The need to forgive
Today on Choosing Peace, you’ll read about three moms: One who crossed the line, one who stood 100 yards away from the line, and one who got things right.
The forgiving verse
In the last post, we looked at the first three verses of The Lord’s Prayer. Today we’ll look at the fourth verse: And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:12, NHEB).
I like this New Heart English Bible translation. You’ll also find the words debts and debtors in the King James Version, the ESV, the NIV, etc. When we recited The Lord’s Prayer while we were growing up, from The Book of Common Prayer—unbeknownst to us—we said, “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Trespasses vs. debts
Let’s take a brief detour and compare the word trespass with the word debt.
When someone hangs out on my front porch uninvited, that someone is trespassing. That reminds me of a dream I had about my mother-in-law, the sociopath. See the section called The Silent Chaos in this post.
People who trespass—who step over the line—do these kinds of things. They disregard our boundaries. They show us disrespect. They use us. They act like our stuff is their stuff. They treat us like property. And they’re also fans of loan sharking—the tit-for-tat “you owe me” of Control Freak Central. Not okay. I’ve learned a lot about trespassing, thanks to my sociopathic in-laws—and Pam, The Almighty, my narcissistic sister—to name a few. And then there’s Sadistic Shelly. How could I leave her off the list? What a nightmare.
An example of trespassing
This week, my husband Brandon asked me to throw away a plastic cup that he’d been using in our bathroom. He told me to look at the bottom of it. I figured it was leaking or something.
Guess who carved her name with a knife into one of our cups? You got it. Her Majesty, the Sadistic Control Freak—my mother-in-law, Delia.
Who in their right mind would carve their name into a cup at someone else’s house? Obviously, someone in their right mind would never do that. But a sociopath would. And she did. Call it a stellar example of trespassing—living with zero boundaries, plus a litany of false beliefs, including this one: “Your stuff is actually my stuff and I can do whatever I want with it.” Really?
Here’s the thing. When people have hurt us or failed us, the word “debt” captures more clearly what they did. They didn’t just cross the line. They actually stole something from us. They owe us something—like a plastic cup without anything carved on it. For a good example of what someone stole, see this post. Reading the list of what my dad’s emotional abuse stole from me may get you thinking about some things. Important things.
Long story short, I prefer the word debts in The Lord’s Prayer to the word trespasses, even though I’m not used to saying debts yet. I need to practice saying verse 12 in the new-for-me way: And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:12, NHEB).
Receive and give
After praying about spiritual needs and physical needs, Jesus teaches us to pray about forgiving. Why? Because receiving God’s forgiveness removes the weight of guilt, shame and regret that we carry from our own past, whether we blew it yesterday or 50 years ago. Jesus also teaches us to forgive other people. We need to receive God’s forgiveness and give it freely. We need both.
Later in the book of Matthew, Jesus told his disciples: “Freely you received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8b, NHEB).
Forgiving people (including myself) contributes exponentially
to my health—spiritually, mentally, emotionally, relationally.
How does forgiving help us spiritually? Earlier in this series, we learned Point #15 of What Forgiving Is and Isn’t: Forgiving is the breaking of an unholy tie or bond. And that, Peaceful Readers, is a serious spiritual issue. Read that important post for more.
Mental and emotional health
When we forgive, our thoughts improve significantly, and our emotions follow suit. In part 7 of What Forgiving Is and Isn’t, we learned Point #10: Forgiving is a gift that I give to myself most of all. Here’s an excerpt:
The cell and the key
…It’s like we’re each sitting in a jail cell with a chair and a TV. And the only show that plays on the TV is the movie or the five-second clip of what he/she/they did to us. It plays. And it plays. And it plays. Again and again and again. And for each one of us, the key that will unlock the jail cell sits in our pocket. It sits there all day every day. And we know it’s there. Here’s the question. Will we use it? Will we forgive? Or will we sit behind bars, watching the bad movie.
