The Good Guy and Bad Guy Chairs

When someone has seriously wronged us, especially when they don’t acknowledge the wrong and their hurtful behavior still continues, it’s really easy to put them in the Bad Guy Chair. This automatically puts us in the Good Guy Chair. Which on the surface doesn’t seem so bad. After all, we’re the innocently wronged party here, right?

But there’s a catch. A subtle, tricky, deadly catch. Just like a hook is death to a fish, the God Guy Chair is one of Satan’s sneakiest and most deadly hooks to our spiritual growth and life in the Kingdom.

Because the Good Guy Chair has another name. A secret name. A hidden name. It’s real name. And you really don’t want to be in this chair:

The Victim Chair.

Nothing stunts our spiritual growth faster than a respite in the Victim Chair. Because holding the other person in the Bad Guy Chair sucks us into the Victim Chair with a force as deterministic as gravity. In fact, go ahead and call it Spiritual Gravity. Unforgiveness. And unforgiveness is the most effective spiritual growth killer in Satan’s arsenal.

Here’s the deception: We don’t think of ourselves as being unforgiving. We may have even overtly “forgiven” the other person. But secretly in our hearts, we haven’t. As long as we still consider them the Bad Guy, our unforgiveness holds them in the Bad Guy Chair, which holds us in the Victim Chair, which arrests our spiritual growth right there. It condemns us to a life of bitterness and victimization. Who wants that?

The trick is, the only way out of the Victim Chair is to release the other person from the Bad Guy Chair. But wait! You don’t know what they did to me! It was really, really bad!!! Yes, it was. Forgiveness doesn’t mean minimizing the evil they did to you or pretending like it never happened.

They did something horrible to you. Hold them accountable for it with whatever (godly) means are at your disposal. Press charges if it’s a criminal act. Confront them. Set boundaries so they can’t hurt you again. Holding them accountable gives them opportunity to come out of their deception that caused them to hurt you in the first place. It also protects futures victims from becoming victims.

But here’s the point: They themselves are not the evil thing they did to you. It came out of their own pain and their own deceptions that they are living under. Hurt people hurt people. That does not justify what they did, and they are accountable for it. But coming to the realization that they are not the evil thing they did to you is the essence of true forgiveness. We are not what we do.

Then you finish forgiveness by praying blessing over them. Real blessing, not through gritted teeth. When you can do that, without that heart-twinge because you’re forcing it, you know you’ve released them from the Bad Guy Chair and so you’re out of the Victim Chair. Hallelujah! Let’s hear it for freedom!

The stages of forgiveness parallel the stages of grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. So give yourself a break if you’re not ready to pray true blessing over them yet. Just keep moving in the right direction. Don’t short-change the process. Let yourself be angry. Let yourself grieve. Tell the Lord you want to want to and he’ll get you there.

Is this ringing a bell? Have you gone through this process of forgiveness? Is it something you’re working on? Tell us in the comments. We’d love to hear from you. Your story will help others. And please share on social media (click the appropriate share button below) if you think this would help someone else.

Restitution

A young man went to a wise old guru with a problem, something he just didn’t understand. The young man asked the guru why he can’t take back hurtful words he’d said to someone. He’d apologized, but the relationship wasn’t the same. Why can’t he fix this?

The wise old guru took the young man on a treacherous climb up a tall mountain overlooking a deep gorge. It was very windy up way there. He had brought a feather pillow along with them. The guru took out his knife and slit open the pillow, waving it into the wind, scattering the feathers to the four winds.

Then he turned to the young man. As the guru handed him the now empty pillow fabric, he said, “Your task is to put all the feathers back in the pillow.”

“There’s no way!” exclaimed the young man. “That’s impossible! Once the feathers are out of the pillow, there’s no way to put them all back in again!”

The old guru nodded in agreement. “That’s why you can’t take back your hurtful words. It’s too late. They are already out,” he said. The young man finally got it.

I’m sure many of you have heard this story before. The moral is to be careful what we say. But there’s something else going on here. Turns out there actually is a way to put the feathers back in the pillow. It’s called restitution. It costs you a lot and it’s hard work, but it can be done.

Let me back up a minute. Say Person A wrongs Person B. We’re assuming it’s an accident, not a heinous crime or anything like that. Just normal day-to-day relationship stuff. We’ve all been in both positions.

Say you’re Person B who was wronged. Say Person A borrowed something special to you and lost it or broke it. Maybe the lost a special out of print book, or broke your lawn mower. Maybe they borrowed your car and got in a fender bender. Maybe they accidentally injured you by some careless act on their part. And worse, maybe they acted like it was no big deal. Or maybe they were mortified and replaced it or had it fixed.

