Saturday, December 12, 2015

Learning to Debunk the Myths of Forgive-and-Forget

Are you in a situation where the same person keeps hurting you again and again?  You know you're supposed to keep forgiving, but things aren't getting any better.  You feel powerless.

If so, then Kay Bruner's new book 'Debunking the Myths of Forgive-And-Forget' was written for you.

If this isn't the case, then keep reading anyway.  To be honest, I'm struggling to think of many situations in my own life when I've been deeply hurt by someone else, but I've still learnt some great stuff about forgiveness by reading this book.

Kay shows how the simple 'forgive and forget' that we were taught as children, and in some cases are still being taught, isn't enough to help us through the complex situations we now find ourselves in.  In fact, this over-simplified answer can lead to us feeling further crippled by pain and helplessness.

These myths of forgiveness are dispelled in the book:

*Forgiveness is quick and easy
*Forgiveness makes me a victim
*Forgiveness condones abuse
*Forgiveness means I can’t confront
*Forgiveness means the relationship is automatically restored
*Forgiveness requires restoration of the relationship

Kay explains how to approach forgiveness so that it will truly bring 'rest to our souls'.  I love this:

'Forgiveness is not another burden for us. It’s the way to live free and clear, but we’ve got to take our hands off the other person’s throat in order to receive the gift of freedom.'

It can be dangerous to focus only on forgiveness and to ignore what it says in the Bible about dealing appropriately with grievances.

“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the fault. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If that person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. If the church decides you are right, but the other person won’t accept it, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.” Matthew 18: 15-17, NLT

As the author writes, 'Jesus tells us that he cares passionately about the abandoned, the poor, the downtrodden. Injustice, as Jesus talks about it, is not something to put up with, or to quickly “forgive and forget.” Injustice is something to be resisted and corrected and dealt with. When we find ourselves confronted with injustice, we ought to take the strongest possible steps to stop it...'

I read about the importance of speaking up in relationships and of getting help from others if needed.  I liked the idea of thinking carefully before confronting: Checking that the offence really is a sin, rather than a difference of opinion; asking whether there's something else going on within us that makes us react so strongly; and checking that the issue truly is something that it's our business to point out.

One thing I found really helpful was reading about the difference between 'Forgiveness', 'Trust', and 'Healing'. 

* It's my job to forgive, to 'let go of my right to the debt I am owed'.

* It's up to the other person to act in a way that is trustworthy.

* Healing is something different again and, ultimately, is God's responsibility.

Applying this to situations that could come up in my own life:

*I can forgive someone for not yet completing a task, while still approaching them about finishing it.
*I can forgive someone, even though I'm still dealing with the consequences of their actions.
*I can forgive someone for regularly letting me down regarding a practical matter, but still choose to make back-up plans.
*I can forgive someone while still acknowledging that they have issues to work through.
*I can forgive someone for repeatedly disclosing my secret , but I'll be more careful about what I share next time.
*I can forgive someone for causing me pain, even though it still hurts.

Kay discusses what to do when reconciliation isn't a healthy choice, including situations when someone remains untrustworthy.  She explains,

'Releasing the relationship doesn’t mean that we shun or hate or despise. We simply release the other person from our expectations and obligations, and trust God to bless that other person. I may not have the capacity, in my pain, to be a blessing to that person. But God can, and He will. No matter how badly the relationship may have ended, God still loves that person. He loves me. As we release relationships, we trust that God redeems and restores, even though we can’t.'

I want to end with one of my favourite quotes from the book.  Kay is writing about Jesus' response when Peter asks how many times he should forgive someone.  This is her interpretation of what Jesus is saying to Peter:

'You’re right. You can’t control what other people are going to do. Remember, we don’t live in the power paradigm. We live as receivers and givers of Love, dedicated to offering reconciliation, not insisting on control. After you’ve confronted the person, and pursued justice, sadly, that person may not choose reconciliation. Eventually, you might just have to forgive, seventy times seven. But guess what, you have more resources than you’ve ever explored. Stop obsessing about what this one person owes you, and revel in all the riches of the Kingdom. Once you do that, that old debt might not matter quite as much. But let me tell you, if you’re so determined to pursue what that one person owes you, you’re going to turn your back on the treasure, and you’ll end up miserable. That’s how it works. You’ve got free will. You choose.'

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