Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Forgiving and Emotional Health

Science has done it again. After years and years of Freud, Young, and others trying to figure out what makes humans tick, most psychologists have come to the conclusion that 75% of emotional problems stem from an inability or unwillingness to forgive. The Bible figured this out a while back. Christ came to forgive. But he was pretty clear about our need to forgive others. The Lord's Prayer includes that section about "forgive my debts as I forgive my debtors." Sounds pretty clear. But if you're not convinced, turn to Matthew 6:14 "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Now that's pretty strong.

Why would God say such a thing? Does he want to withhold his forgiveness? Hardly. As is the case throughout scripture, God wants what is best for us. He knows that if we are willing to forgive even the most unforgivable sin against us, our lives will be substantially better.

People usually have one of three reasons to withhold forgiveness. One is because they don't want the other person to get off the hook. Unfortunately the other person probably hasn't thought about his sin against you for years. He may not even think his action was that bad or bad at all. You don't need to tell the person you forgive them. You just need to forgive them in your heart. Completely. Without reservation. You will feel released from the bondage of carrying around the anger, bitterness and resentment towards that person when you forgive them.

The second reason we don't forgive is that we want revenge. We want them to pay. Of course, its pretty unlikely that they are going to pay, isn't it. Are you going to punch them out, steal their identity, or tell their mommy. Probably not. So the person who is getting punished is you. You are the one who has indigestion or who gets angry at your spouse for no reason. The person you aren't forgiving is actually getting even with you.

The other major reason for not forgiving someone is that you don't want to have a repeat of the hurtful behavior. However, forgiving them doesn't mean you have to re-enter the relationship. God doesn't say, forgive them and then invite them to tea. Stay away from hurtful relationships unless you are doing ministry. Even then, there is a time to walk away.

So, psychologists and the Bible agree. If you want a better life, make up a list of those that you are still mad at over some real or imagined hurt. Forgive them in person or in your heart. Then move on with your life.

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