Forgiving gets us out of the jail cell and away from the bad movie. But forgiving isn’t the only thing we need to do to experience healing. We have to take The Healing Journey. We have to do the work of grieving our traumas and losses.
And here’s an important excerpt from part 8 of that post:
When I make The Heart Change—when I forgive—I stop looking back in a negative way. Forgiving turns my head and I start looking forward. It’s an essential step like the step of repentance. Let me say that again. Forgiving is an essential step—like the step of repentance. I turn from looking one way to looking another way. I turn from darkness to light. Forgiving is a 180—a 180-degree turn.
Don’t let this subheading scare you. If you’ve read this Forgiving series, you’ve learned many things about What Forgiving Is and Isn’t. Here are some of the key points from that 12-part post:
Point #1: Forgiving is not condoning.
Point #4: Forgiving doesn’t mean reconciling.
Point #5: Forgiving is not a transaction.
Point #6: Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting or ignoring wrongdoing.
Point #7: Forgiving doesn’t mean rejecting or sabotaging natural consequences.
Point #8: Forgiving doesn’t mean regaining trust.
Point #9: Forgiving doesn’t automatically reestablish a previous relationship.
A separate issue
When I forgive Person A, that can vastly improve my relationship with Person B because I’m not stuck in the past anymore. What about my current and future relationship with Person A—the person I forgave? That’s a totally separate issue.
Be wise and discerning. And pray. Sociopaths and people with other personality disorders are dangerous. See the first series. Also, read What Forgiving Is and Isn’t for reminders and encouragement (all 12 parts).
Seeing and thinking clearly
Remember from the first post in this series: “Forgiving is like taking out the trash in my own heart and mind.”
Forgiving helps me to see and think clearly. For more on the clarity that forgiving gives us, see the section called The Truth About Forgiving and Being Vulnerable in this post.
Here’s the bottom line. Unforgiveness keeps us in spiritual, mental, emotional and relational chains. And Jesus came to free us.
More about the need to forgive
Verse 12 of The Lord’s Prayer teaches us about healthy relationships.
And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.
Matthew 6:12, NHEB
When we forgive others (and ourselves), we’re being like Jesus. While he was being brutally murdered, he spoke words of forgiveness.
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34a, New Heart English Bible
Think about a sin from your life. One that has stuck with you in your mind. Read the words of Jesus above—“Father, forgive them….” Have you asked God to forgive you? Have you forgiven yourself? If you’re having trouble with that, read this post.
Needs vs. wants
Right before he gave us The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus said, “…for your Father knows what things you need, before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8b). Let’s lean in to the word need. Jesus isn’t addressing our wants—the nice-to-have goodies of life, like the things on our Christmas list. “How about a cute and cuddly puppy and that cool pair of shoes I’ve been eying.”
No, indeed. The Lord’s Prayer isn’t about the goodies of life—the things we want.
The Lord’s Prayer shows us the absolute essentials.
First need—our Father
Our Father in heaven, holy be your name ~ Matthew 6:9, NHEB.
Our need to be in a relationship with God isn’t optional.
It’s essential in order to thrive.
We need God to be our Father and we need to see him as holy so we’ll approach him humbly. (The opposite of humility is pride, the granddaddy of The Seven Deadly Sins. For more on the danger of pride, watch this sermon.)
Life without him
Since God made us, gave us our Life Manual (the Bible), made plans for each one of us and loves us more than we can possibly fathom, living without him would be akin to walking through life with our eyes closed—constantly bumping into things, falling down, and getting terribly hurt when we could’ve avoided it.
We need to experience God personally—not in theory, but in reality. Many people know about God, but have never met him. Knowing God personally—as our Father—is a deep spiritual need. And our relationship yields experiences. Truly amazing experiences. See this post about a miracle in my life.
