Category: Joy

Forgiveness

 

            We can’t experience complete joy if we feel either betrayed or guilty. In both cases, healing won’t be complete until we forgive and are forgiven. The two are connected.

In the New Testament we find:

 

  • Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. Mark 11:25-26, Matthew 6:14-15
  • Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32
  • And the Our Father: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Matthew 6:12

 

            Why does Jesus tell us to forgive? Is it to add another burden to our struggle? No, He wants us to be happy and we cannot be fully at peace when we are angry with someone and feeling a grudge. Does our grudge hurt the person we hold it against? Perhaps, but sometimes they aren’t even aware of it. Instead we are the ones burdened by the negativity. If we nurture the hurt and lick our wounds, the negativity grows and embitters us.

Forgiving seems to be a prerequisite to being forgiven. Our lack of forgiveness keeps us from receiving God’s forgiveness. Not because God wants us to go first and won’t “play” until we follow His rules, but because our negativity blocks the bounty of graces He longs to pour onto us. Bitterness cannot occupy the soul at the same time as God’s grace.

If we truly accept and appreciate and believe God forgives us, our spirits are so filled, so en-lightened, that we have no need of grudges. Bitterness simply won’t fit, won’t coexist with our cleansed spirit.

How can we, while knowing how good God is to forgive our mistakes and even our deliberate wrongdoing, not offer the same to others?

We are human and it’s hard to forgive people who have hurt us, even when they sincerely apologize. But isn’t it much harder to forgive people who aren’t sorry, who either don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong, feel completely justified in what they did, or simply don’t care? I really struggle with that. Why should I forgive when they don’t ask me for forgiveness or even show any sorrow?

Because not forgiving hurts me. Negativity finds its foothold and hangs on. God doesn’t want us to be slaves to our feelings so He asks us to let go. I don’t believe He means we should trust the other person as if the injury never happened. We are still allowed to protect ourselves, if need be, by being cautious around that person and maintaining boundaries that keep us from falling victim again. But we must refuse to let the person have the power over us of destroying our peace and our journey toward Joy.

How can we forgive others?

  • Decide to forgive and then refuse to dwell on the injury when it comes to mind. 
  • Be mindful of our own weaknesses and mistakes and God’s mercy. Ask Him to give us the grace to forgive.
  • Consider the other’s challenges that affected the behavior. Was his childhood difficult? Did she have a hard day? Maybe he is struggling to do the best he can.
  • Pray for the offender. Ask for God to heal her. Put the trouble in God’s hands and then let go.
  • Actively seek out and focus on the offender’s strengths and goodness.

 

How can we forgive ourselves?

When God forgives us we need to forgive ourselves and let go of our guilt. We should still remember our wrongdoing and let that memory protect us as we work to avoid the temptation or the decisions that brought us to our sin. But if we don’t let go of the shame, it shows we don’t truly believe God forgave us.

Jesus knew our nature and so provided us with a very concrete experience of forgiveness, saying to his apostles: “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” John 20:23, Matthew 16:19, 18:18

Those words became the Sacrament of Reconciliation, celebrated in churches around the world all year but in a special way during Lent. Parishes sponsor Reconciliation Services that bring a communal element to the process of examining our lives to become aware of our faults, confessing them to one who represents God, and hearing from that representative that we are forgiven.

Bringing the spiritual into a ceremony can help us realize how very real the spiritual is. God gives us the opportunity to concretely experience His forgiveness and mercy. The priest-representative is solid, his words of forgiveness are audible, and our sense of being a member of His community is reinforced.

I’ve always dreaded “going to confession.” Human nature makes us reluctant to admit to another that we’ve been wrong. However, I can tell you I look forward to the lightness of Spirit I always feel after receiving God’s absolution—His cleansing forgiveness—through the priest.

Go to a Reconciliation Service during Lent if your church offers one. If not, and you have trouble letting go of shame or guilt, I urge you to speak to a representative of your faith community who can help you truly accept that God is a forgiving Father, just like the prodigal (extravagantly wasteful) son’s father in Jesus’ parable, who rushes out to meet the errant son with open arms when he returns home.

God’s arms are open and waiting for you.

Prayers and blessings on your week,

Betty Arrigotti

“The idea of forgiveness is clearly an essential element of Jesus’ spirituality. […] Forgiveness of others’ injuries stamps our spirituality as genuine and authentic. Not to be forgiving reduces our spirituality to a merely human imitation of the real thing.” Girzone, Joseph (1995). Never Alone: A Personal Way to God. Doubleday Image. p94.

 

“It might seem nearly impossible to forgive your family for some of the things they did while you were growing up. But if you make it your goal to forgive them as God has forgiven you, and if you actively pursue loving them the way Christ loves you, then you will not only have set your own heart free, but you will have showcased a little picture of heaven on earth. If you learn to forgive, you will have learned the greatest defense strategy against divorce.” Ludy, Eric & Leslie (2009). When God Writes Your Love Story. Multnomah Books, p192.

