. This is why we have the Personal Forgiveness Scale in the book, The Forgiving Life,—to assess the degree of emotional damage from the injustice as well as the degree of improvement in emotional health following forgiveness.
6. As part of your forgiveness process, you suggest working toward understanding and then compassion toward our offender. Can’t forgiving someone simply be an act between me and God?
God surely can give us the grace to forgive, but if we look to Jesus Christ as our example, He struggled and suffered. When we do that, we mature as persons. Grace is not supposed to make us passive and receptive without maturation. It is the interaction of grace and struggle that brings out the beauty in a person.
7. Since forgiveness is a process, is there any data that predicts how long the process typically lasts?
The data basically show that the forgiveness process varies among people. The process also depends on the seriousness of the offense (the more serious the offense, the longer the process tends to be). Further, the more people are familiar with forgiveness, the more they practice it, the more quickly forgiveness is likely to be realized.
8. Why have you spent so much of your life working on forgiveness?
Because I am a narrow-minded academic…….who loves this stuff. I have been studying forgiveness for over 28 years now…..and I have not have one boring day in all that time.
9. Do you believe there are certain injustices that are too horrible to forgive?
No. There are people who will not forgive certain offenses (the murder of a child is one example), but there are no offenses where we cannot find some people who have successfully forgiven. In my first book, Exploring Forgiveness (1998), there is a chapter by Marietta Jaeger in which she beautifully describes her process of forgiving the man who murdered her daughter.
10. Does forgiving become easier?
Forgiveness can become more quickly accomplished with practiced, but I have never seen anyone say it is easy. The cross is never easy.
Click HERE for a copy of Dr. Eright’s insightful book.
If you know of someone wanting to begin the forgiveness process, will you share this with them? Together, let’s unleash forgiveness in the hearts of many.
Dr Enright’s bio:
Robert Enright, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, is a licensed psychologist and professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a founding member of the International Forgiveness Institute, Inc. in Madison. He is the author of over 120 publications, including five books: Exploring Forgiveness, Helping Clients Forgive, Forgiveness Is a Choice, a children’s book, Rising above the Storm Clouds, and The Forgiving Life. He has been a leader in the scientific study of forgiveness and its effects since 1985. His work on the subject has appeared in Time, McCall’s, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and The Los Angeles Times. He has appeared on ABC’s 20/20, NBC’s Nightly News, and many other television and radio shows. He is a recent recipient of the University of Wisconsin’s highest award, The Hilldale Award, focused on excellence in research, teaching, and public service. Currently, Dr. Enright is working on forgiveness education programs for primary school children in Milwaukee’s central-city and Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Are you always in a hurry? Be honest. Have you already scrolled to the bottom of this post to preview how long it would take to read?
I’ll give you 6 ways to discover if you suffer from “hurry sickness” and 2 ways to cure it.
Two weeks ago as we finished our coffee, I was about to rush to my next appointment when my friend gently asked, “Mark, before you go, is there anything in your life that I can be praying for?” For some reason, it felt like a life-line being thrown to person who didn’t know they were drowning.
My mind and heart were already halfway to the car when my friend asked his question. I settled back into my seat and I tried to share a little of the heaviness I was feeling. But I didn’t know how and I was a little embarrassed that I wasn’t making any sense.
My friend said, “You know every morning I walk a few blocks to hand deliver my retired Mom her newspaper. The birds are always chirping. Sometimes I don’t hear them until I’m halfway back and sometimes I hear them the minute I walk out of the door. It all depends on how big of a hurry I’m in because they’re always chirping. Mark, I’d like to encourage you to ‘listen for the birds’.”
I smiled because my friend had just put his finger on a burden I was unable to express.
Jesus was aware of the hurry problem in the first century. He withdrew from the crowds to go to a deserted place or a mountain to rest and pray.
“Following Jesus cannot be done at a sprint. Hurried is not just a disordered schedule. Hurried is a disordered heart.” -John Ortberg
“Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil.” -Carl Jung
*6 ways to know if you’re suffering from “hurry sickness”:
1. Waiting drives you crazy – Whether it’s checking out at the grocery store, at a stop sign or in traffic, you immediately become anxious when you have to wait.
