Healing Emotional Wounds From Your Past

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NASB)

Dan and Cindy were a fine, young Christian couple preparing for ministry on the mission field. Then tragedy struck. Cindy was attacked and raped by a stranger in the parking lot one night after work. The police were unable to find her attacker, and Cindy had a hard time bringing any closure to the nightmare. The trauma was so severe that Dan and Cindy moved out of the city. As hard as she tried to get back to normal life, Cindy couldn’t shake the horrible memories and feelings from her experience. She was trapped by her trauma.

One of the most vital things we can learn regarding our Christian life is how to handle the trials that will inevitably come our way. Many Christians naively expect a life of joy once they have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. When hit with adversity, they begin to doubt the love of God. Why me? I love the Lord. I go to church. New believers, especially those who have emerged from a life of failure, are looking for success in their new life, not suffering.

Romans 8:28 is one of the most familiar verses on this subject. The NASB translation states, “God causes all things to work together for good.” Let’s not come away thinking this verse says God causes the very thing itself in order to bring about good in the life of the believer. It is saying, rather, that things don’t just happen to work out for good on their own. God providentially works all things together for good for His people according to His purpose. But while Romans 8:28 is a source of great comfort when it is properly understood, it is often misunderstood and misapplied.

BAD THINGS DO HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE

Your story may not be as severe as Cindy’s, but all of us have hurtful, traumatic experiences in our past that have scarred us emotionally. You may have grown up with a physically, emotionally or sexually abusive parent. You may have been severely frightened as a child. Maybe you have suffered through a painful relationship in the past: a broken friendship, the untimely death of a loved one, a divorce. Any number of traumatic events in your past can leave you holding a lot of emotional baggage. Those experiences are buried in our memories and available for instant recall when we least expect it.

The cycle of emotions goes like this: (1) previous life history determines the intensity of primary emotions you experience when (2) a present event triggers the memory of your past trauma, then (3) you perform a mental evaluation in order to manage your present emotional response, attempting to apply reason, resulting (4) in a secondary emotional response, typically far less intense than your primary emotional reaction. Of course, many of these primary emotions lie dormant within you and have little effect on your life until something triggers them. Perhaps you’ve seen this happen when a seemingly innocuous conversation you are having with someone sends him or her storming out of the room. What set him off? you wonder. You unwittingly touched a nerve.

The problem is, you cannot isolate yourself completely from everything that may set off an emotional response. You are bound to see something on TV, or hear something in a conversation, that will bring to mind your unpleasant experience. Something in your past is unresolved, and therefore it still has a hold on you. I once heard it said that when we fail to deal with past events that have caused emotional baggage, we tend to bring the emotions of that past trauma into our current relationships. When this happens, our decisions are not so much undertaken by us as they are driven by the emotions of the prior event.

LEARNING TO RESOLVE PRIMARY EMOTIONS

You have no control over a primary emotion when it is triggered in the present, because it is rooted in the past. Therefore, it doesn’t do any good to feel guilty about something you can’t control. You can, however, stabilize the primary emotion by evaluating it in light of present circumstances. For example, suppose you meet a man named Bill. He looks hauntingly like the Bill who used to beat you up as a child. Although he is not the same person, your primary emotion will be triggered. So you quickly tell yourself, “This is not the same Bill; give him the benefit of the doubt.” This mental evaluation produces a secondary emotion that is a combination of the past and the present.

You have done this thousands of times, and you have also helped others do the same. When people fly off the handle, you try to help them cool down by talking to them. You are helping them gain control of themselves by making them think; by putting the present situation into perspective. Notice how this works the next time you are watching a football game and tempers explode on the field. On player grabs an enraged teammate and says, “Listen, meathead, you’re going to cost us a 15-yard penalty and maybe the game if you don’t simmer down!”

Some Christians assert that the past doesn’t have any effect on them because they are new creations in Christ. I would have to disagree, and here’s why. Either they are extremely fortunate to have a conflict-free past, or they are living in denial. Those who have had major past traumas and have learned how to resolve them in Christ know how devastating past experiences can be. Many Christians have brought their major traumatic experiences to counseling sessions. Some have been abused to such an extent that they have no conscious memory of their experiences. Others constantly avoid anything that will stimulate those painful memories. Most don’t know how to resolve those past experiences, so they have developed myriad defense mechanisms to cope. Some live in denial. Others rationalize their problems, or try to suppress the pain by an excess of food, sex, drugs and alcohol, or other vices.

A major role of psychotherapy is to determine the root of primary emotions. Sometimes psychotherapists resort to hypnosis or pharmacotherapy to get at the sources of their clients’ problems. I worked for eighteen months in a dissociative disorders unit at a psychiatric hospital outside of Philadelphia, PA. Dissociative disorders involve disruptions or breakdowns of memory, awareness, identity or perception. People with dissociative disorders use dissociation, a defense mechanism, pathologically and involuntarily. Dissociative disorders are thought to be primarily caused by previous severe psychological trauma. Patients suffering from possible multiple personality disorder are sometimes treated with sodium amytal interviews in order to assess and manage catatonia, hysterical stupor, and unexplained muteness, as well as in distinguishing between depressive, schizophrenic, and organic stuporous states. My clinical experience at that psychiatric facility involved treating women allegedly suffering from multiple personality disorder, which was thought to be caused by severe, long-term physical or psychological trauma during childhood and early adolescence.

SEE YOUR PAST IN LIGHT OF WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST

I have come to believe that the answer for repressed memories is found in Psalm 139:23-24, which states, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (NIV)

How does God intend you to resolve your past experiences? In two ways. First, understand that you are no longer a product of your past. You are a new creation in Christ: a product of Christ’s work on the cross. You have the privilege of evaluating your past experience in light of who you are today, as opposed to who you were then. The intensity of the primary emotion was initially established by how you perceived the event at the time it happened. People are not in bondage to past traumas so much as they are in bondage to the lies they believed about themselves, God, and how to live as a result of the trauma. That is why truth sets you free.

