The Most Important Thing to Forget

Forgetfulness 1.jpg

Are you looking for the key to happiness? If you aren’t you really should be. I am not saying that we should invest ourselves in some kind of spiritual treasure hunt because there’s no single truth or life skill that will produce perfect happiness, joy, peace or love. But if we are not continually striving to learn new truths and grow in our character then … well, we might as well be dead.

So I’m going to propose a life-skill that, if it is not at the top of your list, it really should be.  I have found neglecting this is responsible for massive heartaches and destroyed countless relationships. It is summed up in this one statement by the Apostle Paul:

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus
— Philippians 3:13-14

What I have discovered over and over again in my life is I can not press on toward the goal if I am not willing to forget what is behind me. That goal is not merely a quest for money, fame or a comfortable life, it is a heavenly goal ordained by God.  For Paul, that goal was to, “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”. What he needed to forget was that in his former life he was a murderer and persecutor of the Church. I am sure it was very difficult for him to forget the pain he had caused so many people.

But what about you and me? What do we need to forget that is impeding the goal? For me, it is pretty much everything. I must let go of hurt feelings, broken promises, angry and cutting words, and anything else that will cloud my spirit and keep me from being free to pursue the heavenward call.

This forgetfulness is a decision to be free from bitterness and resentment. But let me be clear – forgetfulness does not mean our emotions are suddenly healed or our relationships are magically restored. Emotions have their own timetable for healing. The decision to forget a past injury (whether it is self-inflicted or caused by another) will mean that you will always act in a way that is counter-emotional. This skill is rarely taught in our “do what you feel” culture but is an absolute necessity if you are going to achieve the ultimate goal that calls you heavenward.

Take a moment and assess your current state of forgetfulness.

  • Is there any past situation that caused you an injury that you are holding on to?
  • Are you beating yourself up for a past action or decision you made?
  • Is there someone whom you harbor resentment and anger toward?

If you have confessed the wrongs in your life then the next step is to forget – because God has.

If someone else has hurt you and you are holding on to anger and resentment then the next step is to forgive – because you have been forgiven for much more grievous sins by God.

But if we are unwilling to forget what is behind us then we will find those past things will plant themselves firmly in our future and keep us from experiencing the beautiful life we were meant to live.

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What I Learned About Relationships From Walter - My Rescue Dog.

LOVE DOESN'T HAVE TO STINK ......

Wonderful Walter 2017

Wonderful Walter 2017

This is Walter – he is a 105 pound Rotty/Shepherd that we adopted from a local rescue, Whiskers and Tails in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.  We quickly learned he loves to chase squirrels and eat all insects that fly -  including wasps. In fact,  he has a little Ninja that makes up his unique quirky personality.  When it gets dark he loves to patrol the back yard protecting us from … well only he knows and he’s sworn to the Ninja code of silence.

The other night he was patrolling the perimeter and we heard an unusual commotion so I ran out to see what was happening. It didn't take long to figure out what was going on because within less than a second I smelled it …... A SKUNK.   Yes, an unsuspecting Walter had come face to face....well, not exactly face to face but you get the picture, of the smelly works delivered by Mr. Skunk.

Quickly into the bathtub (ever bathed a stinky 100-pound dog 10:30 at night?).  We quickly surfed the internet for the "magic" formula to remove skunk odor and found a website that "guaranteed" the homemade solution would work.  My wife started mixing the potion and I got to work on Walter.  One hour later we had a 100 pound dog that reeked of wet fur and skunk wildly running through the house.   It has now been over a week and guess what – Walter still stinks. And not only Walter but whatever Walter touched smells too!

So now I can hear you thinking … “so sorry for Walter but what the heck does that have to do with relationships?”

Thank you for asking. 

Sometimes the stink from a fight, a careless word, or thoughtless action can stink up a relationship for days, weeks or even years. It often only takes a small thing for that odor to arise and stink up our relationship all over again. I admit it’s hard to remove the odor of a hurt. The pain lingers long like Walter’s smell. But unlike poor Walter, we actually have a choice how long we will allow our relationships to be polluted by these things.

After all who wants to smell bad to their partner?

Here are four steps you can take.