2. Constantly Multi-tasking – You don’t just drive, you drive and conduct business or drive while you put on makeup or drive while you eat.
3. More – You have several books and projects you need to do. A couple of them are on time-management. You feel guilty because you need to get more done.
4. Superficiality – Depth comes slowly. But if you’re trying to microwave maturity and relationships you’ll find yourself eating Hot Pockets with superficial friends.
5. Unable to Love – “Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love always takes time and time is one thing hurried people don’t have.” -J. Ortberg
6. Sunset Fatigue – Lewis Grant coined the term “Sunset fatigue”. This is when you come home from a full-day’s work, but you have nothing left for those you love the most.
2 ways to help you cure your “hurry sickness”:
1. Embrace delays – Like a game, choose the slow lane on the road or long line at the grocery store. Embrace delays and cultivate patience telling God you trust Him to get everything done.
2. Solitude – Following the model of Jesus in the New Testament, the early church fathers placed a premium on solitude. Solitude can be done in brief, regular periods (5 minutes beginning and end of day) and longer, less frequent periods (an entire day once or twice or year). If you’ve never done this it will take time to develop this important skill of doing nothing.
*From John Ortberg’s book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted.
I’m tempted to lead a hurried life when I want to matter more or make a bigger difference. What tempts you to lead a hurried life?
As silly as it sounds, my biggest fear was walking into a restaurant and suddenly being face to face with my former best friend. Every time I walked into a public business I worried, “Will today be the day we run into each other?”
I was exhausted from the weight of my grudge. Our relationship was over. Why couldn’t I just forgive and move on? Despite prayerfully begging God to take this away, reading the Scriptures, pursuing professional counseling, listening to other pastors, and reading a dozen books on forgiveness, I still reeked of unforgiveness. (Here’s PART 1 & PART 2 of my story.)
My mind would always get foggy when thinking about my grudge. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you why my past pain bothered me so much. It was frustrating!
I mistakenly thought it was all behind me when God moved me and my family from San Angelo, Texas to Ventura, California in the Fall of 2011.
Like a refreshing ocean breeze, my family immediately embraced our beautiful new world. The first time I walked into a local restaurant without my silly fear was unbelievably refreshing.
But before long, like a unrelenting stench, my grudge began to resurface. I desperately wanted to discover a real step in the forgiveness process.
The day after the Boston Marathon bombing, I watched a live news conference where a member of the press asked a trauma surgeon from Boston Medical Center, “What kind of stories are they (patients/victims) telling you?” The surgeon responded, “Believe it or not, as doctors we don’t ask them their stories. We focus on the surgery and the care.”
Why? Doctors know that the first step to healing is to ignore the story and identify the injury.
I’ll never forget the morning I sat down in my living room to read yet another book on forgiveness. But this time it would be different. After more than a 1,000 days of being stuck in unforgiveness, I was about to discover the step that would unleash forgiveness in my heart.
That morning in my living room I discovered step one: Identify your specific injury. Before that day, if you would’ve asked me to describe my hurt, I would have replayed the entire story: the people involved, their actions, and the consequences . . . in detail. In my mind, the story was my hurt. I hadn’t identified my specific “injury” and didn’t know it could be helpful.
To help me take this new step, I discovered a list of typical injuries. As if identifying a criminal from a police lineup, I immediately recognized my injury. Surprisingly, that actually helped . . . immediately.
That morning I suddenly felt super energized and I couldn’t wait for Ginger to wake up so I could tell her! I was beginning to feel unstuck. In that moment, I had no idea the miracles I’d experience in the months ahead but I could already sense my forgiveness process beginning to take root. That was a good morning!
Why did it help me? For the first time, I was able to surface exactly what I was feeling. I noticed that my “identified hurt” was less emotionally powerful than my “unidentified hurt”. Like a fog lifting, my thinking was suddenly less muddled and blurry.
