Luann Adams, Individual, Marriage and Family Therapy in Royal Oak, Ferndale, Berkley and Shelby Township, Michigan Luann Adams, Individual, Marriage and Family Therapy in Royal Oak, Ferndale, Berkley and Shelby Township, Michigan

The Miracle of Forgiveness

Published on 05 August 2016 by in Blog

0

85274722F073I’ve often thought of authentic forgiveness as a miracle.  It’s certainly difficult to define, and almost impossible to measure.  And as a miracle, no one knows everything there is to know about forgiveness.  It’s most often a complex, challenging, and confusing process.  It can seem unnatural and unfair.

When it’s the real-deal forgiveness that heals, it seems God-sized, and not something we humans would have ever invented.  We’re more likely to go for revenge, withdrawal, self-blame, or pretending.  In the face of hurtful behavior, we might choose “fight or flight” responses.  But forgive?  What in the world does that really look like?

Here are some thoughts on what forgiveness is NOT, gathered from a number of authors I admire:

Forgiveness is NOT approving of what was done.  NOT tolerating ongoing offenses.  NOT excusing, justifying, explaining away, or minimizing the offense.  NOT once-and-done, but rather a process.  NOT forgetting!  (No amnesia or dementia required.  It will stay in the memory.  But it can eventually become a healed memory vs. one that continues to cause damage.)

Forgiveness is NOT pretending it was not hurtful.  NOT the absence of anger. (Like other emotions, anger comes and goes.  And the absence of anger might be apathy.)  And forgiveness is NOT the same thing as reconciliation.

So what does forgiveness look like?

Well, let’s give it a try.  Forgiveness is an inner condition.  It takes place in the heart.  Therefore, it brings a healing journey to the forgiver.  The more damaging the offense, the longer and more challenging the journey is likely to be.

Forgiveness is a choice to be truthful about the nature of the wrong, yet not punish or seek to get even.  Forgiveness protects the forgiver from becoming bitter and rigid.  It prevents the forgiver from becoming another offender.

But forgiveness costs something.  In fact, it can be very costly.  The cost of forgiveness is paid by the one who is forgiving.  It costs the forgiver the right to make the offender pay for the offense.  (Legal consequences may follow severe offenses, however, and protect others from repeat behaviors.)  It costs the forgiver the right to resentment and revenge.  And it costs the forgiver the right to believe he/she is “better than” the offender.  It is a way of stamping the offense, “paid in full”.

Ken Sande, in his excellent book The Peacemaker, describes forgiveness as the making and keeping of four promises.  In fact, he calls them “The Four Promises of Forgiveness”.

  1. I will not dwell on this incident.  When I’m ready to forgive, I will choose not be preoccupied with it, or ruminate on it.  I will tell myself the truth about it, then release it in the process of forgiveness.
  2. I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you in the future.  When I’m actively forgiving, I’m giving up my right to use it as a weapon, or insert it into our future relationship.  (This brings up the problem of seeking to forgive when an offense is repeated and ongoing.  In that case, it’s important to differentiate forgiveness from pretending.  In severe cases of ongoing offenses, counseling, mentoring, or even legal intervention, will often be necessary ~ in addition to forgiveness.)
  3. I will not talk to others about this incident.  It is legitimate, however, to reserve one’s pastor, counselor, or spiritual mentor as an exception to this promise.  Also, if there’s danger of physical harm,  it may be necessary to make a report to appropriate authorities.
  4. I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.  This is the high water mark of the full forgiveness process:  confession, repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration.  As Ken Sande wisely says, however, “Sometimes the best you can hope for is that you could pass on the street and be at peace.”

Numerous volumes ~ recent and ancient ~ have been written about the miracle of forgiveness.  Here are a few of my favorite authors:

Ken Sande ~ The Peacemaker

Archbishop Desmond Tutu ~ No Freedom Without Forgiveness

Charles Stanley ~ The Gift of Forgiveness

Jesse Rice Sandberg ~ Letting People Off the Hook

David Stoop ~ Forgiving the Unforgivable

Everett Worthington ~ Five Steps to Forgiveness

Philip Yancey ~ What’s So Amazing About Grace?

Many excellent resources (books, journals, blogs, websites, organizations) deal with various aspects of forgiveness, especially following trauma, victimization, and abuse.

Also, a topical review of Bible passages on forgiveness is a worthy investment of time and study!

 

 

 

Nevertheless!

Published on 10 April 2016 by in Blog

0

“Nevertheless!”20160406_191933

A little sign in my office often draws double-takes and curious looks. In fact, it’s not always immediately readable, looking more like Chinese characters than an English word.

It’s one of those rectangular signs created with strips of wood to configure a single word ~ often saying “smile” or “love”. But the one that sits on an ottoman in my counseling office says, “Nevertheless.”

