All of us face the need to forgive someone in our lives. Whether you’re looking for forgiveness for yourself or need to forgive someone else, it’s often easier said than done.
Listen to this week’s podcast to learn more about how to find forgiveness in all your relationships.
Pauly [00:00:07] Welcome to walking our talk with Alan and Pauly Heller, join our conversation as we discuss practical ways to apply spiritual principles to your everyday life and help you walk your talk one step at a time.
Alan [00:00:25] Hi, I’m Alan Heller, and this is Pauly Heller.
Pauly [00:00:28] Hello.
Alan [00:00:28] And we are walking our talk today with you. We’re glad you made it. And we’re going to be talking today about forgiveness. Easy to talk about. Not so easy sometimes to do. I remember on our honeymoon when we were, um, we were traveling back to New York from Pennsylvania. You know, you correct me with all the details, but basically there you were in the bathroom locked in there. And I’m asking you to come out. And you were very upset at me for being upset at you. And we don’t have to get into all the details. But the thing is that we had to come up with how do we forgive and let go and deal with forgiving each other, like right out of the chute, right?
Pauly [00:01:22] That’s right.
Alan [00:01:23] And it was an emotional time. So forgiveness, all of us have to deal with it, whether it’s with family or whether it’s with friends or the closer the relationships, the more forgiveness there’s going to have to be, right?
Pauly [00:01:37] Oh, definitely so true. We have to be able to figure out a way to let go of our offenses or we just end up I describe it like Swiss cheese. You know, you’re you’ve got this surface. Let’s say that’s your relationship and you have a disruption and explosion and it’s torn a hole in that surface. And if you don’t mend it, then that hole remains there. So I’m not going to forgive you for this. So, you know, you figure, well, some time is going to go by, and yeah, your emotions die down. But you know that from now on, you’re going to have to go around that place and then something else happens and something else happens. And pretty soon you’ve got this sort of relationship that’s full of all these holes that so you there you only have certain paths that you feel safe walking on when you’re relating to each other.
Alan [00:02:46] And usually, I mean, there’s separation, I mean, in our trust. But that we wrote with Ed Delph, we have a whole chapter on forgiveness. And, you know, emotionally, you get separated spiritually, of course, immediately. If I have something against my brother or sister, it’s going to separate us spiritually, emotionally and then physically. You know, we start not being together, you know, ultimately in a marriage relationship, it’s you know, you have your friends. I have mine. And then pretty soon we’re divorced. And God’s desire is for us to reconcile. We first have to repent and then reconcile and then have a closer relationship, just like with a cut when if you get stitches, you know, that scar is usually stronger than the skin around it. So the hurt ends up being a help when you do it the right way. And for most of us, we’ve not learned a very good way to forgive. But you know what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is an action of my will to let go of an offense. That somebody has wronged me and give it to God and that’s the hard part, is at least what I hear from most of my counselees is they give it to God and then they take it back and they give it and they take it back. And how to actually what the Greek word means is like a bow and arrow where you’re pulling it back and releasing it, that you’re releasing that offense that’s done to you. And sometimes we don’t want to release the offense because we think, well, we’re going to get away with it. They think I’m I’m just I’m for them when really I’d like to punch them in the nose.
Pauly [00:04:38] You want them to pay.
Alan [00:04:40] Right.
Pauly [00:04:40] For for what they’ve done to you.
Alan [00:04:43] So the concept of forgiveness that we’re talking about is based upon God taking our sins upon himself. Isaiah, 53:6 talks about he was wounded for a transgression. He was bruised for equities. He took the chastisement on himself. That’s what the cross is all about. And for some of us, we don’t know much about that. So why is forgiveness necessary?
Alan [00:05:14] And some of these thoughts are taken from Gordon Donaldson and a group called Victoria’s Christian Living, which he wrote this material for. But without true forgiveness, every offense is treasured up against the offended person. Have you ever done that?
Pauly [00:05:29] Oh yeah.
Alan [00:05:30] You have a great conversation after you leave a situation and all you can do is, well, I should have said this and I could say that. And so they’re treasured up against the offended person ready to be cashed in when one’s feelings become overloaded. So that’s why we have a blow up or something. You know, I’m fine. I’m fine. And then all of a sudden, bam, we’re not fine. So this cashing in usually involves a retaliation accusation, condemnation of the offended person, and then they’re used to prove how bad the offended party is. Without true forgiveness, the victim secretly awaits the joy of seeing the offender punished by God and is delighted when it happens. This is a form of vengeance. And of course, in the scriptures. Romans, 12:19, says in the film version, Never take vengeance into your own hands. Stand back and let God punish if he will. And the problem is we don’t think he’s going to. Or if he does, you didn’t punish him enough. I know how to punish that guy or that gal.