As a Christian, you are literally a new creature in Christ Jesus. Old things, including the traumas of your past, passed away. (2 Corinthians 5:17) The old you in Adam is gone; the new you in Christ is here to stay. We have all been victimized, lo, even traumatized, but whether we remain victims is up to us. An old-timer I knew in Alcoholics Anonymous used to share, “Victims drink!” Those primary emotions are rooted in the lies we believed in the past. Now we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (See Romans 12:2) The flesh patterns are still imbedded in our minds when we become new creations in Christ, but we can crucify the flesh and choose to walk by the Spirit. (See Galatians 5:22-25)

Now that you are in Christ, you can look at past events from the perspective of who you are today. You may be struggling with the question, “Where was God when all this was happening to me?” The omnipresent God was there, and He sent His own Son to redeem you from your past. The truth is, He is in your life right now desiring to release you from your past. That is the Gospel: the “Good News” that Christ Jesus came to set the captives free. Perceiving past traumatic events from the vantage point of your new identity in Christ is what starts the process of healing those damaged or toxic emotions.

FORGIVE THOSE WHO HAVE HURT YOU

The next step in resolving past conflicts is to forgive those who have offended you.  You have to break free from the typical mindset of, “Why should I forgive him? You don’t seem to understand how bad he hurt me!” The first reason is that forgiveness is required by God. As soon as Jesus spoke the “amen” to his model prayer – which included a petition for God’s forgiveness – He commented, “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (See Matthew 18:14-15) We must base our relationship with others on the same criteria on which God bases His relationship with us: love, acceptance, and forgiveness. (See Matthew 18:21-35)

The second reason is because forgiveness is necessary to avoid entrapment by Satan. Unforgiveness is the number one snare Satan uses to gain entrance to our lives. I read a terrific book on this subject by John Bevere (2004) called The Bait of Satan: Living Free From the Deadly Trap of Offense. In his preface, Bevere says, “The issue of offense – the very core of The Bait of Satan – is often the most difficult obstacle an individual must face and overcome.” Bevere tells us the Greek word for “offend” used by Jesus in Luke 17:1 is skandalon, which originally referred to the part of an animal trap to which the bait was attached for luring the animal. In similar fashion regarding the sin of offense, the word signifies laying a trap in someone’s way! Paul encourages us to forgive “in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (See 2 Corinthians 2:11)

The third reason is simple: forgiveness is required of all believers who desire to be like Christ. Paul wrote, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32, NIV)

WHAT IS FORGIVENESS?

Forgiving is not forgetting. Forgetting may be a beneficial long-term byproduct of forgiving, but it is never a means to forgiveness. When God says He will remember our sins no more (See Hebrews 10:17), He is not saying, “I will forget them.” God is omniscient; He cannot forget. Rather, He is saying He will never use our past against us. He will remove it from us as far as the east is from the west. (See Psalm 103:12) Moreover, forgiveness does not involve tolerance for sin. It is proper to forgive someone’s past sins, but we must take a stand against future sin.

Forgiveness does not seek revenge or demand repayment for offenses suffered. A friend of mine is notorious for saying, “I’m all about paybacks!” I told him he must not seek retribution no matter what the offense. He said, “You mean I’m just supposed to let them off the hook?” I might have gotten through to him the last time we spoke. I said, “Yes, you let them off your hook realizing that God does not let them off His hook.” We may feel like exacting justice, but we are not an impartial judge. God is the just judge who will make everything right in the end. “‘Vengeance is Mine. I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (See Romans 12:19)

Forgiveness means resolving to live with the consequences of another person’s offense. In reality, we have to live with the consequences whether we forgive the offending person or not. Actually, we are all living with the consequences of Adam’s sin. I can’t count the number of people – believers and non-believers alike – who don’t think that this is fair. Some have even gone as far as to insist they would have obeyed God and not eaten from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Obviously, we’ll never know, will we? So our only real choice is simple: either live with the consequences of the Fall in the bondage of bitterness and offense, or in the freedom of forgiveness.

 

Objective of Forgiveness: Reconciliation

IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO HELP A STUMBLING
BROTHER THAN TO
PROVE YOURSELF CORRECT

“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.” (Matthew 5:21-24, MSG)

This quote comes from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus started by saying, “You have heard that it was said to those of old.” Then He added, “But I say to you…” Jesus continues this comparison throughout this portion of His message. First He quotes the law that regulates our outward actions. Then He shows its fulfillment by bringing it into the heart. So in God’s eyes a murderer is not limited to the one who commits murder; he is also the one who hates his brother. What you are in your heart is how you really are.

Jesus clearly delineates the consequences of offense in this portion of His sermon. He illustrates the severity of holding anger or bitter offense. If one is angry with his brother without cause, he is in danger of judgment. He is in danger of the council if that anger bears fruit and he calls his brother raca. This is a biblical term meaning “worthless” or “empty.” It implies that the person is a fool. In the days of the Early Church, calling a person a fool was to imply that they were Godless. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart ‘there is no God.'” So if anger reaches the point where you call your brother worthless or a fool, you are in danger of hell.

Jesus was showing them that not dealing with anger can lead to hatred. Hatred not properly dealt with would put them in danger of hell. Then He said that if they remembered their brother was offended with them, they were to make it top priority to find him and seek to be reconciled. But why the urgency to seek reconciliation? It it for our sake or our brother’s sake. We should go for his sake that we might be a catalyst to help him out of the offense. Even if we are not offended with him, the love of God does not let him remain angry without attempting to reach out and restore. We may have done nothing wrong. Right or wrong doesn’t matter. It is more important for us to help this stumbling brother than to prove ourselves correct.

There are limitless scenarios for offense.

Maybe the person we have offended believes we were unjust in our treatment of him, when in reality we did him no harm. He may have inaccurate information that has yielded an inaccurate conclusion. On the other hand, he may have accurate information from which he had drawn an inaccurate conclusion. What we said may have been grossly distorted once it was processed through the various channels of communication. Though our intent was not to harm, our words and actions gave a different appearance. Often we judge ourselves by our intentions and everyone else by their actions. It is possible to intend one thing while communicating something totally different. Sometimes our true motives are cleverly hidden even from us. We want to believe they are pure. But as we filter them through the Word of God we see them differently.

