Tag Archives: anger

Why Can’t I Forgive? – the secret to forgiveness

Forgiveness is one of the most spiritual acts you can do. Nothing makes you more like God than when you forgive. But a question I often get is: “Why can’t I forgive? I tried and it didn’t work.”

Why Can’t I Forgive?

There are many reasons why forgiveness doesn’t “work.” As I’ve said in other posts, and in my book STUCK, we often have a wrong conception of what forgiveness is. Forgiveness isn’t forgetting, excusing, trusting, reunion, conditional, or a feeling.

Another reason we can’t forgive is we try to do it on our own. We don’t include God in the process…and it IS a process. Again, I outline this process in my book STUCK. From admitting your anger, to grieving your loss, to reframing your offender, and more, God needs to be a part of every step. It’s a great lesson in prayer, asking God to help you with each step.

Why Can’t I Forgive? The Secret to Forgiveness

But there is a simple mistake many people make that prevents them from ever forgiving: they put their focus on what THEY are trying to do (forgive) and not what GOD wants to do in them.

Let me explain. The average forgiver knows they need to forgive to honor God and move on with their life. But the problem is, they are so hurt, when they think of forgiving their offender, all they can do is think about how they were offended. They barely make it out of the gate before they get thrown off their game.

Look at the wedge in this circle. The wedge represents the loss in your life. This is what was taken from you. Most people want their offender to put back what they took. In some rare cases they might be able to do that. But even then, there is still the hurt that they did it in the first place.

In most cases your offender either doesn’t want to restore what they took or they are unable to. Yet you keep expecting something from them: restoration, repentance, humility, a sincere apology, etc. That’s probably not going to happen, and so it just makes it really hard to forgive them.

Instead, what you need to do is bring your loss to God. Rather than focusing on your offender and what you want from them, ask God to fill up your loss. Ask HIM to restore you. This might sound simplistic, but it is the secret to your being able to forgive and move on.

You see, as long as you feel the loss, you will suffer lack. You will be deficient, and deficient people aren’t forgivers. Forgiveness is a generous act and generosity comes out of the overflow of your life. You will never overflow with forgiveness by focusing on your loss or your offender. But if you ask God to fill up your losses, he will do that and more. Then you will be able to offer forgiveness and move on with your life.

Why Can’t I Forgive? God’s fullness is the answer.

The apostle Paul prayed that we might be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19). That’s what it takes to forgive others. And when you are filled to God’s fullness, Paul says that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

The truth is, you CAN forgive. You just need to put your focus in the right place.

Are You STUCK in Anger? Audio Book

I’m happy to announce that my book, STUCKhow to overcome anger and reclaim your life, is now out in audio format.


Now available in audiobook format

SPECIAL OFFER: This audiobook is available as a free download with a special offer from Audible.com. You can check it out here, as well as listen to a free sample of the reading.

Why get a book on anger? Because everyone has anger. But few know how to deal with it.

Anger is something people like to ignore. When it happens, they think it will never return. But sure enough, it does.

Anger often has more control over us than we have over it.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can overcome your anger. Better yet, if you understand your anger, you can use it to find your emotional weak spots and get the help you need.

Don’t give away any more of your life to anger. STUCK will help you overcome it. Learn more here. 



Out of Exile: Day 35 – Reframing Your Offender

On Day 34 I talked about the idea of reframing your circumstances. Different things require reframing. I mentioned the need to reframe your loss. It’s also important to reframe anyone who has caused you to enter exile, that is, your offender.

Reframing your offender involves forgiveness. We often frame our offender as the winner in a conflict. We frame them as the one in control while we are the one who is powerless. These pictures need to change.

We thing anger and resentment toward our offenders is a means to balance the power. They hurt us so we hold them in contempt. We refuse to forgive them unless they fulfill our demands.

But what we fail to see is that our lack of forgiveness gives our offender control over us. As long as they owe us, we are obligated to resent them. This only prolongs our time in exile. We need is to be free of any anger or resentment toward our offender. We obtain this freedom by forgiving.

Forgiveness doesn’t excuse the offense. It simply frees you from the need to provide payback of any kind. It enables you to close the book on the past chapters of your life and give your full attention to the present moment and the future. Isn’t it bad enough that your offender stole from you? Do you really want to give them any more space in your brain, even for a minute?

