I was recently listening to an episode of New Life Today on my iPod. The topic was about forgiveness. Specifically the woman caller wanted to know how she could interact with a father who had walked out on his wife and children many years ago.
Steve Arterburn confirmed to the caller that she had “justifiable resentment.” Because her father truly did something wrong, her friends piled on and told her she had every right to be angry. When you have justifiable resentment, it is more difficult to forgive….people give you a license to carry pain and anger the rest of your life.
Anger is a good thing for a time. It’s the protest saying wrong was done, but eventually forgiveness is what releases those who have been hurt.
Steve told the caller she had a big assignment: She had to forgive the unforgiveable.
Dr. John Townsend and Steve explained a little more about forgiveness:
In forgiving you are canceling a debt. When you don’t forgive you are saying, “You owe me. When you cancel the debt you’re saying, “You don’t owe me anymore.”
Forgiveness is about the past, but reconciliation is about the future. Keep the time sequence separate. You may not be able to reconcile with someone until they own their transgression, but you can always forgive someone.
Some people struggle to forgive because they have a tendency to want what is not yet. They cling to ideals rather than acknowledging what is.
Forgiveness is about what is, not about what should be.
Steve and Dr. Townsend encouraged the caller to cancel the debt. Feel sad and grieve. They told her to watch her father to see if he ever owned his mistakes. If he does, then she can reconcile with him. This is very different from forgiving him.
No one is saying you’ve got to feel close and vulnerable with someone who doesn’t earn it, but you can still honor a parent (as the Bible commands). Honor means you give weight to what is weighty. You honor the fact that he was your father. One way she could do this is by becoming a person beyond anything he could help her become, rather than living a crummy life and blaming him.
You can listen to past podcasts at One Place
*I got this from the September 23, 2011 episode; the last caller.