Finally, maybe we did sin against the person. We were angry or under pressure, and he got the brunt of it. Or maybe this person has constantly and deliberately lashed out at us, and we were responding in kind. No matter what caused it, this offended person’s understanding is darkened, and he has based his judgments on assumptions, hearsay, and appearances, deceiving himself even though he believes he has discerned our true motives. How can we have an accurate judgment without accurate information? It’s important to be sensitive to the fact that he believes with his whole heart he has been wronged. For whatever reason he feels this way, we must be willing to humble ourselves and apologize.

Jesus is exhorting us to reconcile even if the offense is not our fault. It takes maturity to walk in humility in order to bring reconciliation. But taking the first step is often harder on the one who is hurting. That’s why Jesus told the person who caused the offense to “go to him.”

ASKING FORGIVENESS OF ONE WHO IS OFFENDED

The Apostle Paul said, “Therefore, let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” (Romans 14:19) This shows us how to approach a person we have offended. If we go with an attitude of frustration, we will not promote peace. We will only make it difficult for the one who is hurt. We are to maintain an attitude of pursuing peace through humility at the expense of our pride. It is the only way to see true reconciliation. On certain occasions, as part of making amends in the 9th Step, I have approached people I have hurt or who were angry with me, and they have lashed out at me. In fact, I am currently estranged from my brother and one of my sons due to wrongful behavior during active addiction. I have been called selfish, inconsiderate, hopeless, and a continual failure by people whom I love, but whom I stole from or belittled.

My natural response has been to get defensive. No I’m not! You just don’t understand what I’m going through. You don’t understand addiction. Whenever we defend ourselves in this manner, it only fuels the fire of their offense. This is not the proper way to make amends or to pursue peace. Standing up for ourselves and “our rights,” especially when we were wrong in the first place, will never bring true peace. Instead, we need to learn to listen and keep our mouth shut until they have said what they need to say. Whether we agree or not, the key is to respect their feelings. Let them know we love them despite how we treated them. Then tell them we’re sorry and ask for their forgiveness.

Pride defends. Humility agrees and says, “You are right and I was wrong.”

James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” Godly wisdom is willing to yield. It is not stiff-necked or stubborn when it comes to personal conflicts. A person submitted to godly wisdom is not afraid to yield or defer to the other person’s viewpoint as long as it does not violate truth.

APPROACHING SOMEONE WHO HAS OFFENDED YOU

Now that we have discussed what to do when we offend our brother, let’s consider what to do if our brother offends us.  Jesus said, “Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15) Many people apply this Scripture verse in a different attitude from the one Jesus was intending. If they have been hurt, they will go and confront the offender in a spirit of revenge and anger. They use this verse as justification to condemn the one who has hurt them.

But they are missing the whole reason Jesus instructed us to go to one another. It is not for condemnation, but for reconciliation. He does not want us to tell our brother how rotten he has been to us. We are to go to remove the breach preventing the restoration of our relationship. This parallels how God restores us to Himself. We have sinned against God, but, as Paul wrote, Jesus demonstrates His own love toward and for us, in that while we were still sinners, He died for us. (Romans 5:8) Are we willing to lay down our self-protection and die to pride in order to be restored to the one who has offended us? God reached out to us before we asked for forgiveness. Jesus decided to forgive us before we even acknowledged our offense.

“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:18-20) The word of reconciliation begins on the common ground that we all have sinned against God. We do not desire reconciliation or salvation unless we know there is a separation.

Although we have sinned against God, He chooses not to condemn us but to reconcile us to Himself. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” God’s goodness leads us to repent. His love does not leave us condemned to hell. He proved His love by sending Jesus, His only Son, to the cross to die for us. God reaches out to us first, even though we have offended Him. He reaches out not to condemn, but to restore. Since we are to imitate God, we are to extend reconciliation to a brother who sins against us. Jesus established this pattern: Go to him and show him his sin, not to condemn him or make him wrong, but to remove anything that lies between the two of you and thus be reconciled and restored.

The goodness of God within us will draw our brother to repentance and restoration of the relationship. We keep this bond of peace by maintaining an attitude of humility, gentleness, and long-suffering, and by undergirding each other’s weakness in love. We should not go to a brother who has offended us until we have decided to forgive him from our heart – no matter how he responds to us. We need to get rid of any feelings of animosity toward him before approaching him. If we don’t, we will probably react out of these negative feelings and hurt him, not heal him.

A word about telling everyone what someone has done to us rather than approaching the offending party. I believe we do this because we are looking for people who will take our side. It strengthens our cause and comforts us when others agree with how badly we have been treated. There is only selfishness in this type of behavior. If we keep the love of God as our motivation, we will not fail. Love never fails. When we love others the way Jesus loves us, we will be free even if the other person chooses not to be reconciled to us. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” He says, “If it is possible,” because there are times when others will refuse to be at peace with us. We are to do everything we can to be reconciled with the other person, as long as we remain loyal to truth. We often give up on relationships too soon.

The love of God is the key to freedom from the baited trap of offense. This must be an abounding love, a love that continually grows and is strengthened in our hearts. So many in our society today are deceived by a superficial love, a love that talks but does not act. The love that will keep us from stumbling lays down its life selflessly – even for the good of an enemy. When we walk in this kind of love, we cannot be seduced into taking the bait and living in offense. Instead, we are capable of complete, unconditional forgiveness. We are able, if even for a moment, to be like Christ.

Forgiveness: letting go of grudges and bitterness. When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment, and thoughts of revenge, or embrace forgiveness and move forward. If not, the wounds can leave you with lasting feelings of animosity, hostility, and malevolence.