Insecurity Busters

Let’s continue our Lenten quest and think about people in our lives who exemplify joy. What do they do differently from us?

I’m pondering this, thinking of basically happy people I know. What characteristics do they share? Most of them are children, unencumbered still by the worries of the world. But a few are adults and they seem to have as many or more problems than I do. Perhaps the difference is all in attitude. They focus on what they are grateful for. They make the most of a situation. They laugh at themselves and don’t seem to worry about what others think. Not that they don’t think of others, in fact, I think they are more “other focused” than self focused. They are certainly not insecure.
Let’s go back to my statement that most of the people I know who are joyful are children. Yes, little ones cry and pout and stomp their feet, but those particular children that make people comment, “She’s sure a happy baby,” seem very secure and trusting. They aren’t prone to fear. They see the world as a delightful place to explore, and people as friends eager to join their fan club. They expect the world and its people to be good.

And me, when I’m insecure, what am I expecting?
• Insurmountable challenges
• My weaknesses exposed
• Failure, followed by the critical judgment of others

Very young, secure children don’t focus on the frightening future, because they are enjoying the present. They don’t worry about the days ahead because their parents will take care of them. They don’t fret about what others think because they are completely secure in the awareness that their parents love them.
It is a rare child who maintains this confidence throughout their childhood. I cringe to think of 4th grade cliques and junior high bullying, high school competitiveness, young adult broken hearts, and the effects of the sensuality-focused media. Few make it through that gauntlet unscathed. I’d bet if we are honest with ourselves, none of us did. Most of us either nurse or bury some feelings of inadequacy or fears of being found out as imposters. Some bravely struggled against such fears and overcame them.
Yes, we have a power to heal. We have a Father who, like those happy toddlers’ parents, will protect us in our future. Not that He will keep us from all pain; no parent can or should do that or we wouldn’t learn. He will, however, make it all turn out well in the end. And He will be with us every moment of the journey. If we can only focus on Him, we won’t need to worry about what others think of us, because we will know He is delighted with us. Yes, he knows all of our weaknesses and hasn’t missed any of our mistakes. But He chooses to focus on his goodness within us and, beloved children of His own, He treasures us.

“If God is for us, who can be against?” Romans 8:31

If you are looking for practical, solid steps you can take toward fighting insecurity, Beth Moore has several to offer in her book, So Long Insecurity: You’ve been a bad friend to us.
Avoid insecurity triggers.  This must be done with some discernment. The idea isn’t to withdraw from everything that makes you insecure, but to avoid unhealthy triggers, such as fashion magazines if they make you feel inadequate, or particular emotional predators who thrive on making you feel worse about yourself.
Choose a different reaction.  Think, “How would I react if I were secure?” and then do it! Behaviors have a strong effect on our thinking. Take healthy pride in your new decisions to react to fear with courage. This releases your inner strength!
Stop coupling legitimate feelings with insecurity.  Moore writes a mantra: “You may hurt my feelings, but you can’t take my security. It is mine to keep and I won’t give it away.” “You may intimidate me, but you can’t take my security. It is mine from God and I won’t give it away.” Other feelings we often join to insecurity are fear, disappointment, shock, sadness, anger, jealousy, and shame. “I’m ashamed of what I did, but you can’t take my security. It is mine and I won’t give it away.”
Stop making comparisons!  We are all originals, one of a kind. I am not better OR worse than you. My worth or value is simply from being a person, a child of God like every other person.
Don’t trip others’ insecurity triggers.  Don’t flaunt what you are good at, or what you possess. We should all be giving example to each other of what secure behavior looks like, especially to the younger generation.
Stop focusing on ourselves. Moore says, “We will continue to be as insecure as we are self-absorbed.” When we are thinking of others, we don’t have time to be insecure.
Pursue a life of purpose! Following a passion will keep us too busy to be self absorbed. If you don’t know what your passion is, look to your deepest pain, and then work to help others who are caught in that pain. Alternatively, work to prevent it from happening to anyone else. To find a secure life, lose yourself in something (or Someone) greater!
Trade fear for trust. Fear drives insecurity. What are you most afraid of? Follow that fear all the way through to the end. Ok, what if it happens? What then? And then what? Yes, if it happens you will be miserable for a while, perhaps suffer great physical or emotional pain, but God promises He will work all things to be good in the end. Choose to trust that promise. God won’t obey what you want; He will do even better for you. Love will win.
Don’t worry about the future.  Instead of feeding your insecurity by worrying, “What will I do if…” ask, “What will God do if…” and take comfort in knowing He can handle it.
Question your motivation. Ask yourself, “Am I doing this out of any insecurity?” If so, stop. Choose beyond feelings. Choose to act out of strength. We can act strong, even when we don’t feel strong. We can choose to act secure. We can choose to trust.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 (NASB)

Blessings on your week!
Betty Arrigotti

To read more: Moore, Beth (2010). So Long Insecurity: You’ve been a bad friend to us. Tyndale. Or go to www.solonginsecurity.com

Causes of Insecurity

            How did you do avoiding complaints for the last week? I have to admit, I kept realizing I had let slip another complaint. But at least being aware of the habit is a first step to breaking it.