Either way, say you’ve forgiven them. But there’s a boundary their now. You’re probably not going to let them borrow something again. Setting healthy boundaries is healthy, and does not (necessarily) mean you’re in unforgiveness. Especially if they act like it was no big deal, and wonder what’s wrong with you that you’re making it one, or they have a pattern of disrespecting other people’s things.

I would totally recommend setting that boundary. It’s not about the item, it’s about honoring, which is the currency in the Kingdom of God. Your boundary forces them to confront the issue in their heart with dishonoring others, which they can choose do to or not. You’re not responsible for their response to a healthy boundary.

Now let’s say you’re Person A, who did the wronging. We’ve all been there. Say you want to repair the relationship. How can you get the other person to remove that boundary? By restitution.

Relationships are like scales. Person B feels like the scales are tipped away from them, like they got the short end of the stick in the transaction. Restitution tips the scales back in their favor. Here are some examples:

If broke your neighbor’s lawn mower, not only do you buy him a new one, top-of-the-line even if his other one was not, you buy him a top-of-the-line weed-whacker as well.

If you lost your friend’s book, not only do you replace it, searching high and low on ebay if you have to if it’s out of print, but you give them a $200 Amazon gift card along with it.

If you got in a fender bender, you not only fix the car, but you replace their stock AM/FM radio with a 6-disc CD changer and a premium surround-sound stereo. (Kudos to John Sandford, founder of Elijah House Ministries, for this example.)

It doesn’t have to be monetary restitution, although those are easy examples.

Maybe you’ve said something really hurtful to your spouse. So you get up early and do some chore they do that you know they hate. Maybe you know they clean the bathrooms every Friday, so you get up at 4:00 AM every Friday so you can do it before going to work. How long? Forever. And you don’t say a word about it. Let them discover it.

Restitution is a sacrifice you make, could be monetary, could be effort, from a place or empathy over the pain you’ve caused them. Not because you’re hurting. Because they’re hurting.

You can only do this with the right heart. This isn’t penance. You’re not trying to manipulate them to drop the boundary because you want something from them. You’ll truly broken and hurt, not because you feel guilty over what you’ve done, but honestly because of the pain you caused them. You hurt because they’re hurting, and you want to bless them.

They may or may not drop the boundary and allow the relationship to be restored. That’s on them and their ability to forgive. But you’ve done, and continue to do, everything you can. Depending on the offense, restitution can take years. But it’s worth it.

If you’re the wronged party, you (usually) can’t demand restitution; that can be manipulation. And you’re perfectly justified keeping your healthy boundary in place forever if they never do anything (words don’t count) to show you their heart has changed.

If you did the wrong, you can’t ask the other person what it takes to lift the boundary; that (usually but not always) shows you’re just in it for the benefit to yourself. You’ve got to figure it out, possibly by trial ‘n’ error. But ask the Lord, he knows, and he’s all over restoring relationships. After all, that’s why he went through that whole cross and resurrection thing.

Does this strike a chord with you? Does this resonate? Tell us in the comments a story where you’ve been on one side or the other. And please share on Facebook if you think this would be helpful to someone else (click the “f” button below).

The Missing Attribute of God

In every situation, no matter how jacked up it is, the thing we need in the heat of that moment is an attribute of God. In fact, God intentionally engineers every negative situation, and every encounter with difficult people, to show us and teach us another attribute of himself.

In the Bible, showing means knowing. In the Bible, there’s no knowledge without experience. In Hebrew thought, and in the Kingdom of God, there’s no such thing as head-knowledge, there’s no such thing as academic knowledge, there’s only experiential knowledge. In fact, the Hebrews had a word for someone with head-knowledge but without experiential knowledge, and that word is all over the book of Proverbs – Fool.

Do you know God is patient? All of us would say “yes”. But am I patient? If I’m not, then I really don’t know God is patient. Do we know God is merciful? All of us would say yes. But do you show mercy, or do you rejoice when people get what’s coming to them? If we laugh and say, “That’s what you get!” then we really don’t know God is merciful.

Take mercy for an example. God will teach us his mercy by putting us in (1) situations where we experience it, and (2) other situations where we get to practice it. Maybe someone will wrong us and we’ll be justified in letting them have it. But maybe we’ll hear the Holy Spirit say to let love cover over this one. Maybe God will give us his heart for that person, that difficult boss, that frustrating co-worker, and we’ll understand their wounding and practice mercy.

I have Graham Cooke to thank for this topic. In his Living Your Truest Identity audio series, Graham asks, What if we can never be challenged by a negative? What if we can only be challenged by the fruit of the spirit? What if, for example, you’re not really frustrated, you just don’t know how to be patient (or self-controlled, or whatever fruit of the spirit or attribute of God he wants to teach you next). What if God actually engineered that frustrating situation because he wants to give you his patience?