Baa Baa Black Sheep

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A black sheep stands out from the flock. In the English language, black sheep is an idiom used to describe an odd or disreputable member of a group. It seems nearly every family in America has one. The troubled child. A lightning rod of sorts. The center of attention. Always in the hot seat. The squeaky wheel in need of grease. Chances are, if you are the black sheep of the family, then you’ll know about it. Unfortunately for you, you were born as the runt of the litter and your family isn’t exactly pleased with your existence. At the very worst, you’re the stereotypical black sheep – an alcoholic, drug addict, gambler, delinquent, and a constant disappointment to your family.

But not every black sheep is as dramatic as that, and it may just take something little for you to set off your family’s wrath. You may be an atheist in a family of Christians, unemployed, a party animal, have trouble in school. Maybe you got your high school sweetheart pregnant the summer you both graduated. All of these attributes can make you the black sheep, and make your parents wonder where they went wrong. However, being the black sheep of the family doesn’t make you a bad person, it just means that you’re different. You see things differently, have you own opinions, and you’re probably the only one on your side, so it feels like you’re fighting a losing battle.

Perhaps some of this sounds familiar:

  • Your parents were more strict with you than they were with your other siblings.
  • Your mistakes were blown out of proportion and/or punished disproportionately.
  • You always carried the feeling that you “didn’t fit in” with your family, and you didn’t develop strong connections with them.
  • You were mocked, ridiculed and/or made fun of on a constant basis.
  • Your family seemed intent on making you feel “deficient” and as though you were always fundamentally lacking.
  • You developed mental or emotional disorders, and/or substance abuse problems as a result of being scapegoated and overburdened.
  • Your family didn’t show any interest in who you really were as a person.
  • You were criticized, completely ignored, or or emotionally manipulated if you rebelled in any way.

The role we played as children and young adults in our families contributes immensely to our present sense of self-worth, feelings of social approval, and our psychological and emotional well-being at large. If you’re like me, you may have got stuck in a role that undermined your sense of being a fundamentally “good” and “acceptable” person deep down, something that still affects me to this very day.  You may find yourself identified as the trouble child or the black sheep of your family, and this may cause you a lot of shame and depression in your life. Families often focus on the behavior of one child who seems to struggle with behaving properly. Dysfunctional families tend to avoid their own internal pain, disappointments and struggles by pointing the finger at another family member as the cause for all the problems they experience.

I took a class on marriage and family last semester at Colorado Christian University. The core textbook for the class, The Family: A Christian Perspective on the Contemporary Home (Balswick & Balswick, 2014), indicates that it’s critical for children to develop into their own unique selves within the context of family unity. Family scientists and counselors refer to this as differentiation – the process of maintaining a separate identity while simultaneously remaining connected in relationship, belonging, and unity. Another way to describe this process is interdependency.

Balswick & Balswick believe that family relationships involve four sequential (non-linear) states: covenant, grace, empowerment, and intimacy. Covenant has to do with commitment to family members, and hinges on unconditional love. Grace involves forgiving other family members and being unforgiven by them. Certainly, from a human perspective, the unconditional love of God makes no sense until we look at it through the eyes of grace. Grace is truly a relational word, and means unmerited favor. John Rogerson (1996) takes the understanding of grace as a natural extension of convenant love and applies it to family life. He believes the family unit to be “…structures of grace…social arrangements designed to mitigate hardship and misfortune, and grounded in God’s mercy.”

Family relationships, as designed by God, are meant to be lived out in an atmosphere of grace, not “law.” Family life based on contract leads to an atmosphere of law, and is a discredit to Christianity. Christ came in human form to reconcile the world to God. This act of divine love and forgiveness is the basis for human love and forgiveness. We can forgive others as we have been forgiven. It is the love of God within that makes this possible. Of course, humans are limited and fallen. We can never fulfill the law. Thankfully, we are free from the law because of Christ’s perfection and righteousness, which leads to our salvation. When it comes to family relationships, none of us can expect to measure up. In a family based on law, the members demand perfection of one another.

Shame is often born out of a fear of unworthiness or rejection. When shame is present, family members put on masks and begin to play deceptive roles before one another. Children who experience the wrath of a parent on a nearly daily basis try to escape that wrath by employing various avoidance behaviors, such as lying, hiding, and deception. However, when family members experience convenant love, grace, and empowerment, they will be able to communicate confidently and express themselves freely without fear. Typically, family members should want what is best for one another. There must first be an atmosphere of unconditional covenant in the family, as well as open communication and honest sharing without the threat of rejection.

Inasmuch as all family members are imperfect, each with their own individual temperaments and experiences, they progress at different rates in the realization of God’s ideals of unconditional love, grace, empowerment, and intimacy. That is to say, all family members fall on a continuum between hurting and healing behaviors. When families choose hurting behaviors and move away from God’s way, the entire family will be negatively effected. Among the hurting behaviors in a family environment are conditional love, self-centeredness, perfectionism, fault finding, efforts to control or punish others, unreliability, denial of feelings, and lack of communication. With such behaviors, the focus is on self rather than on the best interests of the other family members. When children are raised in this type of family, they are limited in their ability to love others unconditionally.

Hurting families tend to withhold grace, often demanding unreasonable perfection, and blaming those members who don’t measure up. Individuals in these families fear they will make a mistake and be rejected because of failure to meet the standards. So they try harder to be perfect. What they need is acceptance for who they are, and forgiveness when they fail. Members of hurting families are typically not able to get in touch with their feelings. Their fear of rejection keeps them in denial of their emotions. What they need most is a safe atmosphere in which they can express their feelings, thoughts, wants, and desires, and be heard and understood by the other family members. Open communication helps each person share more honestly rather than hide feelings and thoughts.

A child who was loved conditionally (with strings attached) needs to experience unconditional love in order to feel lovable. This would go a long way to break the perpetual cycle found in hurting families. Such a breakthrough is predicated upon receiving God’s unconditional love. Being cherished by God no matter what you’ve done gives you a sense of self-worth and a new self-perception. (“I am lovable!”) Drawing on the Holy Spirit and maturing faith, the individual now has reason to follow God’s example and adopt healing behaviors. Living in covenant love is a dynamic process. God has designed family relationships to grow from hurting to healing behavior. As families accomplish this, it helps family members to eventually reach out to people beyond the boundaries of the family.

