Tag Archives: Forgiveness

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.
Facebooktwitterrss

Forgiven: How Guilt Can Block God’s Forgiveness

Forgiven, that’s what we all want: to be forgiven…by God, by others, by ourselves. The following is an excerpt from by latest book: Starting Over…finding God’s forgiveness when you find it hard to forgive yourself.

Meet Steveforgiven

Let me tell you about Steve. Steve has a drinking problem, but he never saw it coming. He got started drinking heavily in college with his buddies. He thought after college that things would change, but he found that old habits die hard. Steve realized that he didn’t have the self-control he thought he had.

How would your life change if you knew that you were completely forgiven and accepted unconditionally?

When Steve’s friends invited him to the bar, he always said yes. And when they encouraged him to have one more, he never said no. After the third drink he lost count. He knew it wasn’t right but thought, “Hey, I’m not hurting anyone.” He was just having a good time.

In his honest moments, Steve knew that he was hurting someone. He was hurting himself because his drinking hurt his health. It hurt his relationships. It hurt his job performance. It also hurt his relationship with God.

Steve’s excessive drinking made him feel guilty. But things had gotten out of control, and he didn’t know how to get back on track. Like I said: he never planned his life to be this way. One thing just led to another.

When God is the Problem

Interestingly enough, Steve’s faith in God was actually a part of the problem. He felt so ashamed of his failure that he drank more trying to cover his guilt. It was a vicious cycle. The more he drank the guiltier he felt. The guiltier he felt the more he drank. He never dreamed of being forgiven.

After a while, Steve stopped feeling guilty. He grew numb. He just accepted that he was a drinker and resigned himself to a life without God. It wasn’t what he wanted, but it was better than feeling guilty all the time.

Steve’s story describes many people I’ve talked to over the years. Just change the name, and the addiction, and Steve might be someone you know. Steve might even be you. Instead of a drinking problem it might be a problem with food, pornography, gambling, shopping, anger, or any number of things.

Guilt: The Roadblock to Being Forgiven

What often keeps us from getting the help we need is guilt. We are so ashamed of what we’ve done that we push God away, assuming he wants nothing to do with us. But in doing that, we push away our greatest help.

What if Steve could live a life free from guilt? How do you think Steve’s life would change if he knew that he was completely forgiven, and God accepted him unconditionally, just the way he was… warts, addiction, and all?

More importantly, how would your life change if you knew that you were completely forgiven and accepted unconditionally?

I’m not talking about being free from all guilt. Some guilt is good…I’m talking about the false guilt that lingers and often turns to shame. I’m talking about the feeling that weighs on you and makes you want to avoid anything remotely associated with God, because you are convinced of his disgust for you.

True guilt has a short shelf life, that is: once guilt serves its purpose in getting you to see your wrong, it starts to spoil. It’s like soured milk: guilt turns from being helpful to being hurtful. But many people keep drinking the “sour milk” of guilt thinking it’s the right thing to do… even the godly thing to do. They just assume that all guilt is from God and so they embrace it. Big mistake.

The truth is that God wants you to move from guilt to grace as quickly as possible. Put your past behind you and start building your new regret-free life. Live forgiven. [adapted from chapter nine from Starting Over: The Problem of Guilt.]

Facebooktwitterrss

God’s Forgiveness Makes You Perfect in the Eyes of God

God’s forgiveness makes you perfect in the eyes of God. Can you believe that? My hope is that my new book, Starting Overfinding God’s forgiveness when you find it hard to forgive yourself, will convince you of just that.

Today I’m quoting from Day Eight of the devotional where I look at the benefits of forgiveness.

Forgiveness Makes you Perfect in the Eyes of God

Perfect in the eyes of God. That might sound too good to be true. I had it explained to me like this. Imagine that you and Jesus are sitting side by side and Jesus asks Father God: Which one of us is more perfect in your sight? What would the Father say? He’d say, “You are both perfect in my sight.”

