When Forgiveness Doesn't Work
by Donna L. Watkins
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With forgiveness being recommended now even by the medical world, many are looking for specific steps to be used in forgiveness. There are many "techniques" out there and many people have been through all they've read, and faithfully followed through with the suggestions, but still have this burning sting from words that were hurled at them at some time in their life -- or for actions that spoke much louder than words -- and they don't know how to get beyond what "that person did."
Recently I had a family member choose to dump our relationship because I made a one sentence statement in a gentle tone against listening to him rant about another family member. After instantly hanging up on me, he wrote me a note to cancel plans we had to meet on a future date, and then stopped all communication.
I had decided to take a stand against listening to "evil reports" of other family members and that was grounds for termination in his mind. It seems life holds nothing else for him but to repeat the worst of the tv news, weather or family issues. I didn't see that it was a relationship at all if the only function I was to have in his life was to listen to the ranting and reviling.
Then I also heard he'd already begun talking about it to other family members. I certainly wasn't surprised that he did, but I was very surprised that it bothered me. I was actually relieved that I took the stand and said that I didn't want to be in the middle of it. Admittedly I was initially delighted that he would no longer be calling 3-4 times a week for those downgrading conversations. The more I would try to add positive comments to these conversations, while trying to honor his position in the family, the more useless I felt about it all. He seemed to think I was a Pollyanna and it was exhausting to find enough Light to cover the Darkness that he chose to talk about.
So, why would I feel bad about this with so many obvious benefits for me? My wonderful husband is never lacking with resources on Spiritual issues, so he handed me a booklet called, "Rewards of Being Reviled," by Bill Gothard.
The book says that "reviling comes from a heart of scorn and contempt. It is the spewing out of anger and hatred. It is a verbal attack upon another person, given with deep emotional fervor. Its purpose is to vilify, to defame, to bring shame upon, to discredit, and to attribute evil and sinister motives to what that person says and does. It is to engage in ridicule. To ridicule is to cause others to laugh at a person or his ideas. It is to sneer, scoff, and belittle him. Ridicule is an expression of disdain."
It talks about all the ridicule and reviling that David experienced and I have always loved Psalms in times of trouble. His enemies provided opportunity for him to be able to write with deep emotion and insight.
The cool part of the deal is that the books says, "Notwithstanding the serious nature of reviling and the severe consequences for those who engage in it, there are great rewards for those who endure reviling and understand God's purposes for allowing it to occur. Matthew 5:12 tells us to "Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven."
It gave a story of a little girl that had been stung a bark scorpion, the most poisonous scorpion found in Arizona, which results in excruciating pain and numbness, then swelling, physical weakness, dizziness, tightening of the throat, and tingling of limbs.
Since this had happened before to the mother, they now had a small device that produced a high-voltage, low-current electrical charge. When electrodes from this unit are placed in the area of the sting or bite, they send a positive electrical charge into the victim's bloodstream. This, in turn, neutralizes the venom, which has a negative charge, and renders it harmless. This leaves only a mild soreness for a short time and a small mark of where the scorpion struck.
Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." Reviling is using the power of the tongue for death, and blessing is using the power of the tongue for life. A curse is like a negative charge, and a blessing is the positive charge that neutralizes the destructive nature of the negative charge.
A verbal blessing is more powerful than a verbal curse because good is more powerful than evil. God is more powerful than Satan, and light is more powerful than darkness.
On a mission trip, a student was reviled by the leader during a heated conversation. The incident hurt and shocked her and weeks later she was still emotionally involved in the incident while continuing to rehearse the reviler's words in her mind and feeling the pain each time she did.
She had forgiven this leader, but her emotions were rooted deeper than her words and her forgiveness was hollow and insincere. As time passed, her wound only became more infected. Her forgiveness was a surface response that she knew was Biblical and right, but it did not reach the venom that was surging through her emotional veins. The venom of reviling is long-lasting.
One day she heard a message on the power of verbal blessings and why it is essential for us to bless those who curse us. She understood this concept, and that night she could not fall asleep until she verbally blessed the leader who had reviled her.
Since then, she has continued to have freedom in her spirit from the hurts of this past event. She also has a deeper walk with the Lord as a result of this experience.
How do we do this?
Scripture provides words that can be used: Numbers 6:24-26: "The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make His face to shine up on thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace."
When we ask God to bring His benefits to the lives of revilers, we are blessing them. I have often looked back at some of the genetic options of my family tree and can easily say, "There but for the grace of God, go I." It certainly makes it easier to have mercy and grace on others who have not chosen to walk out of circumstances and generational curses.
My prayer for blessings my enemies is that those blessings will overcome the darkness of the curses that have caused them to be so angry. If you will look back on the situation you struggle with, you will find ways that God blessed you because of it.
Let me give you a personal example that Bill Gothard shared in his booklet mentioned above. He writes, "When attendance at the Basic Youth Conflicts Seminar first began to multiply, it was something of a phenomenon and was certainly a surprise to me. I could not explain it and was therefore hesitant to talk about it to reporters. They assumed that this constituted secrecy, and two Christian magazines published articles of a defamatory nature.
" I called the writer of the first article and tried to explain what I thought he had misunderstood. He reacted, and matters became worse. When the second article was published, God prompted me to have a different response. I called the writer. When he learned that I was on the phone, he cautiously answered. I then said, 'I have called to tell you how God has used your articles to benefit my life and ministry." He was totally surprised and said, 'Oh?' I continued and explained that God had used his article to do a work in my life, and in the ministry in three very positive ways.
" First, I was forced to reexamine what I was teaching and how people perceived what I was saying. Second, it unified the people who had been to the seminar and knew that the article reflected a misunderstanding of what was being taught. Third, as a result of this reviling, people had sent in thousands of dollars to encourage me and to support the seminar ministry.
" I'm sure the writer was not expecting this response. He became warm and friendly, and thanked me for my call. God has blessed both of our ministries since that day .... and today I consider him a friend."
My prayer is that this will allow you to give some thought to another approach to your memories and wounds. Ask God to first show you good that has come from it. Ask him to let you see how He has used it for good in your life as Romans 8 promises. Then, take the above suggestion from Scripture and choose to bless the person every time the memory returns.
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