Conclusion

We know what the black sheep of the family looks like. He’s the “bad” guy who gets in trouble all the time at school, and later with the law and society in general. The “wild child” with poor impulse control who begins abusing drugs and alcohol. Someone who tends to embarrass the family by making all of the family secrets apparent to the world. Obviously, the family can’t be that great if little Stevie ended up drinking and drugging and spending three years in state prison, right? No matter what the family does to undo that image, there’s always Stevie to contend with. And how did he grow up so “bad” if he came from such an upstanding family?

Black sheep are basically scapegoats raised by parents who have a particular issue with morality. Either they are rigidly moralistic and can’t abide the slightest infringement of the rules, or they are unable to own their own mistakes and shortcomings. They tend to project these issues onto one of their children, seeing that child as wrong, “bad,” immoral, or evil. Often, the child will take on the bad, swallow it deep down into the unconscious, and then work really hard to be “good.” However, having not been empowered by his parents, such a child is typically incapable of self-control.

In this type of situation, parents unwittingly react to the challenge of controlling the bad child by talking to the child. Unfortunately, this makes him feel as if it is hopeless to even consider changing. Perhaps the parents are sincerely worried about what’s going on, but they don’t recognize the unconscious projections that are occurring in the home. They might even show him affection during this talk. They look him right in the eye with a sincere worry about what might happen to him if he doesn’t stop. The child, again taking on the emotional content of the conversation as if it belongs solely to him (as the empathic scapegoat child generally does) assumes that not only is he bad for upsetting his parents, he must be really hopeless if his parents are worried.

We can’t change the past. Our childhood experiences have shaped us into the men and women we are today. Both the good and the bad parts. What we can do, however, is change the way we view our past. It is important that we make sense of our life story. We need to think about experiences in our past, and how these experiences have shaped the actions we take today and in the future. By linking past experiences to our present, we’ll be able to better understand the motives behind our actions, and move forward in such a way that that our past, while remaining an integral part of ourselves, doesn’t define us for the rest of our lives.

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The Forgiveness and Compassion Exercise

In addition to completing my undergraduate degree in Psychology online at Colorado Christian University, I am also working diligently to prepare myself for work as an addictions counselor. Part of that work includes increasing my acceptance of others, increasing my level of compassion, and improving my spiritual condition. That also includes letting go of hurts, disappointments and offenses.

I picked up a photocopy today of something called The Forgiveness and Compassion Exercise by Harry Palmer. This exercise can be done with someone in mind whom you resent, or for anyone anywhere. It should be done in a way where no one notices.

Try to do all five steps (listed below) on the same person. Concentrate on that person and repeat each of the following to yourself:

  1. Just like me, this person is seeking some happiness in their life.
  2. Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in their life.
  3. Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair.
  4. Just like me, this person is seeking to fulfill their needs.
  5. Just like me, this person is learning about life.

Forgiven and Loved by Jimmy Needham

Tell me I’m forgiven and loved
‘Cause I hear it from the street corner priests
On how God is love and how man can be clean
But my joy has been on holiday
And my peace has almost passed away
Tell me I’m forgiven and free

O I tried and tried to rectify my hopeless situation
But I bought the lie I still have work to do
Now I’m working nine to five like I can earn my own salvation
But there is no condemnation in You

O whisper to me now that it’s for real
‘Cause in the silence of these walls righteousness lost its appeal
Dirty deeds have done me in
O but that can’t stop the faithful friend
Giving mercy once again as You heal
Here it is I’m feeling it

O He died, He died to rectify my hopeless situation
And His blood commands my guilt to leave
Now on Calvary I stand
Empty pockets, open hands
O there is no condemnation for me

Child, you’re forgiven and loved
Child, you’re forgiven and loved
Child, you’re forgiven
And child, you are loved
Child, you’re forgiven and loved

Stop Stuffing Your Stuff

One of the primary ways people avoid dealing with pain is to “stuff it.” So often, when people hurt us, we stuff it down deep in our hearts instead of dealing with it. And when we stuff pain for too long, it finally explodes in one big ugly fit of anger. It took me years to understand why I would explode over some seemingly minor situation that certainly was not sufficient cause for my ridiculous behavior. I now know that the explosions came from many negative emotions I had stuffed deep inside and was refusing to deal with. The incident that seemed to be the problem was just the trigger for the explosion that was hidden and ready to go off at any time.

I was ignoring the real problem and blaming my bad behavior on anything and anyone I could. No matter how spiritual I pretended to be on Sunday at church, my friends and family knew the real me. I managed to ignore the problem for years by making excuses and blaming others, but eventually I had to let God “clean out the refrigerator” so to speak, and get to the root of the problem.

God uses the truth to set us free (see John 8:32), but it is not the truth about someone else that sets us free; it is the truth about ourselves that we need! Facing truth about myself has always been very difficult for me, as well as emotionally painful. But it is also the beginning of my healing. Whatever the truth is, go ahead and admit it. If you’re angry, admit it. If you’re afraid, admit it. If you’re jealous of someone, admit it. Go to God and say, “You know what, God? I know I have a bad attitude. It really stinks and even I can smell it. I want to understand why I have this problem. What is in me? Will you please show me why I have this problem?”

Maybe the Lord will show you immediately what your struggle is. Perhaps you are insecure; maybe you do not know who you are in Christ. You might be comparing yourself to others too often. Perhaps you suffered a major hurt or disappointment years ago and you have not been willing to forgive or allow God to heal you yet. Make a commitment to start being honest and owning our feelings. Refuse to stuff them and immediately stop making excuses and blaming others for your negative emotions. You will probably have to talk to God a lot, and you may even need to seek help from a trustworthy friend or your pastor. But whatever you have to do is worth doing it if it helps you to be free and enjoy life.