I think Graham Cooke has a good point. We are created in the image of God. So if there’s no, say, frustration in God, then there shouldn’t be any in us either. (Actually there is frustration in God – read the OT prophets to see what God gets frustrated about – being out of relationship with his beloved people, even us.) But the point is, if God’s not frustrated at this situation or at this person, if God’s heart for this situation or for this person is not frustration – and we’re created in the image of God – then we must not really be frustrated either, even though we’re acting like it out of our own wounding.

So God is using this frustrating situation or person to move us out of believing the lies brought on by our wounding and our fear, and into the healing and freedom brought by believing his truth. The cure for wounding is healing. The cure for fear is freedom. God wants to give us both, and he does it by expanding who we are into who he is. When we come to understand the character of God, not just in general but specifically for this situation, we understand what attribute of God he engineered this situation to give us.

That’s how Romans 8:28 can say that God works in all things for the good of those who love him. All situations are designed to teach us an attribute of God. All of his attributes are good. Therefore, yes, he’s working for good in all things, because all things are engineered to show us one of his attributes.

Does this resonate? Share an instance in the comments where God used a difficult situation or a difficult person to show you more of himself. Or share a situation you’re currently struggling with – what attribute of God do you need? And please share this on Facebook (or your favorite social media) if it blessed you – just click the share buttons below.

Who’s the Enemy?

Have you ever been so angry you could spit fire? I sure have. Usually it comes from being deeply hurt. When we’re hurt and angry with another person, we often forget who the real enemy is. We easily get deceived into thinking the other person is the enemy.

There is an enemy. He wants to destroy both us and the other person with every fiber of his being. Satan, the prince of this world, is our real enemy. But we forget that in the heat of the moment.

Not knowing who the real enemy is condemns us right up front to fight a losing battle. Why? Because we’re fighting the wrong person with the wrong weapons. Once we get the real enemy right, we can fight effectively with a whole different strategy and a whole different armament. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world (2 Corinthians 10:4). This was brought home beautifully in the movie War Room which I highly recommend and strongly encourage everyone to see.

If this strikes a chord with you, pray with me: Lord, I repent this day for wrongly thinking ________ is the enemy. (Fill the blank for you.) They aren’t my enemy, Lord; they’re just a hurting person like me that you love. I acknowledge my true enemy is Satan, and I ask you Lord for your strategy against Satan in this situation. Help me be a blessing to ________ even when they aren’t to me.

This doesn’t justify the other person’s actions in hurting us nor absolve their responsibility. But it does help us understand they are confused about who the enemy is too. And so they’ve been tricked into reacting out of their wounding. Hurt people hurt people.

Does this resonate with you? Ever been down this road? Tell us your story in the comments.

Knowing Means Experience

It’s story time again. As Saul of Taurus found out one sunny day outside Damascus, one experience can trash years of theoretical study. In the Hebrew culture and hence in the Bible, “knowing” means “experiencing.” The ivory tower head-knowledge-only that we’ve come to value so much is from the Greeks and Aristotle. The Hebrews had a word for someone with academic and theoretical knowledge only without experience, and it’s used all over the book of Proverbs. The word is “fool.” (No wonder so much of what Aristotle taught was just flat out wrong!) Anyway, I hope you enjoy this story.

 

“How dare they? How dare they claim this dead heretic Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee of all places, is the Messiah?!? I have no patience or kindness for them. I dragged them out of their beds from their houses in Jerusalem and into prison, and I will do the same to them in Damascus. I have letters from the chief priests in Jerusalem, giving me the authority. We ride there now!

“I am envious of their confidence, even to the point of their death, in their false Messiah, and I hate them all the more for it. But what do they know? Taught by a bunch of unrighteous fisherman and tax collectors!

“But I, Saul of Tarsus, will boast of my own faultless legal righteousness as I have good reason for such confidence! An Israelite of Israelites, of the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the eighth day according to the Law of Moses, a Hebrew of Hebrews, and a Pharisee of Pharisees! Of this I have a right to be proud,” I exhort my companions as we ride along. My righteousness will certainly encourage their zeal!

Nathan interrupts me, “Look, Saul, we’re almost to the city gate!”

“Quiet, Nathan, I’m monologuing!” I retort. How rude!

“You don’t have to rude,” Nathan mumbles under his breath.

I continue to inspire them: “I have sought hard my own advancement among the Pharisees, and have advanced further than any of my contemporaries! My anger was easily aroused by these heretics, and I shall keep a record of every one of their wrongs! I delight in seeing them arrested, and will never rejoice in their heresy.”