I appreciate Miraslov Volf’s view of forgiveness as absorbing wrong. He says:

Hanging on the cross, Jesus provided the ultimate example of his command to replace the principle of retaliation (“an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”) with the principle of nonresistance (“if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also”) (Matthew 5:38-42).  By suffering violence as an innocent victim, he took upon himself the aggression of the persecutors.  He broke the vicious cycle of violence by absorbing it, taking it upon himself.  He refused to be sucked into the automatism of revenge… Exclusion and Embrace, pages 291-292

People who refuse to forgive think in terms of scarcity. They have a limited amount of (whatever). Whenever someone offends them, they lose a little more of what little they have.. Their only play in response to the loss is to ward off future attacks with anger and more. Their world gets increasingly smaller. Exile becomes a place of permanence.

A faith-filled person doesn’t think in terms of scarcity. They believe in a God who can fill up what is lost through any offense. Because of this, they absorb the losses of life and are free to leave their exiles.

Could unforgiveness be keeping you in exile?  Maybe you not only need to reframe your offender but reframe God as well. God needs to be framed as someone who can help you absorb your offenses and take back your life.

Please take a minute to leave your comments or questions below. If forgiveness is an issue for you, there are many posts on readingremy.com addressing this. The book STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships takes an in-depth look at forgiveness as well.


Out of Exile: Day Seventeen – Unmet Needs

I’m looking at the losses that cause us to get stuck in exile. There are many but the last category I’ll discuss is unmet needs. An unmet need is any area of your life where a legitimate need exists but it goes unmet by God or those you look to for help.

When I moved off our farm and into ministry, I was so broke, any salary seemed like a fortune to me, so I was grateful for the salary I was given at my church. But it wasn’t long before I realized that I couldn’t live on it. 

My wifegets a husband that has been run over, then backed over, and then steam rolled.

I told them about my dilemma and they seemed concerned but they never did anything. So I started selling my plasma to help ends meet.  The senior pastor said he felt bad and they needed to do something about it. But they didn’t, at least at that time. After many months of requests, I was finally given a livable wage.

I cleaned out my files the other day and I came across a letter I wrote to the elder board telling them how frustrated I was that they hadn’t done anything about my salary. It hurt to look back and feel the pain of that time. Can you relate? If you are in ministry, I bet you can.

Not only do we hurt when our needs aren’t met, our family is hurt too. Our losses cause them losses.  Here’s how one pastor put it to me:

Coming home with heavy burdens have also brought struggles at home. My wife knows the difficulties that come my way each day and at times she gets a husband that has been run over, then backed over, and then steam rolled. Not much left, and perhaps not that enjoyable to be with. Life at home can become trying and my family gets what is left. Not sure how to describe all that was lost at home but I do know a significant amount of pain and loss has taken place at home…

Unmet needs go way beyond finances.  It might be time off. It might be the lack of friends. It could be a spouse that you aren’t connecting with very well. Or it might be a ministry that is less than stellar. You have no sense of accomplishment.

But remember, these are all primary losses. There are secondary losses associated with unmet needs. As is often the case, one secondary loss is a sense of control. You can’t make people meet your needs. It’s very frustrating. You feel trapped with no ability to alter your situation. You wonder how long it will go on? Will it ever change? That’s where the sense of “exile” kicks in.

Another secondary loss is respect. When your needs are ignored you wonder why people don’t care. How can they just look past your obvious need? Are you that insignificant? Is your work valued so little?

Unmet needs can also result in a loss of purpose. You begin to doubt your call. If your needs aren’t being met, maybe it’s because God doesn’t want you in that place. You might think he is withholding his blessing to get your attention so you will move on.

With these numerous losses the natural emotional response is anger, sadness and often fear.  It’s these emotions that create the feeling of exile. Have you experienced these?

What are some unmet needs that you’ve experienced in ministry?  What kind of secondary losses have followed?

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Out of Exile: Day Fourteen – Limited Choices

I’m continuing to look at the losses that cause us to go into “exile.”  On Day Thirteen I looked at the pain of being invalidated.  Today I want to look at limited choices.