Whatever has hurt, angered or offended you, determine today that you are going to go through the pain of facing it and dealing with it. A friend of mine told me recently that when he has a day where he feels depressed, impatient, frustrated, or easily upset, he asks himself what happened the day before that he has not dealt with. He said God almost always shows him something he did not deal with properly, and helps him recognize that as the root of his bad behavior. That is a much better approach than ignoring what you’re feeling, or stuffing your emotions deep inside you.

As believers, we have an enemy. He will oppose us any way he can. He uses our own thoughts and feelings against us. The devil actually sets us up to get upset. He knows we cannot enjoy power if we have no peace. He knows that the love of God cannot flow through us if we are upset. I have heard it said in AA meetings that anger and resentment cut us off from the Sunlight of the Spirit. The devil will always attempt to upset us, but we can learn to stay calm, cool, and collected at all times. Of course, it takes practice and it takes the grace of God. The next time something happens that could easily upset you, ask yourself if it is worth it. Will being upset change anything? Can you afford to waste your energy being upset? Will it distract you from God’s purpose for your life? Every day we are faced with good and evil. We decide which to choose.

Every time we suffer hurts, injustices, or offenses, we need to remember that people are not our enemies. Satan is our enemy. God has given us a secret weapon, one that is sure to defeat the devil and destroy his strategies and plans. You have a secret weapon against the enemy, and he hates it because he knows he cannot stand against it. I call it a secret weapon because most believers completely miss it. Your weapon is your God-given ability to be good to people who offend you. Your flesh may want revenge, but God says press through your pain by repaying evil with good. This is difficult to do when you are in the flesh. When you are emotionally distraught or offended. It is much easier to do if you can train yourself to remain calm no matter what the devil is doing.

We should pray to God for this ability to forgive, to love, and to let go of offenses. We’re instructed in the Scriptures to forgive others no matter what the offense. We need to access God’s blessings and righteousness and forgiveness, remembering that we must also forgive, or we will not be forgiven. Mark 11:25 says, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Remember when Peter asked Jesus how many times we are to forgive someone who sins against us? “Seven times?” Peter asked. Jesus answered him, saying, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.” That’s 490 times. Every day. Even if it’s the same offense over and over. In other words, there is to be no limit to our forgiveness of others.

When you do not think you can obey God’s command to forgive others, all you have to do is say, “God, by Your grace and mercy I am going to be good to that person. I am not going to tell others what he has done to me. I will not speak ill of that person, but I will pray for him, as You want me to. If I see the person who hurt me, I am going to walk right up to him and say hello. I am going to be kind and obey Your word and overcome evil with good.” You may not have warm, fuzzy feelings toward a person who has hurt you, but as a Christian you must deal with your anger in a biblical way. Do that, as an act of your will, and the right feelings will eventually follow.

To me, freedom means I am able to make choices about how I will behave and not be a prisoner to negative emotions. I can act according to God’s word instead of reacting to situations. The devil may be alive and well on earth, but he is not going to control me any longer. He has no right to control you either. God is on our side, and that makes us more than conquerors. So rather than harboring resentments against others and stuffing our anger and disappointment, we need to seek God’s grace in dealing with those negative feelings and letting go of the offense. If we don’t do this, things build up like a pressure cooker, and we explode at what others perceive to be the littlest things. The more we practice this, the easier it gets to accomplish it.

Confession is Good For the Soul

We’ve all heard the saying “confession is good for the soul.” We know the word confession has several meanings. It is an acknowledgment of guilt. The act of admitting or disclosing one’s misdeed, fault or sin. Psalm 119 is a long chapter. It begins at verse 1 with “Happy are people with integrity, who follow the law of the Lord. Happy are those who obey His decrees and search for Him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in His paths…” Verse 26 says, “I have told you my plans.” (NLT)

The KJV says, “I have declared my ways, and you have heard me..”Verse 28 says, “My soul melts for heaviness: strengthen Thou me according to Your Word.” There is often a heaviness, a genuine sadness, that comes with doing wrong. We sometimes feel very bad when we do wrong. It is understandable that we often want to get things off our chest, so to speak. Verse 29 says, “Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me Your law gracefully.” You see, not confessing your faults is a form of deception. Open confession is good for the soul. Nothing brings more ease and more life to a man than a frank acknowledgment of the evil he has done. Evil weighs heavily on the heart. It can color your opinion of yourself. It can sap your energy, your drive, your ambition, and leave you lethargic. In fact, it can stop you from moving forward, from succeeding, as you believe the lie that you are no good and will amount to nothing. Not confessing your faults and cause you to retain them. Even repeat them.

If a man has the guts to admit his faults, his misdeeds, his sins, such a confession proves that the man knows his own condition. Our confessions are not meant to make God aware of what we’ve done wrong. He knows already. Our confessions are meant to make us truly aware of who we are. We can know, however, that God hears our confession. Our admission has been heard and accepted. Pardon follows upon sincere confession. It is in God’s nature to forgive our sinful ways when we from our hearts confess our evil ways.

Let’s look at 1 John 1:9. It says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This pertains to the acts of sins, whatever they might be; the sinner is to believe he has sinned as part of this confession. And a note about the word “all:” All means not some. All means all. Every sin. All sin was remitted, paid for, and put away on the cross when Jesus died for us. Let’s not forget, now, that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. We all need this great forgiveness. This substitution. Jesus Christ is that substitution. He is the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

It is interesting to me that the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous include two steps for dealing with our sins, our defects of character, our wrongs. The Fourth Step instructs us to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. We are told to look deep. To leave out nothing. In fact, we’re warned that we are as sick as our secrets. This inventory must be written. We’re creatures who tend to rationalize and quantify our behavior. We also have a selective memory when it comes to judging our own bad behaviors. Besides, as the A.A. literature teaches, this written list of our wrongs will be our first tangible evidence of our intention to truly face ourselves and change.

So surely God sees our hearts when we come to the place in our lives where we want to confess our sins and put off our evil nature. I don’t know about you, but I have grown tired of being evil and rotten. Constantly misbehaving. Always lying, cheating, stealing, drinking and drugging, serving my flesh. Giving it whatever it wants. All it got me was a feeling that I am lost and broken and dirty.