  1. Admit that you were hurt: Sometimes our pride gets in the way of our healing. We think we shouldn’t feel what we’re feeling so we go into denial mode but in reality, we’re just allowing the wound to infect other areas of our lives.
  2.  Forgive: Forgiveness is a unilateral is a gift we give to ourselves so that we don’t carry the heavy burden of resentment and anger throughout our life. Forgiveness does not mean that you minimize the wound – only that you choose to heal.
  3. Reconcile: If possible share with your partner how you were hurt and attempt to find a new way of relating to each other. Keep in mind that this requires that you both be willing to see each other’s perspective to get beneath the surface. In every harmful human interaction, there is always something deeper that is causing it. When this is understood it will change the whole dynamic of the relationship and create an opportunity for healing and avoiding entering back into the conflict.
  4. Let it go: Yes, we can also choose to let go of whatever it was that is stinking up our relationships. This means refusing to bring it up … ever!

Walter is smelling much better now, okay, he still smells like a dog but not like a skunk. The real question is what do you and I smell like? 

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If You Want to be Happily Married You'll Need to Get Real Good at This!

Forgiveness is not an option to sustain a healthy relationship. Research has consistently shown that those who experience forgiveness in their romantic relationships achieve a greater sense of closeness and satisfaction than those who hold on to past offences.

First let me state what forgiveness is not:

  • Forgiveness is not trust. Trust is earned through actions that consistently demonstrate integrity. We can forgive an individual for what they have done but we do not necessarily need to trust them.
  • Forgiveness is not a feeling. If we wait until we feel like forgiving someone we probably will not … and if we do that forgiveness will be shallow and easily taken back.
  • Forgiveness is not circumstantial. Forgiveness cannot be tied to any other action or attitude on the part of the one forgiven – if it is then it can (and probably will be) withdrawn with the next offence.
  • Forgiveness is not primarily for the forgiven. When we forgive it is a great kindness we are giving to the one forgiven but it is an even greater kindness we are giving to ourselves. There are several reasons for this but primarily it is because we take ourselves out of the place of judge, jury and executioner and leave that to a greater and more knowledgeable court. As a Christian I find great comfort in the fact that my meager understanding of human affairs and hearts is not what determines the final outcome of anyone. I let the One who “judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart” be responsible for the rewards and punishments. And even if you don’t believe in a personal God who will judge humanity most people believe in the law of sowing and reaping also known as, “what goes around, comes around”. Or as one old salt told me “the world will kick you in the A#@ much harder than I will”.  I also recognize that my opinion is very often clouded by my personal perspective which is usually based upon my needs and desires. So most offences are about me not getting treated the way I think I should be treated and are inherently selfish. Even if I could on some rare occasion be totally in the right why not just forgive it all and be done with the crap that harboring resentment produces?
  • Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Forgiveness is a key component to being reconciled with another but when it is given it does not automatically produce reconciliation. Reconciliation requires several steps which include repentance, atonement and reconnection and is not unilateral because a true and humble awareness of the offence must be achieved and trust restored.   
  • Forgiveness is not easy. It can often be the hardest thing you will ever do and something that you will need to work at because it doesn’t come naturally. It is not an emotion it is a decision.

So here is a definition of forgiveness:

Forgiveness is a unilateral decision to free an offending party of all personal retribution for their action against you.

In an ongoing relationship there will be many times when we are inadvertently offended by our partner and we exercise unilateral forgiveness without our spouse even recognizing it. It is the sign of a healthy relationship to let go of small offences without letting them become the seeds of bitterness that blossom into full blown resentment. However, to maintain an intimate relationship, we must be willing and able to talk about our hurts to one another. Out of these conversations arise the intimate insights that make good relationships great. The willingness to forgive is at the core of these conversations for if we are unwilling to forgive then what is our ultimate objective?

Here are the benefits of forgiveness:

  • Forgiveness opens the door to restoring relationships. Like I said forgiveness does not automatically restore relationships but without it restoration is impossible.
  • Forgiveness reduces anxiety and harmful ruminations. Who really suffers when we hold resentment in our hearts? That’s right we do!
  • Forgiveness promotes genuine humility. When we forgive we naturally reflect on how many times we too were forgiven and that is humbling.
  • Forgiveness removes ammunition from the next relational conflict. It is common for old relational wounds to surface during the heat of an argument. This is truly like throwing gasoline on a fire. When we forgive we take away this flammable material and it is much easier to focus on the problem at hand.
  • Forgiveness most closely aligns ourselves with the heart of God. If you want to have a rich, powerful, deeply satisfying relationship with God then get good at forgiveness because that is God’s primary message to us.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you
— Colossians 3:13 NIV

I hope this is helpful. Please let us know if we can ever be of assistance. We are here for you!