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 http://www.newsongpittsburgh.org/sermons.htm )


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