The Bible tells us in 1 John 2:1. “My little children, these things I write unto you, that you sin not.” Now this verse presents the fact that the Lord saves us from sin, not in sin. This passage tells us that as Believers we don’t have to sin. Victory over sin is found exclusively in the Cross. The verse goes on to say, “…And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.” In other words, Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father, signifying that his mission is complete, and His very presence with the Father guarantees intercession on our behalf. Verse 2 says, “And He [that is, Christ Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” That word propitiation means substitute.

Leviticus 5:5 tells us, “And it shall be, when he shall be guilty of one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing.” What I like about this verse is it tells us to be specific when we confess. Simply saying, “Father, forgive me for being in a bad mood today” is not very specific. If, however, our being in a bad mood caused us to gossip about someone, or to curse someone, we need to be specific in our confession rather than generic.

The Prophet Nehemiah said in Nehemiah 1:6, “Let Thine ear now be attentive, and Thine eyes open, that Thou mayest hear the prayer of Thine servant, which I pray before Thee now, night and day, for the children of Israel, Thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which have sinned against Thee, both I and my father’s house have sinned.” We are to be vigilant about our our sins and iniquities, and we ought to pray for forgiveness night and day. There is much Biblical instruction for praying for the sins of our fellow Believers as well as our own. James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

We cannot help one another if we keep our sins to ourselves. We are not so unique that we are the only one who has committed certain sins. Our weaknesses are man’s weaknesses. They are as old as the fall from grace that occurred in the Garden of Eden. Our strength lies in admitting our weaknesses and seeking God’s help in conquering them. We are responsible for sharing our faith and our faults with one another. We are instructed to edify one another. We are never to speak ill of our brother. James 4:11 says, “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaks evil of his brother, speaks evil of the law, and judges the law…”

If we build one another up, share our evil, or our wrongdoings, our mistakes, if you will, we contribute to the edifying of the saints. Jesus said this is a good thing. Remember when you were little and your mom or dad told you the stove was hot. Don’t touch. Remember that? That’s a prime example of passing knowledge and experience on to a younger or inexperienced generation in order to help that person avoid pain. We share our sins and our mistakes much in the same way. It teaches the body of Christ which behaviors don’t benefit us.

A.A. Meetings often have speakers come to tell their story. The person will introduce himself and admit to the group that he is an alcoholic. He has come to terms with the truth that he cannot handle alcohol in any amount. He is being honest with the group. He is confessing his faults to another. He continues in his talk describing what kinds of things happened when he drank. The bad behaviors, the evil, or, if you prefer, his sins. I for one misbehaved badly when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. My behavior was definitely sinful. I did so many bad things that they locked me up in state prison for three years. I was given an evaluation and told that I was a “sociopath.” I didn’t like to hear that, but it sure seemed true. What is a sociopath? It’s a person who exhibits antisocial behavior. I was insane with alcohol and drugs. I did not keep man’s laws. I did not keep God’s laws.

When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I felt a huge weight lifted off me. I suddenly realized I didn’t have to rot in prison for the rest of my life. I didn’t have to die for my sins. I remember confessing my crimes to a state trooper and feeling much better. I didn’t like going to jail, but I felt relief. I was free from all my secrets. There was nothing else I could do but be honest at that point. I believed in God and understood the Cross and forgiveness. When I strayed from the path in my later years, I remembered how sweet it was to be forgiven and washed clean.

But how does confessing my faults now as a born-again Christian help the body of Believers? Today, I don’t confess robbing gas stations, committing burglary, setting fires. Today, I confess things I consider character defects, such as lying or getting angry at a tailgater behind me in traffic and wishing they’d go to you know where. Today, I admit to being selfish and impatient. I admit to gossiping or judging. But why is this necessary?

Bringing our faults to the attention of the church gets them out in the open where they can be dealt with. Strength certainly exists in numbers. Strength comes from knowing as well. We know the Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The Statutes of the Lord are right. The Commandments of the Lord are pure, enlightening the eyes. God has advised us that there is great reward in keeping his commandments. But who can understand his own errors? Who can cleanse himself from his own evil faults? There is no strength in aloneness when it comes to forgiveness and understanding. When we confess our faults one to another, we help build up the body of Christ. We teach each other why we are failing and miserable.

Remember, the Lord will hear you in the day of your trouble. He will send help your way. But who are you to tell God who he can use to help you? When you keep your evil thoughts to yourself, you rob God of the use of another member of the body of Christ for your troubles. God wants to see you succeed. He wants you to reach out. To edify one another. Romans 14:19 says, “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” In other words, let’s share with one another. Let’s not judge, or shun one another. Righteousness, peace and joy are acceptable to the Lord, not contention, quarreling, fighting, judging. Do not look down your nose at another Believer. Remember your own faults and secrets. Be willing to build up the body of Believers and not tear it down. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Wherefore, comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as you also do.”
It is fitting in a moment of weakness to lean upon one who is stronger. Help does not always come automatically, without asking. Confession is a form of asking for help. It is a biblical axiom that without confession there is no salvation; no help for our sinful condition. Thankfully, through open, honest confession we can be saved from our sinful death. Psalm 32:5 says, “I acknowledge my sin to you, and my iniquity I have not hidden…I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Acts 2:21 simply says, “Whosoever calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved.”

For the Christian, confession is not an option. We sin, and we confess, and our life with God goes on. It can’t be otherwise. The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works. If we have a good relationship with people in our church, and are willing and strong enough to confess our faults when we’re doing badly, this is the start of our having a good work to report. When asked how we’re doing, we can truly answer that we are doing good rather than doing evil. People who cover their sins will not prosper. But those who readily admit their faults to God and to another, and who seek prayer for their weaknesses, will receive mercy. Oh what a joy it is to have your secrets out, to have your rebellion forgiven. God says he will separate us from our sins as far as the east is from the west.