Pauly [00:06:39] Yeah, that’s true. We become like like the person who gets talked about and James, who looks at himself in the mirror and walks away forgetting what kind of a person he is. You know what? I want God to to strike you, but I don’t want him to strike me for that same offense. In fact, I forget that I can ever even be the offender and that the same judgment that I want to call down upon you. I don’t want to have called down upon myself. I I’m I’m in fact, I’m grateful that God is not judging me. You know, that I have gotten away with something, you know? But then I you know, I when I’m upset or hurt by you, I want him to really give it to you.
Alan [00:07:35] And of course, we’re so much more willing to deal it out, then. I mean, why I’m not the one that needs to be forgiven. So the process of forgiving, you know, we need to clearly describe to yourself first, you need to deal with yourself first, the actual offense committed, maybe even write it out and the ramifications of that. And then alone before God go down the list item by item, telling him that you are now giving each offense to God. And, you know, I tell people in the counseling room, we sin in specific. We don’t sin in general. Oh, I’m sorry, Pauly, for everything I’ve ever done. And I’m really you know, I’m really sorry that doesn’t do much for you, but I’m sorry that, you know, what I was saying was right. But I know I was saying it irritated and I put you down and that was wrong. Will you please forgive me?
Pauly [00:08:38] Yeah it’s taking responsibility.
Alan [00:08:39] Right. So but to take it off that person and give it to the Lord, that’s where the tricky part is. Psalm 55:22 says, Cast your burden upon the Lord and he will sustain you. So again casting my burden taking that burden and giving it to Christ and Ephesians says, forgive others as Christ has forgiven you. So he’s modeled it. And I every time I think about that, I think of Judas. I mean, here he chose the 12 and and he knew this guy was going to do this to him, but he forgave him. He you know, he didn’t condone what he did, stealing the money and whatever. But I’m just saying Christ was able to wash the disciples feet and help them know you are clean because of what I’m about to do. Because you’ve forgiven that offense and given it over to God, you no longer have any responsibility. And I think that’s very difficult for us to do, is not keep the responsibility of the pain that we feel from the hurt that you gave me. And I just don’t want to let that go.
Pauly [00:10:04] Yeah, we think that by holding by withholding forgiveness that we’re hurting the other person, but we’re only really hurting ourselves. You know, the illustration has been given that it’s it’s like drinking poison and it’s expecting the other person to die. I met with a friend one time on the 10th anniversary of of a very serious brain surgery that she had had. And, you know, we’re kind of celebrating the fact that she had survived this horrible, horrible episode in her life, and she said at the time, oh, I’m still just so angry at the way that this one nurse treated me. It was a male nurse who was so awful. And and I I don’t think I can ever forgive him. And I said, Do you think he’s worried about that? Do you think he walks around every day going, Oh, I wish this patient who whose name I don’t remember, you know, I don’t even remember treating her in any way. But do you think he’s walking around worried that you haven’t forgiven him 10 years later? You know, you’re the one who is suffering from this because it’s continuing to eat away at you. It’s taking away it’s robbing you of joy. It’s robbing you of your freedom to to move beyond this point in your life.
Alan [00:11:53] And that’s why it’s the way people ask me, how do I know if I’ve really forgiven? Well, when they cut you off in traffic or if they do the same thing again. How are you doing? You know, it’s you know, we talk about our identity in Christ and that we’re dead to our flesh or dead. Dead to the old person. And yet that flesh rises up at times. So how do I know if I’ve forgiven, you know, a dead person? How much does a dead person react? Not very much so.
Pauly [00:12:29] Ouch!
Alan [00:12:30] So if I’m dead to that thing, if I’m if I really have let it go and forgiven, then I won’t react. Or if I react, my next thing is to thank you, Lord. I’ve already taken care of that. And we move on and we can relate so. And there is a difference, we talk about it again in our trust book that we wrote, Learning How to Trust, we talk about there’s a difference between trust and forgiveness. In other words, forgiveness is something I do regardless of what the person’s done to me. Trust is something that is gained through experience of actual behavior that changes. And so I don’t trust you if you keep blowing me off or you keep doing things that are hurting me to the point where it’s affecting my life. So, you know, if if you can’t give thanks, if you if your joy is stolen, if you react in an overt manner, you can know, you know, the fruit of the spirit is not love, joy, peace, anger. You know, you’re angry and sort of like the red light on the dashboard of your car saying, put oil in here or your whole engine is going to seize. And so those are some of the things we need to take into consideration. So if you write this down because we sin in specific, then what I tell people, we got this from Campus Crusade and Bill Bright used to tell us to write that list down, give each offense to God.
Alan [00:14:06] And then First John 1:9 says, If we confess our sin, he is faithful to forgive and cleanse us from some of our sin, know all our sin. And so, you know, there’s there’s a thing where we we get sinned against and we react and we need to be forgiven for that. There’s also somebody offends us in the first place. We need to go is vertical. Go to God. The next place we need to go. If it was between me and my brother, I need to talk to them and and just say, hey, that really hurt me. And if you don’t do that, then the relationship will be broken and and there will always be a place where you can’t deal with that person. And for some of us, we spend a lot of time there with a lot of people that we don’t have very good relationship with because we’ve never had the guts to just one to forgive them or to say, have I offended you in any way? That’s that’s a pretty tough question.