When I first heard this, it sounded wrong. How could I be equally perfect in God’s sight as Jesus? But that’s what Jesus’ death did for you and me. The Bible tells us:

By one sacrifice God has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Hebrews 10:14 (emphasis is mine)

This verse is about you. Jesus’ death made you perfect in the eyes of God, not for a moment, but forever. It tells you that Jesus’ death cleaned your slate.

When my kids were little and they started washing dishes, I’d often have to go back and rewash them because they missed some spots. Our forgiveness is a lot like that. It’s spotty. It’s not often complete. But God’s forgiveness is perfect. The word “perfect” means “to be fully complete. Nothing lacking.” As a result, you stand before God completely blameless.

When is the last time someone looked at you as completely blameless? Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone look at you without remembering all of your mistakes, all your sin, all your failure, and past history? That’s how God looks at you.

But the really good news is that this cleansing isn’t a temporary state. It doesn’t have a thirty-day shelf life. This cleansing lasts…forever. That means you can breathe deep. Relax. Quit looking over your shoulder. Your struggle is over. You’ve been restored to God and he is now in the process of making you “holy,” that is, set apart for his purposes. From Day Eight: Perfect in God’s Eyes.

Click here to view the book on Amazon.com

Facebooktwitterrss

Stop Punishing Yourself and Find God’s Forgiveness

As I prepare to launch my newest book: STARTING OVER how to find God’s forgiveness when you find it hard to forgive yourself …I’m releasing portions of the book in advance. This is from the meditation called: Stop punishing yourself.

If you would like a free advance PDF copy of the book, I’m happy to send it to you in exchange for posting a review of the book on Amazon.com on the day it launches (currently projected at April 10th). Request your copy here.

Stop Punishing Yourself

WHY ARE WE SO QUICK to dwell on our failure? I think it’s because we feel the need to punish ourselves for what we’ve done. Rather than embrace God’s forgiveness and celebrate it, we embrace guilt as our cross to bear: our penalty for failing God.

We know we can’t make things right. We can’t undo our past or fix what’s broken. But maybe if we embrace guilt God will see our remorse and be pleased with us. We hope that embracing guilt will salve our regret and soften God’s judgment against us.

That’s our solution…as bad as it is. But God has a better solution. He forgives us. I know that might sound simplistic; the apostle Paul put it like this:

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. 2 Corinthians 5:19 (emphasis mine)

That’s such a simple definition of forgiveness: not counting your sins against you. Paul compares God to an accountant checking his books with its debts and credits. In God’s “ledger book” you have no outstanding debts. You don’t have to worry about getting harassing “collection calls” because Jesus paid all your debts with God.    A selection from Starting Over


If you struggle with accepting God’s forgiveness, this book is for you. If you know someone who struggles with forgiveness, it’s for them too. Please share this post with them and look for the book on April 10th.

Facebooktwitterrss

Your New Life Starts Here: God’s Forgiveness

I’m preparing to launch my new book: Starting Over...how to find God’s forgiveness when you find it hard to forgive yourself. The launch date is set for April 10, the Monday of Easter week. I thought that was an appropriate time to launch a book about God’s forgiveness and starting a new life.

Leading up to the launch I’m going to post selections from the new book. It’s a short devotional with twenty meditations about God’s radical, unconditional forgiveness.

If you would like to get a free copy of the book now, in exchange for posting a review on the Amazon.com sale page, I’ll gladly send you one. Request your free copy here.

Day One: Throwing it all away

TIME magazine reported the reemergence of Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York. He was known as a man who fought corruption with a vengeance only to be exposed as a regular user of a high dollar prostitution ring. To make matters worse, he covered his addiction by sending money to shell corporations that funneled the money back to the prostitution ring. TIME called it,

…hypocrisy on a scale that was hard to fathom…as if Eliot Ness had been busted for peddling gin from his apartment. [1]

When the news hit the paper, his career was over. Currently he is trying to find his way back into politics, but the writer of the story wasn’t so sure it could happen. She said,

To learn that Spitzer was the world’s biggest hypocrite, that he’d thrown it all away to frequent prostitutes, was devastating, a lapse that could never be forgiven.