Whenever your choices are limited, that’s a loss.  Choice helps you to feel powerful: in control. Take that away and it hurts.  When someone puts you in a position where you have fewer choices it complicates your life. It’s like you are in a card game and you only get dealt half a hand. It puts you at a huge disadvantage. It makes you mad. 

Whenever your choices are limited, that’s a loss.  Choice helps you to  feel powerful: in control. Take that away and it hurts.

Or imagine having to work with one hand tied behind your back. Or, what if there are 100 options before you and someone says, you can pick two. That means there is a loss of 98 items. That can make you mad.

If you are in ministry, the minute you chose the ministry, you limited your choices in life. One pastor friend of mine was struggling financially and he realized that, short of getting another job, he didn’t have any way to increase his income. Working longer hours or working harder made no impact on his income. He was stuck.

So, becoming a pastor might mean a limited income. And with a limited income you are limited in all kinds of purchases from your car to your house to your vacations and more.

If you live in a parsonage (a house provided to pastors)  you don’t have limited choice. You have no choice! That’s a loss.

Becoming a pastor means you give away your weekends…for life. I don’t know about you but I rarely do anything on Saturday and when I do, I’m preoccupied.

Becoming a pastor means you’ll never have a normal holiday. You’ll always come late to the party, maybe days late, if at all. And when you finally arrive, most people are gone and you are too tired to care.

Becoming a pastor means you’ll never get to see the kickoff on Sunday. I know it’s a small thing, but I’m trying to get you to understand that ministry causes losses of all shapes and sizes.

Becoming a pastor means you automatically give up some of your evenings because that’s when people are free to meet.

Start adding up these losses and the sum total can make you feel boxed in: it’s an exile.  You can live with an underlying anger at these losses. So you need to look deeper. What’s the real issue? What really bothers you about these losses? What are the secondary losses?

There are a few. As I mentioned, there’s the loss of control. You feel boxed in.  Dallas Willard talks about the importance of a person having the ability to choose:

 In creating human beings God made them to rule, to reign, to have dominion in a limited sphere. Only so can they be persons. Any being that has say over nothing at all is no person… They would be reduced to completely passive observers who count for nothing, who make no difference.

For this reason, limited choices create a loss of control as well as a loss of respect. You feel like less of a person. Limited choices also create a loss of freedom.

Think through your life. Where have your choices been limited?  Those are the primary losses. Then think deeper; what are the emotional losses associated with those limited choices? Those are the secondary losses.

Bring all of these to God. Tell him how you feel. Ask him to speak to you about these losses. What does he want you to know? How can he show you his abundance in the face of these losses?

Please share your thoughts below and share this post on Facebook. Thanks.


Out of Exile: Day Thirteen – Invalidation

In Day Twelve I talked about secondary losses and how not knowing about them can leave you in exile.

Over the next few days I want to talk about five categories of loss and the secondary losses that accompany them.  Remember,  a primary loss is like “losing your car keys” while the secondary loss is what happens as a result of losing your keys, like losing respect from co-workers because you are often late for work. 

People don’t understand pastors or what it means to be in ministry. We are set up to be invalidated.

The first category of loss is INVALIDATION. To invalidate someone is to insult them or to put them down. It means to disrespect or discredit someone: to make them feel worthless.

Simon Cowell made a name for himself invalidating people. That’s why people got so mad at him. If you are in ministry, you are an easy target for the mini-Simon Colwell’s who are in your congregation.

Here is a list of quotes from pastors that gave me an example of their being invalidated:

I’ve had several variations of this conversation: “So you’re a pastor?” (oh, how interesting, a female pastor, tell me more) “Yes, I work primarily with the youth at the church.” “Oh, you’re a YOUTH pastor.” (oh, just a youth pastor) (as if that somehow makes my credentials not as legitimate)

Oh, it must be nice to work one hour a week.

A pastor… Right, preach a sermon and then back to drinking coffee.. All you do is drive around and socialize with people, what a easy job..

First compliment I ever received from a member (who actually went to the trouble to use the phone): “Great job getting us out of there on time today pastor.”

“Oh, you’re a chaplain? I could never be a chaplain. I could not compromise the word of God.” (Spoken by someone uncomfortable with my ministry to non-Christians in the hospital.)

Someone asked for financial assistance we couldn’t give and said, “you pastors don’t know what it’s like to have to work for a living.

