Chapter 5 - The Big F Word
The Big F Word
Got your attention didn’t I!? The big F word we are going to talk about is… wait for it… Forgiveness. Do you ever feel like sometimes it is harder to say Forgiveness than it is the other F word?
Welcome to chapter 5 of the Religious Fog series. If you missed the other 4 chapters, be sure to check them out. Chapter 4 was about Loving Well when it hurts like hell. Loving well and forgiveness go hand in hand. Which comes first the chicken or the egg? I’m not sure. None the less, they are the heartbeat of our relationship with God and what gives our lives and our souls peace.
First off, why should we forgive? Why would God ask us to forgive those people who have ripped our hearts out? When I think of the answer I think about when I was a kid and how my parents would answer some of my questions. “Mom!, why do I have to be nice to them? I don’t like them! Her answer, “because I said so, end of discussion!”
Okay, so maybe God doesn’t use the exact words,”because I said so, end of discussion!” but I believe He does command us to forgive. Why? Because He wants what is best for our hearts and for our character. He knows that if we don’t forgive we can not step fully into who we are, hence we stay stuck. He knows that un-forgiveness will do nothing but poison our lives. Remember the quote by Marianne Williamson? “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
You get the point, I don’t have to go into the nuts and bolts about why forgiveness is so critical to our spiritual, mental and physical health.
But the how to is another story.
How do we navigate our way through forgiveness when we have been shot in the heart by church leadership and crazy christians? These are the people who we thought we could trust our hearts with. They love God just like we do, right?
Okay, confession time, I used to put the leaders of the church on a pedestal, and believe that they should have it all together. The church voted on them for this position, or they were placed there by the “big dogs” of the denomination so they should do better and know better. Right?
Think about if from this perspective. When we see them through the “pedestal filter” we are not giving them a fair chance. Seriously, they are human just like the rest of us. Sure, they might have more biblical education, they may have been in church leadership forever, but they. are. only. human. after. all!
AND, even worse, when I see them through this filter, I am putting myself in the role of the victim and putting them in the role of the villain! Being the victim can put us on that old familiar spiral that goes down to that deep dark place. These are the lies that tell us we should blame everyone else. These are the lies that tell us we are inferior, helpless and powerless. Staying in a victim mentality is just as unhealthy and damaging to our spiritual, mental and physical health as it is to be a freakin’ crazy christian!
We know that God asks us to forgive but what in God’s green earth does that look like? How is forgiveness fleshed out when we are in the midst of all the legalism? When we are in the middle of the battle between the left and right camps (no, I’m not talking politics here.) How do we show up when the people who are “standing for what’s right - for truth” or what they perceive it to be, are shooting arrows into our hearts?
As you know, I am not a bible scholar, nor do I pretend to be all spiritually enlightened. All I can offer is my experience of healing and give a voice to those who are in the midst of all this yuck and feel they do not have a voice.
So here we go, I hope this gives you a place to start in your process of forgiveness. Yes, it is a process. This is not a 5 step program, most times it is a lifetime program. The thing that matters is that you get on the forgiveness path.
A concept I often use with my clients is - Thoughts produce Behavior and Behavior produces Results.
Lets break this down and start with the thought piece. Everything starts in our thoughts. Part of Proverbs 23:7 says, for as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. To begin the healing process we have to make the choice to forgive and choosing begins in our thoughts.
Don’t hear me wrong, I am not saying it is an easy choice. But guess what, you DO have a choice. You GET to choose. Believing this is what will get you out of victim mode and put you on the path - if you choose the path of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a heart matter. Choosing to forgive puts your heart in alignment with God. Choosing to forgive puts your mindset in a different place. Your thoughts start to shift when you choose to forgive.
Thoughts produce Behavior… when our Thoughts shift our Behavior shifts.
How do we behave when we are in the process of forgiveness. We need to have pretty strong boundaries in this beginning stage. Just because you chose to forgive does not mean you have to be their friend. It doesn’t mean that you have to hang out or try to make the relationship how it used to be.
It does mean that you get to choose who you show up as when you are around them. A great question to ask yourself is, “who do I want to show up as right now?” If you choose to show up angry, defensive, shut down that is just fine. But if you feel a pang in your stomach this is an indication that you may want to try showing up a different way next time. You get to choose.
You will need ways to process your hurt. Go back to chapter 4 for some tips on boundaries, vulnerability and taking off our masks. It’s time to get real. Stop the people pleasing and being fearful of being rejected. Often times you will need to process and work with a Spiritual coach who is trained to know how to help you move forward.
All of this will take time, but in time you will begin to see your behavior shift. You will actually be able to look at the “offender” through the eyes of empathy vs defensiveness or anger. You will begin to see that he/she has stuff going on behind the scenes in their own heart and lives that you know nothing about. In time you will be able to discern and say, “that is so not about me, but about them and their own stuff.”
Guess what… you NEVER know what is going on behind the scenes in someone else's life. You do not know what God is doing in their hearts.
We do know that He loves them and wants the best for their hearts and lives just as He does ours.
When your behavior starts to shift and settle in, you will start seeing Results. The fruits of how God has worked through you and through these painful circumstances.
Here are a just a few of the fruits (results) you will experience:
A sense of freedom
Feeling fully alive
Being fully authentic in who God has made you to be.
The ability to love in a deeper way.
Ability to see through the fog and discern what matters most in this crazy thing we call life.
Give it a try - write it down. Thoughts produce Behavior and Behavior produces Results.
Till next time my friend,
Peace & Grace,
Professional certified Life/Spiritual Coach