The Secret to Repairing a Relationship You’ve Damaged

We’ve all done it. We’ve damaged a relationship we cared about. We know we’re at fault, although we don’t like to admit it. How can we repair that relationship? Some would say it’s like feathers shaken out of a pillow on a mountaintop—you can never put them back in—it’s too late. I respectfully disagree. There is a way to put the feathers back in the pillow.

Relationships are like bank accounts. They have balances. When we damaged the relationship, we tipped the scale away from the other person. From their point-of-view, there’s a negative balance in the account. That’s why the relationship’s damaged. We need to make a deposit.

“Making it right” is not good enough. Maybe we broke or lost something that belonged to the other person. Just replacing the item is not enough, although that technically “makes it right” and undoes the thing we did. But really we just brought the negative balance back to zero. The other person went from a positive balance to zero—they still lost overall in the transaction. They’ve forgiven us at this point, but they still feel slighted in the transaction, which is why the relationship is damaged.

The secret is to make a deposit (or several deposits) great enough to get the other person above their previous positive balance. Once they feel the scales are tipped back in their favor, you’ve repaired the relationship.

Look at it from their point-of-view. Say my neighbor borrows my car, gets in a fender-bender, and has it repaired. He brings it back and says, “Hey, Dave, I got in an accident but I got it repaired. Here’s your car.” I thank him and forgive him, but am I going to let him borrow my car again? Nope. I feel slighted in the transaction. Now my car’s been in an accident. They never quite drive the same. My resale value is negatively affected, blah, blah, blah. While I’m thankful he at least fixed my car, the relationship is still damaged, because I feel like I’m still getting the short end of the stick.

But say he brings my car back and says this instead: “Hey, Dave, I got in an accident but I got it repaired. While it was in the shop, I took out your stock AM/FM radio and replaced it with a state-of-the-art, surround-sound, premium sound system, with a 6 CD disc changer. Here’s your car.” Now can he borrow my car again? Anytime he wants! And I hope he gets in an accident! Maybe I’ll get spinners next time. (Kudos to John Sandford, Elijah House Ministries, for this example.)

You see how this works? It’s called Restitution. It’s the secret to repairing damaged relationships. You have to go over and above to do something the other person views as significant to tip the scales back in their favor. Restitution makes a deposit that takes the relationship balance back above where it was previously, in the other person’s eyes.

Here’s a couple more 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 her a $200 Amazon gift card along with it.

It doesn’t have to be monetary restitution, although those are easy examples. Here’s a non-monetary one.

  • Maybe you’ve said or did something really hurtful to your spouse. So you get up early and do some chore they normally 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 of empathy over the pain you’ve caused them. Not because you’re hurting. Because they’re hurting.

Some caveats here:

  • It has to be something significant from the other person’s point-of-view, not from yours. It has to be something meaningful to them.
  • You can’t ask them—that just comes across as the manipulation it is. This might not seem fair, but think about it. Once you ask, you make it about you: “What box do I have to check to get on your good side again?” But that’s not fair! I can’t read their mind! No, but:
    • The Holy Spirit can, and will tell you the answer if you seek him out about it. God is totally into restoring relationships. That’s what that whole cross thing was about.
    • If you care enough about the relationship, you’ll put the effort into figuring it out. Trial ‘n’ error is ok.
  • You can only do this with the right heart. This isn’t penance. You’re not trying to manipulate them 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 not hurt them.
  • Don’t bother with narcissists. There are people that secretly rejoice inside when you do something negative to them. They hold that negative bank account over your head as a way to manipulate and control you, and no restitution you do is ever enough. I wrote this post with the assumption that the relationship you’re trying to repair is a healthy one. No relationship with a narcissist is a healthy one. Do whatever a reasonable person would accept, but don’t submit to any control a narcissist tries to exert beyond that. If they walk away from the relationship, let them.