To experience a relationship with God, we have to talk to him. From part 1:
The power of prayer
I didn’t understand the power of prayer until I experienced it personally. Honestly, I didn’t get it. The whole thing seemed mechanical to me. That’s because it was. My own, personal trust in God was missing. That’s why I didn’t get it. I was picking up the wrong phone. I was picking up the Do-Me-A-Favor Phone or the Get-Me-Out-Of-This-Mess Phone, not the God—I-Need-You Phone. Until I did….
Talking to God—praying—connects me to God,
builds my faith, and activates the power of God.
Remember this Bible verse: “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2b, NHEB).
How did I get saved? How did I go from believing to receiving? Read my salvation story here.
Second need—the Kingdom
Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven ~ Matthew 6:10, NHEB.
We need to experience the Kingdom of God here on earth.
The Kingdom of God is our true family—on earth and in heaven. My experiences with God impact the family of God—the Kingdom of God. Do I share what God has done and is doing in my life? My experiences encourage my brothers and sisters in the Lord—my true family.
This next story shows how personal the Kingdom of God here on earth can be.
From missing to asking to knitting
Five years ago, I started unpacking my relationship with my mom. The Lord helped me discover the truth about her emotional neglect and everything that was missing. My mom died the next year; and later that year, I forgave her. (See these posts: The Trauma of Disengagement, part 2; A Story of Grieving, part 2; and When the Need to Forgive Has Been Hidden, part 2.)
The year after my mom died, I asked one of the ladies at St. Matt’s to come up and have lunch with me. I’ll call her Kathleen. She had a beautiful smile and served on the Altar Guild, so I saw her while I was at work and she was preparing things for Sunday worship.
Kathleen and I started eating lunch together at St. Matt’s every week. We prayed together before lunch and shared what was on our hearts. It was a sweet time that we both looked forward to. We talked about all kinds of things and became very close. Our prayer time connected us in a powerful way. It knitted our hearts together.
Compare and contrast
Did I mention that Kathleen gives wonderful, warm hugs too? She does. That special day—when I invited Kathleen to lunch for the first time—I journaled, “She gave me the sweetest hug.” What a blessing.
To get a feel for the contrast between Kathleen and my mom, check out the top of this post for A Hug Story related to my mom. Just a friendly warning: It’s a smidge sad.
My new mom
Kathleen asked me if I’d be her daughter and I said yes. She’d ask, “Can I adopt you?” And I’d reply, “You already have.” What a joy to be wanted by My New Mom.
Can God bless us deeply through the Kingdom of God—through our true family—our brothers and sisters in Christ? Oh, yes he can. Thank you, Lord, for precious Kathleen—My New Mom.
This song is dedicated to Kathleen. I think you’ll love it. “Mother Like Mine” by The Band Perry.
Do you need someone special to come into your life? A friend? A mom? A dad? A sister or a brother? A child? A spouse? A mentor? Pray to God and ask. Maybe you’ll invite someone to have lunch with you and a life-changing relationship will grow from there.
Pray. And ask.
And keep on asking.
Third need—daily physical essentials
Give us today our daily bread ~ Matthew 6:11, NHEB.
In part 4, we considered our most basic, daily physical needs. Air. Water. Food. Clothing. Shelter. Protection. Healing.
Thank God for meeting your daily physical needs, and pray every day for what you need. Prayer builds our faith.
And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors ~ Matthew 6:12, NHEB.
Yes, indeed. Forgiving is essential.
“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
John 8:32, New Heart English Bible
Coming next: Next time, we’ll be digging into the last verse of The Lord’s Prayer—about temptation and evil. I haven’t started writing it yet, so I have no idea what’ll be in there. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit helps me greatly. I’m excited to see what he shows me.
Until then, thanks for reading and for Choosing Peace.
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: Luke 11:1
Song for Healing: While I was looking for the right song for this post, this song grabbed me—big-time. Here’s “God, Turn It Around” by Jon Reddick (featuring Matt Maher).