When we refuse to confess our faults (our sins), we become weak and miserable. We tend not to socialize with other believers as much. We feel like phonies. We sit around and groan all day long, feeling evil and dark. When we confess, however, and stop trying to hide our character flaws, our misdeeds, and confess our rebellion to the Lord, we are accepted, we are forgiven, and our guilt is gone. We once again feel like we are worthy of love and friendship and we tend to be more open and more full of joy.

In Psalm 51, David pours out a prayer for forgiveness and cleansing. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your loving kindness; according unto the multitude of Your tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”

We simply cannot get this type of blessing from God if we hide our sins one from another. If we wrong a brother in the faith, we owe it to him to confess our offense and ask for his forgiveness. If we keep the offense hidden, we are cut off from him. If we fail to take that fault before the Father, we can cut ourselves off from His grace and power. God will not have fellowship with iniquity. He hates sin. Fortunately, he provided a way out of that iniquity by virtue of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. I’ve heard it said before that our bad behavior, our sin, can cut us off from the Sunlight of the Spirit. Once cut off, we feel lost and alone. We cannot learn. We cannot grow. No man is an island. This is especially true of us Christians. We are not to forsake the gathering together of ourselves. We are to watch out for one another. Pray for one another. Lay hands on and heal one another. Confess our faults one to another. It is through these selfless acts that we build up the church itself. The stronger the church, the more likely it can perform as Christ has instructed. Lean on one another, confess your sins one to another, forgive one another, and help one another to perform the perfect will of God. This is why confession is good for the soul.

The Problem With Being Offended

Pride keeps you from dealing with the truth. It distorts your vision. You never change when you think everything is fine. Pride hardens your heart and dims the eyes of your understanding. The problem with being offended is you focus on the other person and not yourself. This keeps you from the change of heart that will set you free. Pride causes you to see yourself as a victim. Your attitude becomes, “I was mistreated and misjudged; therefore, I am justified in my behavior.” Because you believe you are innocent and falsely accused, you hold back forgiveness. Though your true heart condition is hidden from you, it is not hidden from God. Just because you were mistreated, you do not have permission to hold on to an offense. Two wrongs don’t make a right!

Jesus said our ability to see correctly is another key to being freed from deception. Often when we are offended we see ourselves as victims and blame those who have hurt us. We justify our bitterness, our unwillingness to forgive, our anger, envy and resentment as they surface. Sometimes we even resent those who remind us of others who have hurt us. When we blame others and defend our own position, we are blind. We struggle to remove the speck from our brother’s eye when there is a plank in ours. It is the revelation of truth that brings freedom to us. When the Spirit of God shows us our sin, He always does it in such a way that it seems separate from us. This brings conviction, but does not bring condemnation.

The Bible speaks a lot about love. There are two main types of love. There is agape love, which is the love of God. The other is phileo, which is defined as the love between friends. Agape love is defined in 1 Corinthians 13. Agape love does not put itself first, as we do when we are offended and refuse to forgive the offender. Agape love is the love God sheds abroad in the hearts of His children. It is the same love Jesus gives freely to us. It is unconditional. It is not based on how the other person behaves, or even if it is returned in kind. It is a love that gives even when it is rejected. Do you realize that without God’s help and His example, we can only love with a selfish love — one that cannot be given if it is not received and returned? Agape love, however, loves regardless of the response. This is the love that Jesus shed when He forgave from the cross. How could you or I possibly forgive our tormenters as Jesus did?

We have to realize that when we sow the love of God we reap the love of God. We need to develop faith in this spiritual law — even though we may not harvest it from the field in which we sowed, or as quickly as we would like. I came to realize that the love I express unconditionally (which is not a frequent occurrence) is made possible by the Holy Spirit. Eventually, I would reap those seeds of love. I don’t know from where, but I knew the harvest would happen. No longer do I see it as a failure when love isn’t returned from the person I am giving it to. This freed me to love the person even more! If more Christians recognized this, they wouldn’t give up and become offended. Usually this is not the type of love we walk in. Our love is a selfish love that is easily disappointed when our expectations are not met. We need to lower our expectations and increase our acceptance. We will be much happier.

If I have expectations about certain people, those people can let me down. They will disappoint me to the degree that they fall short of my expectations. But if I have no expectations about someone, anything given is a blessing and not a debt owed. We set ourselves up for offense when we require certain behaviors. The more we expect, the greater the potential offense. We construct walls when we are hurt to safeguard our hearts and prevent any future wounds. I offended someone recently and they all but cut me off to avoid being hurt again. We become selective, denying entry to all we fear will hurt us. We filter out anyone we think owes us something. Here’s the thing. Without us knowing it, these walls we build eventually imprison us.

The focus of offended Christians is inward and introspective. We guard our rights and personal relationships very carefully. Our energy is consumed with making sure no future injuries will occur. If we don’t risk being hurt, we cannot give unconditional love. Unconditional love actually gives others the right to hurt us. Love does not seek its own, but hurt people become more and more self-seeking and self-contained. The love of God cannot express itself in this type of environment. An offended Christian is one who takes in life but because of fear can’t release life. As a result, even the life that comes in becomes stagnant.

Get this. When we filter everything through past hurts, rejections and offenses, we find it impossible to believe God about the abundant life we can have through Christ. I read something in a book about Hinduism that if we remain offended by someone in the past and don’t deal with it, our present actions are more driven than they are undertaken. In other words, we lack the freedom to chose how to behave or how to react. Our past chooses for us. If we are offended and in unforgiveness, and refuse to repent of this sin, we have not come to the knowledge of the truth. We are deceived, and we confuse others with our hypocritical lifestyle.

We must come to the place where we trust God and not our flesh or our emotions. Many give lip service to God as their source, yet they live as if they were orphans. They take their own lives in their hands while they confess with their mouth, “He is my Lord and my God.”  I hope by now you see how serious the sin of offense is. If it is not dealt with, offense will lead to death. But when you resist the temptation to be offended, God brings great victory. Of course, we have to adopt a God-like love, the agape love, in order to walk this most difficult walk. The good thing is, we can choose this path anew every day, always coming back to unconditional love, by the grace of God.