The other person may or may not allow the relationship to be restored. That’s on them and their ability to forgive. But you’ve done, and continue to do, everything the Holy Spirit lays on your heart to do. Depending on the offense, restitution can take years. But it’s so worth it.

Does this strike a chord with you? Does this resonate? Tell us your story in the comments. How did you repair that relationship? And please share if you think this would help someone else (share buttons below).

A Sabbath Priority

If you’ve read this blog for long, you know I’ve been struggling to take a Sabbath rest, and periodically I’ve been posting what I’m learning in this process. I’m not taking Sabbaths as a legalistic thing, but as something God’s put on my heart as important. (It did make the 10 Commandments, after all. It’s certainly the one I understand the least, and I don’t think I’m alone here in Western Christianity.) He wants me to unplug partly to spend extended time with him, partly for self-investment by reading the books on my reading list, and partly because I physically need the rest. Anyway, I successfully took a Sabbath rest this past Sunday! And I was successful for one reason. And only one reason. I made it a priority.

I made taking a Sabbath a priority even over this blog, our ministry, which is why this post was posted on Tuesday instead of on Monday this week. In fact, we’re moving our blog posts to Tuesdays for this reason. Allow me to pull back the curtain on our blog process in a moment of honesty.

My goal’s always been to have blog posts queued up several weeks in advance. That has worked only sporadically, for a few weeks at a time, and then I’m back to posting the week I write. The last 9 out of 15 weeks, I’ve written the post on Sunday afternoon. “Egads, it‘s Sunday afternoon! I need a post for tomorrow!” Usually I have an idea at least before then, but sometimes the Holy Spirit’s come through at the last minute. This has put a sizeable dent in my Sabbaths. Which I thought was ok. After all, this is my ministry, right?

Until this Sunday afternoon where I again was needing a post for the next day. And the Holy Spirit spoke clearly to me: “No.”

Then I asked myself the question, “What would happen if I took a Sabbath anyway, and wrote the post Monday afternoon instead, posting Tuesday morning?” I felt the Holy Spirit’s pleasure with that option. It’s something I’d not considered before. So I took a Sabbath rest instead of writing my blog post, and I was so blessed. God was so close. And I was truly refreshed. What do you know, God’s way works!  🙂  I bet it would bless you, too.

What I’ve learned through this is my Sabbath rest is more important to God than my ministry. That’s a mind-blow, huh?

The truth is, I won’t take a Sabbath rest unless I make it a priority, which means guarding it against other good things by saying “no” to them, which is my action step for this week.

Action Step: I am now making my Sabbath rest a priority, and will guard it by saying “no” to other good things.

Does this resonate with you? Do you take a Sabbath rest, or some weekly time of refreshing? Can you do it without being intentional about it? How has it blessed you? Tell us your story in the comments.

Changing the Unchangeable

If we’re really made in God’s image (see Genesis 1:26-27), can we change the unchangeable? Is there any greater use of authority than changing the weather? Talk about something “bigger than us.” Could there be any greater miracle?

In a former life, I was doing sneaky government stuff, or more properly supporting sneaky government stuff as a contractor. In order for our mission to succeed, we needed (mostly) clear weather over a 30-day period, on the other side of the world, in a particular place where statistically there was never clear weather at this time of year. It wasn’t looking good for the mission.

So my friend Don P, who had a deep, intimate relationship with Jesus and was one of the Ops Directors, announced at the daily high-level senior staff meeting that we were going to pray for clear weather, and that he believed God was going to deliver. Talk about going out on a limb! He was politely mocked, especially by a peer, another Ops Director named Dave T, who was a devote atheist. Don P and Dave T had some very interesting late night conversations.

Don P and I and others had a prayer group that met at lunch. So we prayed for the weather during that 30-day period.

The next morning at the senior staff meeting, when the big-wigs got the briefing of the previous night’s results, they discovered the weather in that place on the other side of the world had been clear as a bell. “Ok, you got lucky once,” was Dave T’s dismissive response. We continued to pray.