When she mentioned this to Spitzer, he responded,

“’How do you think I feel?’ he said, his eyes welling up. ‘I know exactly how you feel. At one point I stood for something that was important and useful. I was in a place in time where I had a purpose, where it mattered. And then I destroyed it.’”

Thankfully his wife seemed to forgive him but not without some residue in their relationship. The article said,

His wife…appears to have forgiven him. “I don’t know if you can ever mend something like this, in the sense of repair the canvas so that you never see the tear in the fabric,” he said. “I’m incredibly lucky to be with a woman who is willing to deal with that tear in the fabric and keep moving forward.”[2]

Spitzer said there would always be a scar in the fabric of his marriage. TIME said the public would never be able to forgive him. And Spitzer himself said he destroyed his purpose in life.

As I read this, it made me wonder if Spitzer will be defined by his indiscretion for the rest of his life. Will his name be synonymous with hypocrisy and prostitution forever? Will he ever be able to move beyond his mistakes or the shame?

Maybe you have also made mistakes, or suffered failures, that haunt you and rob you of the life that God planned for you. Can you imagine hitting the “reset” button on your life? How would that change things for you?

God has good things in store for you. He wants to help you start over. That’s what I want to explore over the next few pages. Let’s work at getting your life back.


Thanks for reading this excerpt from chapter one of Starting Over. Remember to request your free copy if you are willing to post a review of the book on the day it launches, April 10th. Thanks!

[1] Elliot Ness was the leader of the famed “Untouchable” crime squad that fought bootleggers during Prohibition.

[2] Eliot Spitzer’s Impossible Mission, by Sheelah Kolhatkar, March 15, 2010, TIME

Facebooktwitterrss

Discover God’s Forgiveness in “Starting Over”

I’m convinced that one of the most overlooked truths in the Bible is God’s absolute and unconditional forgiveness. God’s forgiveness is assumed but not embraced. Most believers are afraid to admit this allowing unresolved guilt to eat away at them.

Finding God’s Forgiveness

God's forgiveness

Discover God’s Forgiveness

As a result of failing to understand and accept God’s forgiveness, people fall into a variety of legalistic traps. Their guilt pushes them away from God and into a hamster-wheel of performance, working daily to please God and people, hoping for their acceptance.

Sound familiar?

To counteract this Christian secret I have written a short book called: Starting Over...finding God’s forgiveness when you find it hard to forgive yourself.

The book lays out in plain language why God forgave us and how he did it. My hope is that after people read this book they will understand God’s forgiveness in a way that will convince them of its reality. I want to help people push past their regret and start living the new life that God has for them.

One early reviewer wrote:

I’ve always struggled feeling worthy of God’s love. I can honestly say that after reading “Starting Over” that I feel a stronger connection with God and his gift of forgiveness.

Get a Free Copy of “Starting Over”

I’m hoping to launch the book by Easter (April 16th) but I need some help. I’d like 50 people to read it and then post a review on amazon.com the day I launch it.

If you are willing to help me out, I’ll send you a free PDF copy today when you email with your request. On launch day you will get the Kindle version for free.

The book takes less than two hours to read. Have we got a deal? Email me here to request your copy. I’ll notify you when the book launches. You can also help me out by sharing this post on Facebook. A few of your friends might appreciate the chance to read the book.

Thanks for your help!

Facebooktwitterrss

Trump’s Apology and Cheap Grace

Trump's apologyDonald Trump’s apology last week,  and the quick acceptance by some of his apology,  provide us with a teachable moment. I’d like to bring some clarity to what makes up an apology so we can all be better at it.

(Please note, this is not a political statement. My blog and books are dedicated to helping people to be spiritually and emotionally healthy. Put aside your politics for a moment. See what you can learn about apologies so you can apologize well and expect more from those who apologize.)*

What Is An Apology?

First, let’s look at what makes up an apology. I’ve written a number of posts about making an apology on this blog. In fact, I wrote four posts on each aspect of an apology. But here is a brief overview of the four components to an apology:

  1. Fully admit (100%) to what you did, and it’s impact, to everyone offended.  Resist the temptation to excuse, minimize, blame others, or justify your actions in any way.
  2. Express true sorrow for the impact of your offense. Speak in terms that show people you understand the pain you’ve caused them (empathy).
  3. Ask forgiveness of all those offended.
  4. Work to rebuild trust by stopping the offensive behavior, taking corrective action, and making amends.