Pauly [00:15:15] Yeah. Yeah. To ask that question is to open yourself up to the possibility that yeah.
Alan [00:15:25] Which is why you need to be ready and prepared to deal with it. But Galatians six says, you know, if you catch somebody in a sin, you know, first look at yourself and then, you know, go to that, go to that brother best. You also be tempted is where it says. So I need to look at myself first. Somebody said if the finger is pointing at that other person, the other four fingers are pointing back at me. Start with me.
Alan [00:15:57] What happens when we forgive the blame, which one is holding toward an offender disappears when true forgiveness is exercised? This means that the fact of the offense now carries no guilt and guilt and shame can really be dominant factors in our life, both from the past as well as the present. And sometimes what I’ve found is Christians know the truth. They know they need to forgive, but they get locked up because emotionally they’ve never let go of the emotion of that eight-year-old that got sinned against or, you know, 10 years ago, this business partner stole this money and oh, yeah, I forgave him. But emotionally, I felt something. And I’ve never actually allowed the emotion to be put on the cross. And so sometimes we have to go back there. You can’t change the past. You can’t rewrite it. Although some people are rewriting it. It seems you need to deal with it and which means to embrace the hurt and pain, which is why we don’t go back there. And it’s also why I don’t go to you if I’m offended by you, because, well, if I go to her, then she’s going to get upset and I’m going to get upset and then we’re going to be upset. And I don’t want to be upset.
Pauly [00:17:17] Yeah, I’m getting this picture of a scab over a wound. You know, that scab can stay there for a long time if you don’t forgive that the wound never really heals. And when I was a kid, I sliced open my ankle and had to have stitches in it and it started to heal. But then I kept irritating it or something. And it’s scabbed over and over. And just being a kid, I mean, I thought it was fine because it’s not bleeding. It wasn’t really hurting anymore. And I went to the playground and I, I was climbing on the bars or something, and I knocked my ankle and it completely opened that thing up. There was just blood everywhere. And I think that’s what the lack of forgiveness is like, you know. Yeah. It’s not bleeding anymore. You go about your life and things are going along OK. But, man, you hit that tender spot in another relationship or in another altercation or confrontation with that person. And that thing just opens up and it is worse than it was before.
Alan [00:18:41] But the opposite is true as we forgive and repent and deal with our sin with each other, we have a closer relationship. If you think just think of the closest people in your life usually are the people you had the worst fights with, and yet you’ve lived through it and you love each other in spite of those things. So the urgency to seek forgiveness in Matthew 5:23-26 Christ says that as soon as the worshiper senses he has a need for forgiveness from another person, he should go and be reconciled. So that’s a prerequisite for worship, the process of seeking forgiveness. This, I think, is helpful. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, Matthew 7:3 says, but failed to notice the beam in your own eye. How can you say to your brother, let me take the speck out of your eye while there is still a beam in your own eye, you hypocrite. First, take the beam out of your eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brothers. So deal with yourself first regarding each person from whom you need forgiveness, clearly identify to yourself the offense committed. Write it out, including the attitude behind that wrong action. Make sure you’re ready. You’ve already forgiven the person before you go to them. Otherwise, you’re going to be a mess and think through the precise wording, you know, labeling your action as wrong. Go into it as just as much detail as you need. They know what it is. I remember going to my sister years ago, 30 years ago or so 40 years ago, and just mentioning something that happened in our childhood that I wanted forgiveness for. I said enough that she understood it and she forgave me. And that was a big release to do that.
Pauly [00:20:36] Right. But here’s a little caveat on that. You don’t do that expecting then now it’s your turn. Now you’re supposed to say to me, well, this is what I did, too, and I’m sorry for that. And, you know, that other person might just say, well, good. It’s about time.
Alan [00:20:58] Right, I remember doing that with my dad about my whole childhood and teenage years and rebelliousness and after I said, Dad, please forgive me, he just said, how’s your golf game? You know, he just didn’t know what to do with it. And it’s not about him. It’s about me. So I need to ask forgiveness. Don’t project blame. Don’t give your rationale for why this person, you know. I blew it, but it’s mostly because of you.
Pauly [00:21:27] Right, right, if you’re really forgiving that other person, then it’s with no expectation that they now owe you. They’re right, their response to own up to whatever their part of it was.
Alan [00:21:45] So when I think of forgiveness, I think there’s freedom. When I ask forgiveness from another person, I don’t expect them, it’s not about them. It’s about what I did to them. And my obedience is going not I’m not responsible for their response. And if you can go to people like that when you’ve offended them without an agenda and you have to talk to the Lord first, otherwise you’re going to have an agenda, you will find tremendous freedom. And that’s part of walking our talk.
Pauly [00:22:22] This has been walking our talk with Alan and Pauly Heller, where we put into action those principles, we know from God’s word one step at a time, you can find more help at our website: walkandtalk.org.