After 8 days straight of perfectly clear weather (which was darn-near statistically impossible), Dave T’s response was a hilarious mixture, to us at least. It was, on the one hand, extreme joy that this unlikely mission was succeeding, but on the other hand, extreme annoyance that God seemed to have something to do with it. He’d come in, shake his head, smile, and just say, “Keep praying”!

Don P had the last laugh.

There were some cloudy days in that 30-day period. In the end, the mix of clouds and clear weather we experienced was exactly the reverse of the statistical prediction. The mission succeeded, and God got the glory, at least between one hard-core atheist and one intense Jesus-lover.

As God’s image-bearers, we can do stuff like this. It should be Christianity 101. And yet far too often we look to supernatural solutions as last resort. Asking for God’s intervention in the natural world, or using the authority he’s given us to command it ourselves, should be the norm.

Another time, closer to home, my brother was doing electrical work with his friend, another electrician named Harlan. I knew (and worked for) Harlan personally, and he really loved the Lord. Anyway they were working on a room addition on a friend’s house as a side job, so it had to get done on a Saturday. But this Saturday was particularly rainy, and you can’t do construction, much less electrical, in the rain, since the addition was just framed with no roof yet.

They prayed when they started in the morning. It rained all over the neighborhood, all around the house where they were working. It literally rained on the houses to each side, but not on their job site.

When they broke for lunch under the covered, back-yard porch, it started dumping. After lunch, while it was still raining on their jobsite, Harlan stood up and said, “Well, time to get back to work.” After he said that, the others watched in awe as a curtain of rain moved across the swimming pool and out of the yard. The jobsite had no rain once again. Harlan was not surprised.

Why do we doubt? Jesus did it when he calmed the storm (Matthew 8:23-27 and Mark 4:35-41). And he said we’d do greater things than he did (John 14:12). Personally, I’d like to try it! Would you?

Action Step: I will be sensitive to situations where the natural world, including the weather, needs to be dorked with. I will listen to the Holy Spirit with expectation and not doubt, and I will pray what and how he tells me, whether by petition or by command. Either way, I’ll expect to see God move, and be surprised if he doesn’t rather than if he does.

How about you? Have you seen something like this happen, where God changed the weather for you? Share your story in the comments. And please share on social media if you think this would bless someone else.

The Authority of Image-Bearers

Recently my partner Ted and I learned something about the authority we have in Jesus as God’s image-bearers.

We were co-leading a Bible study for men (post-abortive recovery) at the crisis pregnancy center where we volunteer in Fredericksburg, VA. Ted was on a business trip in Boston. No biggie, we both have iPads, he could just FaceTime in. I’d set my iPad on a box in Ted’s chair, and it’d be just like he was in the room with us.

The night of the Bible study though, we discovered the wifi at Ted’s hotel was really bad. Not just sort of bad, like three-day-old-leftovers bad. But really bad, like rotten-eggs-sulphur-smell bad. We had been trying for like 10 minutes, but the connection was so sketchy it was dropping literally every 30-60 seconds. This was just not going to work, and it was completely out of our control. Or was it?

We prayed, “Lord, by the authority of the blood of Jesus, we take authority over the bandwidth of this connection, and we ask that you line up angels, wingtip to wingtip between Fredericksburg and Boston, and just shuttle the packets back and forth so we experience no more dropouts.” From that moment on, we had a two-hour connection without a single dropout.

When we finished, we thanked the Lord for protecting our connection, and prayed that he could release the angels now with our gratitude. Within 20 seconds we lost the connection.

Skeptics call that a coincidence. But when you see enough “coincidences” you start to believe. I’ve got a graduate-level degree in mathematics, and I know enough about network engineering to know that what we experienced that night was, without the intervention of God, something statisticians call “statistically impossible.” In other words, it takes a lot less faith to believe that God intervened supernaturally in that situation, because we asked him to, than to believe it was just a “coincidence.”

