Friday, May 30, 2008

Forgiveness and the Big White Box

Why do we struggle so to forgive? to ask for forgiveness?  to address the problems in our relationships?


Most often it is because we don't want to face the pain.


Picture this: 

      You move into a new home to find a big white box in the kitchen next to the fridge.  You've never seen one before so you don't recognize it.  It has a flat surface you use to stack stuff, cut vegetables and set your coffee mug.  For three years.  Then one day a friend comes to visit. While there he asks if he could make a snack.  He pulls out a pan, sets it on the front right black circle of this white box, turns a knob on the back of the white box, pours the ingredients into the pan and makes the best snack of all time.  Popcorn.  You're amazed, dumbfounded and excited.  Not because of the popcorn, but because he was able to make it on the counter you've been using.  As you inspect this contraption, you put your hand on the black circle and scorch your hand.  Pain, oh the pain! You say not very nice things about this box, the very same one you raved about a moment ago.


QUESTION:  For the next three weeks, when you walk through the kitchen and see the stove, what comes to mind?  Do you think about the three years you put your hands all over the burners without consequence or the ONE TIME you burned yourself?  It's the ONE time, right?  You rub your hand, scowl at the memory, creep along the opposite wall.  In fact, it may take quite some time before you are even willing to THINK ABOUT using the thing again.  Sound extreme?  Yet that is what we do in relationships where hurt and unforgiveness resides.


TRUTH:  Relationships are what life is all about.  But one of the few guarantees about relationships is that we will have problems, confrontations, disagreements and struggles every day. Blame Adam and Eve.  Forgiveness is the number one issue in relationships.  Of all the phrases in the Lord's Prayer, Jesus chose forgiveness as THE phrase to add additional commentary.  Why?  Because He knows that hurt, anger, bitterness, grudges and distance are all forms of unforgiveness.  Develop a lifestyle of forgiving everyone and many of the relationship issues are quickly resolved.


No one, except people who should be carried off in a special white jacket and locked up in a windowless room, really likes the idea of confrontation because we have in our minds the times when we've been burned.  And we HAVE been burned.  Like walking through the kitchen with the demon stove, when we think about confrontation and forgiveness we remember the big blow-ups when it did not go well and caused searing pain.  Truth is that we actually have relational confrontation daily and have to forgive often but most of the issues are minor or quickly resolved or automatically overlooked because we have learned how to take care of them.  Like your friend navigating the stove to your awe.  We don't even think of them as confrontations or issues of forgiveness.  They are like three years of having the stove in our kitchen without getting burned. 


The moral of this story:  take on relationship confrontation and forgiveness head on.  Quickly, lovingly, with the desire for resolution and reconciliation.  Don't back away out of fear or you'll miss the joy of relationships. Relationships cannot be good and strong without it.  In fact, they cannot be good and strong without going through it.  You'll still get burned once in a while, but it will be worth it. 


""Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) 



Boldly, Herb 


(To listen to Herb via the internet go to )


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Life in Your Universe When You Don't Forgive

Life is about relationships.  Everybody, raise your hand if you have relationships in your life.  Good, everybody confesses.


Relationships mean we will get hurt.  Sorry.  But it is the truth.  When we are in relationships we are guaranteed to get hurt.  Comes with the territory.  Then comes the great decision.  What will I do with my hurt – hold on to it or forgive.  Do I allow the hurt to turn into controlling anger, bitterness and grudges or do I let it go by forgiving? 


One problem is that we live in an angry society where the opposite of forgiveness is applauded and encouraged.  Phrases like, "Go ahead, make my day" and "Hasta la vista, baby" are part of pop culture language.  It feels good to be mad and to give into it.  So what's the big decision?  It is about the aftermath, not the moment. 


So why should we forgive?  The irony here is that it is hard to think clearly when we are angry, but try to put any anger aside, any hurt that is controlling or unforgiveness that you believe is justified for just a couple minutes and consider the reasons below calmly.  YOUR FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT.


Here are some good reasons to forgive, to let go of the hurt and anger.


1. We damage ourselves.  What does holding on to anger look like?  Chains.


Have you ever met an angry, bitter, harsh, hurtful person?  If you listen to them you discover QUICKLY that they were hurt and they are RELIVING it over and over again.  Have you ever met a kind, loving, caring, helpful person that everyone seems to want to be around?  Listen to them long enough and you will discover, though it may take much time, that they were hurt but they have let it go.  And sometimes the attracting person has been hurt worse!


            Unforgiveness does more harm to me than to the one who hurt me.


O Physically

Some physical symptoms: unable to sleep and constantly feeling tired; rapid heartbeat, headache, stiff neck and/or tight shoulders, backache, ulcers, increased blood pressure and cholesterol, upset stomach, nausea, or diarrhea.


O Emotionally

            Unforgiveness builds a wall around my soul so that I cannot develop relationships, enjoy friendships, laugh, cry and live emotionally healthy.  An unforgiving person will become irritable and intolerant of even minor disturbances, feel irritated or frustrated, lose his temper more often, and yell at others for no reason, feel jumpy or exhausted all the time, worry too much about insignificant things.


O Mentally

            Unforgiveness slows the ability to think, blinds, distracts, gets obsessed with hurt.  That person will find it hard to concentrate or focus on tasks, will doubt ability to do even common things, and imagine negative, worrisome, or terrifying scenes.


O Spiritually

            Matthew 6:15 "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

            It is impossible to connect with God and hold on to unforgiveness at the same time because I have to turn my back on God to do so.  My prayers will bounce off of the ceiling, the Bible will seem foggy, worship will be a duty rather than a connection with God.  My soul dries up.


2. When we refuse to forgive we damage our relationships.


Obviously we damage the relationships where we have the hurt, but it is bigger and broader than that.  We damage ALL our relationships when we refuse to forgive in one.  The problem is unforgiveness leaks.  We can try to hold back the anger from other relationships, but the consequences above leak on to others.  We can get to the place where people just don't want to be around us.


3. When we hold on to anger, we damage the future.  Our future and the future of others.


      I rob myself of healthy relationships now and in the future.  I also rob others of the healthy relationship they could have had with me, and I prevent them from experiencing the value I could have added to their lives. 

      I cannot set off a bomb and not have collateral damage, and that damage goes into the future.


4. When we refuse to forgive others, we separate ourselves from God and remove ourselves from His blessings.  In this life and in eternity.

            Matthew 6:15 "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

1 Peter 3:7 (NIV)  "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."


It is not that God so much punishes us, but that we turn our backs on God by our disobedience.  God is our loving Heavenly Father.  Literally, our Daddy.  He looks down on us, sees the damage that anger and unforgiveness causes and does not want that for His kids.  He disciplines us when He sees us doing wrong so that we will stop hurting ourselves. 


Holding on to anger, hurt and unforgiveness is choosing the temporary rather than the long term.  Feels good for the moment, but it causes immeasurable damage as we go forward.  And we can get so used to it that we don't realize the depth of the damage. 


In the days ahead we'll look at this more.  Until then, would you commit to let go of the hurt and anger – FOR YOUR OWN GOOD?  Not because you have to, but because you truly want the best for yourself and those around you.


Boldly, Herb 


(To listen to Herb via the internet go to )