             Complaining and negative thinking are obstacles to experiencing Joy. Another obstacle, even more widespread, is Insecurity. We all feel it sometimes, but some of us feel it chronically. The origins are different for each of us, and our reaction to insecurity may look different (some might withdraw while others cling). However, we all swindle ourselves as we settle for a limited life, rather than an abundant life, because we are afraid. When we try to protect ourselves from any hint of failure, we cheat this world of the truly powerful contribution we could be making.

             This week I’ve been listening to the audio version of Beth Moore’s new book, So Long Insecurity: You’ve been a bad friend to us. She writes of many causes or roots for feeling insecure. Read through these possibilities and consider how your insecurity began:

  • An unstable home

Relational instability

Financial struggles

A Parent’s physical illness, mental illness, or addiction

An unloving parent

Any abuse – emotional, physical, verbal, or sexual

           

            Unprotected as a child, we seek protection and so are often drawn to the wrong type of person. Only God can always protect us from what really endangers us.

  

  • Significant loss of anything you derive security from. This can happen at any age.

Death of loved one

Loss of face or respect, public shame

Loss of innocence

 

  • Rejection

            Any relationship holds potential for rejection. However, if we won’t risk rejection we won’t find intimacy.

            Our perception of a rejection could simply be a boundary – we can’t claim ALL of a person’s attention, even a spouse.

            A rejection tells lies about our personal value, and sadly, we often concur. “I must not be valuable, worth loving, or even liking.”

 

  •  Dramatic change

            None of us can avoid change; only God is unchanging. We see security in sameness, even if it is not a good situation. A history of unwelcome changes leads some to dread, always expecting something bad is about to happen. Others become psychologically dependent on crisis. If there is none, we create one.

            God uses change to change us, to coax us to the next level of growth.

 

  • Personal limitations

Learning disability

Physical disability

Abnormality – anything that makes us feel different/inferior, even if just through our perception.

 

  • Personal disposition

            Tender heartedness or sensitivity can predispose us to insecurity. The more sensitive we are, the more vulnerable we become. God gave us our tender hearts for a reason. Life is brutal, but He knows it is scary to be us and doesn’t take our pain lightly.

 

  •   Culture

            Today’s media bombards us with unachievable perfection and the worship of youth. A mark of security is being able to be around anyone, no matter how intelligent and attractive and still maintain personal confidence and contentment. But with today’s media, we’re now tempted to feel inferior to thousands!

 

  •  Our own pride

            Pride! Unlike other roots, this is within our control, not imposed on us.  If I can’t be The Most Attractive, I’ll at least be…

The Best…

The Hardest Working…

The Most Congenial (or Popular?)…

The Most Noticeable…

The Most Religious…

             Instead, we end up joining the ranks of the most exhausted.

             Pride carried to extreme can become Perfectionism. Moore calls perfectionism, “Insecurity in an art form. Looks pretty, acts deadly.” Perfectionists are insecure despite (or because of) their high personal standards, emphasis on precision, and aspiration to be better than others. Perfectionists alternate between feeling horrible about themselves and superior to others. Low self esteem and pride coexist.

 

            Look at the above list. Does one area explain the underlying source of your insecurity? Or are you a poster child for having every root of insecurity planted somewhere in your psyche? Whether your insecurity stems from a difficult childhood, or your own pride and perfectionism, you can turn your pain over to God. In some instances you’ll be asking for forgiveness, or the ability to forgive. In others, for healing. Moore reminds us, “Time doesn’t heal. God does.”

             God sees and knows 1000 times better than we do where we are wounded and weak and what graces we need to be renewed, healed, and empowered. WE don’t need to be perfect, because HE is. In fact, he tells us “His strength is made perfect in our weakness.”

             This week we’ve used Beth Moore’s book to help us discover the roots of our insecurity. The “Quick Start” answer to growing out of insecurity is to focus on and trust God, rather than ourselves. But next week we’ll look deeper into practical steps to overcome our insecurity, and by doing so, knock down or sail over one more hurdle to Joy.

 Blessings on your week!

Betty Arrigotti

 To read more: Moore, Beth (2010). So Long Insecurity: You’ve been a bad friend to us. Tyndale. Or visit www.solonginsecurity.com

Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NASB)

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