My wife and I often find ourselves excluded from social gatherings. We’ll hear of groups that get together for parties, or to catch a game, or a night out for drinks. . .and we just never got invited (even though we would consider these people friends). I think, in their minds, having the pastor along would be weird, if not a complete killjoy.

We served a church 3 years. The church doubled in size. Everything was going great. New youth group and plans to build and hire a youth pastor. One night the elders decided they wanted the church to remain small and asked me to resign. They said we ruined their quite country church with all the “new” people. They’ve been through 3 other pastors in the last 2 years since we left. It was and has been heart breaking. 40 people have been displaced.

The invalidation that gets me is when people  ask me what I do for a living. That’s a conversation stopper. The other day I expanded it. Instead of saying that I’m a pastor I said that I’m a writer, speaker and I pastor a church. I thought giving them a few options might help. It didn’t. I got the same blank look and the conversation quickly shifted.

People don’t understand pastors or what it means to be in ministry. We are set up to be invalidated.

So let’s look at this…What’s the secondary loss associated with invalidation?  I think it’s the loss of respect.  Everyone wants their worth to be recognized.  No one wants their life’s work to be trivialized.

Plus there’s the loss of control.  We want to stop people from saying stupid things. Or, in my case, I want so much for someone to show a shred of interest in the life of a pastor. Just once it would be nice for someone to lean forward and saying, “Wow. Interesting. What’s that like, getting to work with hundreds of people, talking about some of the most important issues in life?” But we have no control of what people say or don’t say to us, and so that’s a loss.

Remember, loss always leads to anger. You need to identify the loss and own the anger if you want to grieve the loss and move on and out of exile.

What are some ways you experience invalidation (pastor or not)? What are the secondary losses that come with it?  I’d love to get your feedback. I find the comments to be much more interesting than what I’ve got to say.  Thanks for dropping by.


Out of Exile: Day Twelve – Secondary Losses

I am nearing the one-third mark on our 40-day journey. I can tell by the clicks that many people have picked up the series in the last week but you aren’t starting from the beginning. Go back!  I just think it will all make a lot more sense and you’ll get so much more out of it.

Now, there’s something I want you to see about anger and loss that might help you. Whenever you suffer a loss there is a primary loss and a secondary loss.  

God’s after something much deeper in us. Whether you see this or not will determine if you ever make it out of exile or not.

For example…do you ever lose your car keys? Of course you do. Well, I do. I hope I’m not the only one.  It drives me crazy. I get so mad. I stopped and asked myself why that is. I mean, I know I will find them eventually (usually in my pocket). They are obviously in the house. Why the fuss? What’s the big deal?

I get so mad because of the secondary losses. The secondary losses are those losses that come as a result of losing my car keys.  For example: I didn’t just lose the keys. I lost time looking for them.  Now I’m late. That leads to more loss.

Because I’m late I lose my calm, relaxed manner. Now I’m on edge. When I finally do find my keys, I drive faster, which might end in a ticket. Now I lose money.

When I finally walk into work late I might lose respect. People say…Remy’s late again…I can never count on him.

Simple analogy, but do you see what I’m saying about secondary losses?  It’s not just losing your keys that’s so upsetting. It’s all the other losses that come with the loss of keys, real or imagined. If I had to assign responsibility for my emotion, I’d say that only 20% of my anger has to do with the lost keys and 80% has to do with the losses associated with the keys.

Now, take that and apply it to what I’ve said about the bigger losses in life that lead to exile: loss of a loved one, loss of a ministry, loss of your ministry dream, loss of respect by your congregation or church board (the list is endless).  Each of these events, on their own, is painful. But they represent only 20% of the real issue.

The real issues many people never see.  They see the “keys.” They don’t see the other 80%. So they spend their time lamenting the keys, blaming the keys, asking God to give them new keys, etc.  But the “keys” are not the issue. Helping you regain your “keys” isn’t what God is after. He’s after something much deeper in us. Whether you see this or not will determine if you ever make it out of exile or not.

I’ll take this thought deeper over the next few days. But start thinking about the secondary losses in your life. What are they? (You might want to read an older post called “The Anger Behind the Anger”)

Share your thoughts or questions below and share this post on Facebook, if you would. Thanks.