The point of this true story is that we, as God’s image-bearers, have authority over the natural world. We should use it. It’s who we really are.

Genesis 1:26-27 peeks in on God talking to himself as he made people:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

So often we just skip over that without thinking about what it really means. But it’s amazing! God created us in his image, his likeness, with his authority over the natural world. Yeah, we gave that authority over to the usurper, Satan, during the Fall in Genesis 3, but Jesus restored it through the cross. We have authority in his blood. Everything submits to his name.

Jesus clearly had authority over nature, calming the storm in Matthew 8:23-27 and Mark 4:35-41, and walking on the water in Matthew 14:22-33. But that was Jesus not us!

Oh yeah? Peter walked on the water, too. And c’mon, if big-mouth Peter could do it… Seriously.

Jesus himself said that we would do even greater things than he did (John 14:12). And the Bible says of itself that these things were written down as examples for us (1 Corinthians 10:11). Examples of what’s possible. Examples of what we should expect. Examples of what should be Normal Christian Life 101.

Action Step: I’ll be sensitive to when things in the natural world need changing, and realize I’m God’s agent of change in that situation. I’ll take authority by the blood of Jesus and command the change that needs to happen. I won’t let fear of it not working hold me back. That’s God’s problem.

How about you? Tell us your story in the comments. What have you seen happen? What prayers over the natural world have you seen God answer? And please share if this would bless someone else.

The Kingdom of God Is Not a Buffet

Ever order a medium rare filet mignon, and it comes out warm-red-center perfect, but with mushrooms on it? What made them think putting fungus on my perfect steak was a good idea?!? At least I can scrape off the mushrooms—Janet will eat them. But when I order Jesus’ resurrection power off the menu of my life, I can’t scrape off the suffering God uses to bring me that power.

The Kingdom of God is not a buffet. We can’t take an extra scoop of God’s power in our lives and just pass on the suffering. The power and the glory come through the suffering. If you’re like me, you’re going, “Really, God? What’s up with that?” But Paul said it best:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

Do you see the mystery in these verses? In scripture “know” means “experience”. So experiencing the power of Jesus’ resurrection in our lives is tied to sharing in his suffering. Hmmm. Not my idea of a good time. The suffering part, that is.

But I want Jesus’ resurrection power in my life. In my family. Don’t you? I want to see miracles in my life. I want to see my family members healed when they’re sick. I want to just speak and have the natural world obey me. I want to have an impact on this world. A Kingdom impact. I want to live who he created me to be.

There’s just one catch. Experiencing Jesus’ resurrection power is tied to sharing in his suffering. And Paul uses a very interesting word to describe that sharing. Fellowship. It’s in the suffering, not in the miracles, where we experience fellowship with Jesus. That seems really counter-intuitive to me, but thank God—that’s where we need him the most.

Actually, we could pass on the suffering, or try to. And we will live very mediocre, powerless, “safe” lives, and a lot of people do. Or. Or. Or. We could, just maybe, dare to trust God. Chin up, bear up well under whatever suffering and pain he brings us through, and come out the other side living a wild, Kingdom-of-God adventure like we never even dreamed possible.

What do you think? I’ll take the wild ride. Will you? Does this resonate? Tell us your story in the comments or shoot us an email. We want to hear from you. And please share on social media if this blessed you or made you think. (Click the share buttons below.)

Suffering Is A Blessing

What?!? Dave, have you completely lost your mind? I know that’s what most of us (including me) think when reading that title. But it really is true. The suffering we pass through really is a blessing.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

I don’t know about you, but my first reaction to suffering is to certainly consider it something – but not pure joy. What was James smoking? I want some.

We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us. (Romans 5:3b-5a)

I think Laura Story has it right in her song Raindrops – suffering really is God’s blessing in disguise.

There are two reasons we suffer. One we bring on ourselves, and the other God brings on us. Either way, it’s a blessing.