In the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt 18), the forgiving king knew that his servant owed him exactly 10,000 bags of gold. He wasn’t attempting general forgiveness but specific forgiveness.
“General forgiveness does not heal specific hurts. It’s important to pinpoint what was taken from you.” – Andy Stanley
Are you carrying a grudge? (Not sure? HERE are 5 questions to ask yourself)
Have you clarified what forgiveness is? (HERE are 10 common misunderstandings)
If so, congratulations you are a candidate to begin the forgiveness process TODAY!
To begin, ask yourself these questions:
1. Do you reference your hurt as an event (referencing the people, the circumstances, and the consequences)?
2. When you think about your pain does it cause a mental fog?
3. Is it hard to explain to others why your hurt bothers you so much?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you would probably benefit from identifying your specific injury or hurt. Identifying your injury activates a more efficient mental process and launches forgiveness.
The book I read that day was The Forgiving Life by Dr. Robert Enright. God used this book to help me get unstuck. (Next week I’ll share my recent interview with Dr. Enright.)
I want to share Dr. Enright’s list of typical injuries hoping you’ll recognize yours:
Absent, Emotionally - Person is present but mind seems far away; little love expressed
Absent, Physically - Away from you for long periods
Anger, Displaced - Person is actually angry with another, but takes it out on you
Anger, Excessive - Intense anger expressed verbally and/or physically without actual contact
Anger, Passive - Subtle anger that embarrasses/hurts; not easily detected as anger
Anger, Ridicule - Expressed anger that makes you feel small and judged
Abusive, Emotionally - Extreme and persistent anger; words that damage you psychologically
Abusive, Physically - Extreme physical contact that damages you
Abusive, Sexually - Inappropriate touching and/or physical contact
Excessive Anxiety - Extreme worry displaced onto you
Excessive Punishment - Deserved punishment that goes too far
Excessive Teasing - Joking that goes too far
Excessive Demands - Asking more than what is reasonable
Harsh Judgments - Thoughts/expressions that leave you feeling condemned
Ignoring - Lack of communication
Insensitive - Consistently ignoring your needs
Lack of Love - Failure to express love
Lack of Cooperation - Give-and-take is absent
Lack of Understanding - Failure to see your viewpoint
Poor Decision Making - Decisions are harmful
Selfish - Self-absorbed
Other - Any injustice not specified above
If you’d like more tools to help you identify your injury and discover it’s impact on you, order Dr. Enright’s book by clicking HERE.
Maybe you or someone you know is struggling with a past hurt. Will you share this with them today?
A simple prayer for you to consider today:
“Heavenly Father, as You know, forgiveness is difficult. You sacrificed Your Son to offer me forgiveness. Encourage me to take one step toward forgiveness today. Use this process to shape me to become more like You.”
Click HERE for PART 4 of the #ForgivenessFriday Series.
(Based on Andy Stanley’s recent talk at Catalyst)
3 things God will use to MAKE you:
1. Unexpected opportunity
2. Unavoidable adversity
3. Unquestionable calling (Thing in you that you can’t get away from. Your burden! If I don’t do something about this – I’ll feel like I’ve sinned.)
Your current response to opportunity, adversity, & calling is making you currently. How are you responding? Are you saying, “That’s not a big enough opportunity for me!”?
God has a plan for your life; you don’t want to miss it. (Ps. 32:8)
Your greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God may not be something you do but someone you raise.
“God takes full responsibility for a life that’s fully yielded to him.” – Charles Stanley
God may choose to make you through an unexpected opportunity for which you feel totally unprepared.
Leaders are made ONE response at a time!
So step into uncomfortable, embrace adversity, and stay true to your calling. God is currently making you. Let Him finish what He has begun.
The 12-year relationship I enjoyed with my best friend had grown roots deep into my heart. That same deep place in my heart experienced a painful rip when our relationship abruptly severed. (I wrote about it HERE.)
Within a few days, I was determined to move on. Not because I wanted to but because I needed to.