“Alas, that we cannot always protect our people from such heretics! Our trust in our Sadducee leaders fades, and our hope diminishes under every stroke of the Roman lash. We cannot always persevere, and sometimes we fail, but always …”

Right in the middle of my big finale, a most inconvenient thing happens. Lightening appears all around us, on a perfectly clear and sunny day! The thunder booms simultaneously and my horse throws me to the ground and bolts. I land flat and hard with a thud that knocks the wind out of me. And still this light is everywhere, even when I close my eyes! I can’t see anything else!

“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads,” says a voice from all around me. A voice like I’d never heard before – like a mighty waterfall or rushing river – the sound of many waters.

“Who are you, Lord?” I ask rather sheepishly.

“I am Jesus, who you are persecuting,” replies the voice. Now this is awkward.

“Get up and go into the city, and I will tell you what to do,” the voice continued. “I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and my witness to what I have shown you and will show you.”

I find my companions, or rather they find me. The light never goes away and it’s all I can see. I always thought blind people saw just blackness, and maybe they do. But my blindness is different. All I can see is white light everywhere, even when I close my eyes! My companions lead me by the hand into the city. 

 

It’s been three days here in Damascus, at the house of Judas on Straight Street. Nathan is trying to encourage me to eat. Again. “Saul, here, smell this fresh hot bread! You have to eat something!” But I just push it away. “At least drink something, it’s been three days, you’re weak, and you look terrible. Come get your strength back.” He puts a cup of clear, cold water to my lips, but I turn my head and refuse to drink.

“Nathan, thank you for all you’ve done for me, and all you’re trying to do. You’re a good friend,” I tell him. “But I can’t eat or drink until the Lord Jesus restores my sight. He me told so.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he says in frustration, as he continues in his Australian accent, “and some guy we don’t even know named Ananias is going to come, somehow find us, pray for you, and restore your sight. Right. You’ve been telling us that for three bloody days, mate!”

“The Lord Jesus showed me in a vision,” I remind him gently.

“In a vision!” He throws up his hands in frustration. “And will you stop talking about ‘the Lord Jesus’ for Heaven’s sake? Those nut jobs are the bad guys, remember? Dead heretic from Nazareth in Galilee of all places, letters from the chief priests, going to drag them back to Jerusalem to stand trial… Any of this ringing a bell?”

I pray silently for Nathan, that the Lord Jesus would open his eyes as well.

“Ok, look,” Nathan continues, “you had a nasty fall there off your horse, and you landed really hard. It’s understandable you’re shaken up a bit. It was just some really bright lightening… on a completely… clear… sunny day…” he trails off. “Ok, I admit that bit’s a bit hard to explain, alright? Maybe it was just a reflection off the Roman shields up on the city wall or something. But, look, we don’t know anyone here in this whole city named Ananias.”

“The Lord Jesus will bring him here,” I say softly but confidently.

“Well apparently ‘the Lord Jesus’ has trouble reading a map. It’s been three bloody days, mate! He could have walked here from Jerusalem by now! Where is this Ananias bloke anyway?”

There’s a loud knock at the door. “Judas,” calls Nathan, “get the door, will ya?!? I’m trying to talk some sense into him.”

After a moment, Judas comes in with a stranger, and says in his southern drawl, “Um, Nathan, this here’s somewhat awkward. This here fella’s name is Ananias, and he’s here to pray for Saul, to restore his sight.”

I would give anything to not be blind and see Nathan’s face at this moment… Priceless!

 

After Ananias prays for me, and scales or something fall off my eyes and I can see normally again, he tells me, “Saul, I must admit I was more than a little afraid of coming here and seeing you, after everything I heard about in Jerusalem. But the Lord Jesus told me, and I think you should know, that you are his chosen instrument to carry his name before the Gentiles and their kings, and before the people of Israel. And he said he will show you how much you must suffer for his name.”

I thank and embrace Ananias. We part as friends, no, as dear brothers – I, who rode here with hatred in my heart for him and all the brothers, and he, who knows this and still extends the hand of friendship and brotherhood to me.

How shall I respond to my Lord, who in love revealed himself to me, took off all my hate, and now in love calls me to share in his sufferings?

Now I understand love. Now I know love. Now I’ve experienced love. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

How shall I respond to love? By loving him back, serving the one I love, and the ones he loves. It is an honor that I don’t deserve, chief of sinners as I am. But I will gladly, expectantly, suffer for the sake of the Name of Jesus, and the loving relationship he started with me through this experience.

How about you? 

– Based on Acts 8:3, Acts 9:1-19, 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, Galatians 1:13-14, Philippians 3:4-6, and 1 Timothy 1:15.

 

Experience is not an end in itself, it needs to be consistent with scripture (i.e., the exact experience doesn’t have to necessarily be found in scripture, but it can’t contradict it). But if we only know about God without actually experiencing him, then we don’t really know Jesus.

How about you? Any of this resonate? If so, please share on social media (convenient share buttons below) and leave us a comment. We’ve love to hear your story of experiencing God!