The suffering we bring on ourselves is the logical consequences of our unrighteous actions. I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t punish sin as much as he allows it to punish itself. He removes his hand of protection and lets us taste just a bit of the stew we’ve cooked. Just enough to bring us to repentance. This is a blessing – God doesn’t leave us in our sin, but he uses its logical consequences to free us from it. He brings us to confession and repentance, getting our attention through suffering the logical consequences.

If we keep a short tab with God and repent quickly when he allows stuff to catch up with us, we avoid longer-term consequences. The suffering is a blessing – it keeps us from something worse.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. (Hebrews 12:7a)

The second type of suffering is the type God brings on us for his glory and our benefit. Remember the debate God and Satan had over Job? Who brought Job into that conversation? God did! Twice! (See Job 1:8 and Job 2:3.) “Have you considered my servant Job?”

Often, God brings difficult things, suffering, into our lives to give us something we can endure. Not only to build character into our lives, to make us more like him, but also so he has something he can reward us for. That’s a tough pill to swallow, especially when you’ve suddenly lost a loved one or you’re going through some other tragedy in your life. I don’t want to make light of that or be flip about it. It’s not easy. It hurts. It hurts bad.

But God is in there. I went through a tragedy in my life and was on my face for a year-and-a-half crying out the Lord. He met me in that place, and in the very difficult years that followed. My story is a testimony to his faithfulness and presence through great pain.

A lot of times the suffering doesn’t seem fair. And it’s not. The suffering is only for a season, but the rewards of bearing up under it well and with faith are forever. Totally not fair, but not fair in our favor.

Worship (corporate and private) is the greatest comfort to me in my times of suffering.  How about you? Has the Lord been faithful? Can we stand with you in something while you’re waiting? Tell us in the comments.

You Are Not What You Do

For so many of us our identity is in what we do or what we’ve done. Especially men – what’s the first question we ask each other when we meet another man? “What do you do?” There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s safe small talk. But that’s not who we are.

God loves us based on our position not our accomplishments – our position as His son or daughter. Nothing we ever accomplish (good or bad) can ever change that. Nothing we do can make Him love us more or less than He does in this moment. In every moment. He’s that consistent.

We all say we believe that, but many of us secretly don’t. I say “secretly” because often it’s secret even from ourselves. We can test ourselves to see if we inwardly believe we are what we do, though. When we get mad at someone for disagreeing with us, when we take someone’s disagreement with what we said or did as a personal affront, it’s often because we believe that we are what we do. “If you attack what I do or say, you’re attacking me!” Do you see it?

You are special to God because you are you. You are valuable because you bear the image of God (see Genesis 1:26-27) whether you realize it or not. The trick is to understand who you really are, the unique person He made you to be.

Psalm 139:13-14 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” So before you were even born, before you had done anything good or bad, you were God’s wonderful work. And nothing we do can ever undo His work.

So let’s stop trying to be what we do. Let’s discover and walk in who we really are. Ask Him to take you on a journey of discovery.

Have you started this journey? What are you discovering? Do you identify with this? Tell us your story in the comments. What do you think?

The Power of “What If…?”

There’s one question feared by the enemy above all others. There’s one question that, if we dared to ask it and follow the answer, would disrupt the status quo more than anything else. “What if…?”

There’s something on our heart that God’s put there, but the distractions of life drown it out. The daily slog doesn’t leave us with any energy for our dreams. But what if we did follow that dream?

What if I wrote that book?

What if I reached out to that person?

What if I started my own business?

What if I dared to do what God’s put on my heart?

What if I took that risk that makes my heart sing?

What if I dared to believe who Jesus says I am?

What if I ……?

Fill in the blank for you. What is it in your heart that the daily slog is drowning out? What dreams make your heart leap? God put them there. Take the first step.

What if God’s calling you to that dream? If that were true and you were actually going to do it, what’s the first baby step you’d take in that direction? What if you took it? Take it.