A friend told me, “Mark you should take a few days off, get away, clear your head, and work on your heart before rushing into the next season of your life.”
My wife and I decided that’s exactly what we needed. So we got away. We loaded up our suburban that Friday and drove the 90 miles to Junction, TX. The familiar family home sat on the Llano River and provided us the needed change of scenery and tranquility that comes with no TV or internet access.
I had one goal that weekend: Completely forgive by Monday morning. God wanted that. I wanted that. So why not?
I spent the weekend reading Scripture, praying, crying, journaling, meditating, walking, playing with my kids, and talking with my wife. I knew God was going to shape me through this. I just needed Him to do it by Monday morning.
That weekend I prayerfully drove the proverbial stake in the ground to choose forgiveness no matter what. I felt a twinge of hope.
Monday morning came. I was determined to go home and be a healthy husband, father, and pastor. Come hell or high water, I was leaving my grudge in Junction.
So we piled into our suburban, turned on some upbeat music and began the drive back home but now we were accompanied by our new friends: determination and hope.
Ninety miles later, as I drove back into our home town, something trivial triggered my mental DVR. The highway sign, announcing the exit which led to my former job, caught my attention. Immediately, without any invitation or effort on my part, I felt a surprising surge of emotional pain from that deep place in my heart. This time pain brought his friends, anger and sadness, who quickly beat the living daylights out of my hope and determination. In their dark and cruel way, they screamed that forgiveness never really happened. Suddenly, I felt defeated and confused.
That’s when my confusing and frustrating journey with forgiveness began. I’m a pastor who can’t forgive? How will I ever help my kids forgive?
I didn’t know it then, but my wife and I had just entered a new season of our lives in which our faith would be challenged by our deep hurts and a God who appeared to be missing in action.
Looking back, one misunderstanding set me up for that difficult season. I don’t know where I ever heard this or why I believed this. But here’s the one misunderstanding that sabotaged my forgiveness efforts:
I thought forgiveness was a one-time decision that included one genuine prayer.
My misunderstanding was costly. Resentment grew in my heart and I held a grudge . . . for three long years.
I eventually learned that forgiveness is a process. “The deeper the wound, the longer forgiveness might take.” -Dr. Robert Enright
We’ll be discussing how to forgive during our #ForgivenessFriday series. But first, you need to discover if you have any misunderstandings that might sabotage your forgiveness journey.
Here are 10 common misunderstandings about forgiveness:
Forgiveness is not neglecting justice. You can forgive and still call the police.
Forgiveness is not forgetting. I’ll remember your offense but I’ll choose to remember forgiveness more.
Forgiveness is not denying, approving, or diminishing their actions. Forgiveness gravely recognizes that sin (mine and my offenders) sent Christ to the cross.
Forgiveness is not weakness. Confronting your deepest pain and choosing to forgive is not a journey for the faint-hearted.
Forgiveness is not trust. Forgiveness is a free gift you offer and trust is a separate gift they earn.
Forgiveness is not enabling. Forgiveness may require confronting if the offender is hurting themselves but it always includes wanting what’s best for you and your offender.
Forgiveness is not waiting for an apology. An apology is a choice your offender makes. Forgiveness is a choice you make.
Forgiveness is not dying emotionally and no longer feeling the pain. Your pain either moves you toward bitterness or grace. Forgiveness allows pain to move you toward grace.
Forgiveness is not a one-time event. Forgiveness is a process (“seventy times seven”) that looks more like a steady marathon than a quick sprint.
Forgiveness is not reconciliation. It takes one person to forgive and two people to reconcile.
Here’s a great 6-minute video by Mark Driscoll on what forgiveness is and is not: http://youtu.be/stP2VDAqm2k
Next Friday, we’ll begin discussing the process of forgiveness.
Maybe you or someone you know is struggling with a past hurt. Will you forward this to them AND pray for them today?
Any other misunderstandings you’d add to this list?
Which forgiveness misunderstanding have you struggled with?
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Ps. 34:18
Click HERE for PART 3 of #ForgivenessFriday Series