When you take these four steps, there is a good chance that people will forgive your behavior. They might also give you a shot at  restoring the relationship. If you cut corners, you run the risk of intensifying the offense instead of removing it.

Measuring Trump’s Apology

If you read/watch Trump’s apology, observe how it lines up with these four steps. Trump’s words fail the test of a true apology at each point. For example:

  1. Full admission: Trump said he has “said and done things” he regrets, but he never mentioned what they were. He never apologized directly to the women he referenced. He minimized his actions by saying his words were merely “locker room talk,” a mere distraction to more important issues, and that the event was ten years old.
  2. True sorrow: Trump never mentioned the impact that his actions had on anyone or expressed sorrow for the impact.
  3. Asking forgiveness. He did not ask for forgiveness of any individuals or the public at large.
  4. Making amends. Nothing was said about how he would try to make this up to the people he hurt or the trust he broke. Eighty percent of the words in his statement sought to justify himself, divert people’s attention, and even attack Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Chris Christie, one of Trump’s biggest backers, thought the statement fell short of an apology:

When asked whether he thought Trump’s apology was enough, Christie responded, “I didn’t think it was on Friday or Saturday, and I told him that. I would have done it much differently.” “He should have been much more direct and much more focused on saying, just saying, “‘I’m sorry’ and only ‘I’m sorry,’” Christie added. ABC News

What bothers me so much about Trump’s statement is that it set a poor example for other people to follow.  It reinforces our low view of what makes up an apology. He’s not alone. Most people in the news offer an apology similar to Trump’s.

These “apologies” confuse people about what is necessary to reconcile an offense. Just because they use the words “I apologize” doesn’t mean it’s a true apology. We should expect more from them.

Cheap Grace

The response that I’ve heard from many people is that, “He apologized. I forgive him. Let’s move on.” I’m all for forgiveness, but the sentence I just quoted lacks a great deal of logic for these reasons:

  • “He apologized.” No he didn’t, for the reasons I mentioned above. He only said the words “I apologize.” It was merely his attempt to appease people who were offended.
  • “I forgive him.” To “forgive” simply means to give up the right to get even with someone: to pay them back. So yes, we can hopefully all forgive Trump and not try to pay him back. No one should slander him or rob him of dignity, even though his words did that to others.
  • “Let’s move on.” To move on just because someone used the words, “I apologize” is naive at best. If the behavior in question is a pattern, then we have a right to ask for verification of a change of behavior.  We aren’t talking about the misbehavior of a neighbor or co-worker here. This is a candidate for the presidency of the United States. It’s fair to expect more.

I can forgive you for your behavior, but if your behavior broke my trust, then you need to rebuild my trust before I gift you with it again. To trust someone who hasn’t shown, what the Bible calls, “the fruits (evidence) of repentance” is foolish. You are asking to be hurt again.

It’s shameful to accept an “apology” or offer forgiveness simply to white-wash immoral behavior and release someone from their accountability to their behavior. That is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to as “cheap grace.” God’s grace is more than mercy. It’s the power to live a new life and be a better person. I can forgive Donald Trump without him changing his behavior. But to trust him without him offering a true apology and rebuilding trust is to misunderstand and misuse the grace of God.

Seizing a Teachable Moment

I’m not writing this post to promote Hillary Clinton. She might be just as guilty of what I’m saying about Trump. Trump’s behavior is what’s in the news right now and provides us with a teachable moment on the issues surrounding what it means to apologize. Vote for whomever you’d like, but let’s be clear that the examples of Trump’s apology, and his supporters acceptance of that apology, miss the mark. My hope is that you and I will have a higher standard whenever we seek to recover from a broken relationship.

You might enjoy this article by two experts in the field of forgiveness.

  • updated, 10/15/16, 11:30 a.m. CST.
Facebooktwitterrss