We have to reach the point where we’re more afraid of not trying then we are of failing. – Jeff Goins

I reached that point and that’s why this blog exists and why I’ve written two print books (available here), and one free eBook (available here). I’m working on a couple more free eBooks that should come out by the end of the year. How about you? Have you taken the first baby step?

Does this resonate? What makes your heart sing? Are you pursuing it? Leave us a comment or shoot us an email. And please share (buttons below) if you think this would bless or inspire someone else.

Peace Making vs Peace Keeping

The beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12 are pretty self-explanatory, if very counter-intuitive. But there’s one in particular that’s often misunderstood. At least it was by me for a long time. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). But there’s a world of difference between peace making and peace keeping. I had them confused the majority of my life, and I’ve paid a high price for it.

When we mistakenly think Jesus said, “Blessed are the peace keepers…” we live by the ungodly principle of Peace At Any Price.

But wait a minute, I thought peace was a good thing! It is, that’s why peacemakers are blessed in the Kingdom and called sons of God. But Peace At Any Price is not a good thing at all. Peace At Any Price sacrifices the plan, wisdom, and calling of God to avoid conflict. It brings unity around a false peace. And false peace is not really peace at all – it’s oppression.

Peace making is bravely going into an interpersonal conflict and bringing the plan and the wisdom, not to mention the calling and the purpose, of God to it. If God’s wisdom is accepted, it brings true peace to the situation. However, if God’s wisdom is repeatedly rejected, then it’s time for godly conflict.

But peace keeping is quite different. Peace keeping is acquiescing to the situation. Peace keeping compromises (or outright silences) God’s plans and purposes. We trade God’s calling for peace in our interpersonal relationships. I confess I did this for a long time, and my family paid dearly for it.

By my observation, many husbands live by Peace At Any Price. It takes one to know one – I did for a long time. Too often we trade our vision for our family, and our place of leadership in our household, for peace in our home.

Now common sense here, that’s obviously not an excuse to lord it over your wife. And wives have a significant role and get valid downloads from God just like husbands do. But, c’mon guys, we need to be the spiritual leaders of our home, not our wives.

Peace At Any Price is institutionalized in the culture, even in the church, with regard to home and family. How many times have you heard people, even Christians, say one of these re-phrases of Peace At Any Price:

Happy wife, happy life. Translation: “Sell out your vision for your family in order to keep your wife happy.” Or you could say it this way: “Lack of conflict in your home is worth more than God’s calling on your family.” Sorry, but not true.

If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! Translation: “If I don’t get my way, I’ll make my entire family miserable!” This is hardly the manifestation of the Fruit of the Spirit in a godly woman’s life. Anybody out there still think this isn’t demonic?

Now please don’t flip out on me. This doesn’t mean a husband should just impose his vision on his family. It’s just as demonic for a husband to expect his wife to roll-over and practice Peace At Any Price. None of us, husband or wife, parent or child, teacher or student, should compromise or abandon what they know is God’s wisdom, calling, plan, and/or purpose on their lives or in any situation.

It comes down to this. Peace at Any Price, a.k.a., peace keeping, is just getting bullied, pure and simple. If you are living Peace At Any Price, you have let your God-given identity get shut down by a bully. You need to repent and stand up to the bully.

In a marriage, when we come out of being bullied, we don’t impose our calling on the other person. We don’t want to become the bully. Instead, we invite: “This is where God is calling me to go. I’m going there, and I’m inviting you to come along.” And we walk toward God’s calling on our life with an open hand back to the other person. They may take it or not; that’s on them. But we are walking toward our calling, and that brings true peace, in our heart if not to the situation.

Blessed are the peacemakers (not the peace keepers), for they will be called sons of God.

Does this hit home to you? Tell us your story in the comments? Are you living Peace At Any Price? Did you used to? How did you come out of it? Tell us in the comments, your story will help others. And if you think this article would bless someone else, please share it with the buttons below.

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.