Many folks over the years have asked good questions about its meaning ~ questions that most often have led to surprising, fruitful, and interesting conversations.

My usual response to those good questions is to reflect the question, asking something like, “What does it bring to mind for you?” I know, you’d expect that of a therapist. But I’ve been deeply impressed and respectful of the insightful responses from my amazing clients.

For example, some have surprised themselves with an interpretation of future hope despite severe current suffering. “I am truly going through a very dark time. Nevertheless, I will not live this way for the rest of my life. I have been through dark times before, and have grown through the pain.”

Others have found that our word “nevertheless” helped to ease the impact of a painful relationship. In the aftermath of cruelty, betrayal, or loss, some have spoken wisdom like, “Yes, this is a huge, wrenching injustice that has rocked my world. Nevertheless, it does not define me. My worth does not depend on that person’s opinion of me.”

The courage and wisdom of these remarkable people continue to enrich my appreciation for the strange little sign sitting silently on the ottoman, and the powerful word it contains.

Part of that power, I believe, is that “nevertheless” connects two truths. The suffering that precedes it is not minimized in any way by what follows. The presence of evil on this planet, and the miracle of redemptive hope ~ these are both fully true. Our word “nevertheless” is useful for holding them in tension, and living to tell the story!

Woven throughout the book of Psalms in the Bible, we find King David bitterly lamenting his experiences with persecution, injustice, and raw evil. Then, by the end of the Psalm, he almost always concludes his anguish-filled cry with thoughts like, “Nevertheless, You are God, and I’m not.” Or, “Nevertheless, I will still choose to place my trust in You.”

It’s a word that lifts my chin and my eyes, straightens my shoulders, and puts breath in my lungs when the chips are down. What an encouragement it is that many others who have gained the beautiful “wisdom born of pain” would say the same!

How might “nevertheless” take root and bear good fruit in your life today?

Luann

“FEEL LIKE” OR “BELIEVE”?

Published on 18 February 2016 by in Blog

0

“I feel like a failure.”
“I feel that you are being unfair.”
“I feel as if you don’t believe me.”

In my counseling practice, these “I feel” statements often flag a very common mistake in thinking. The fancy “psychobabble” lingo for that mistake is “The Reification of Feelings”.

This is considered one of the top ten “cognitive errors” ~ mistaken thinking.

The truth is that you can “feel” whatever you happen to feel at the moment. But it’s important to remember that the feeling doesn’t make it true. Feelings don’t define reality. And fluctuating feelings should never be allowed to run the show! Simply put, feelings and beliefs are not the same.

Feelings ~ emotions ~ include one or more of the following:

  • Angry
  • Glad
  • Sad
  • Scared
  • Guilty
  • Hurt

So it would be true to say, “I feel sad” or “I feel angry”. It’s the nature of feelings to come and go. Even strong emotions are by nature temporary and changing. Feelings can lie, and often do. Also, emotions are not directly under our authority.

But beliefs are different! I am responsible for what I choose to believe to be true. Taking ownership of my choices is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and healthy relationships. It’s important to know that what I believe to be true is under my authority.

It may take some courage and practice to step up and take full responsibility for what I believe to be true ~ rather than to soften my beliefs as “feel likes”.

Give it a try.  Think of a “feel like” sentence you’ve said or heard recently.  Try the words “I believe”, “I think”, or “I’m concluding” in its place.  Many times that clarity is surprising, and gives opportunity to re-evaluate our beliefs, thoughts, and conclusions.

Questions:

  • What might be advantages and disadvantages of beginning to replace “I feel like” with “I believe” when it’s more truthful?
  • What “I feel” statements have you heard lately? What do you think about them?
  • What would those opening statements sound like if they were replaced with “I think”, “I believe”, I’m concluding”, or “I’m judging”. (Hint: “I’m judging myself a failure.”
  • How might the outcome be different?

Words can be very powerful!  Using them carefully can be part of a more stable, empowered, and healthy life.
Luann

G.K. Chesterton on Marital Incompatibility

Published on 25 April 2010 by in Blog

0

The fascinating writings of G. K. Chesteron (1874-1936) have shown a remarkable staying power.  Two-thirds of a century after his death, more and more of what he created is finding its way back into print.  Check out this comment about incompatibility in marriage:

“If Americans can be divorced for ‘incompatibility of temper’, I cannot conceive why they are not all divorced.  I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one.  The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable.  For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.”

From “Chesterton Day by Day: The Wit and Wisdom of G. K. Chesterton” by Michael W. Perry

The Side Effects of Divorce

Published on 24 April 2010 by in Blog

0

From the Michigan Family Law Journal come these startling, disturbing statistics.  The purpose of the article was to help attorneys become more aware of what their clients may be facing when the divorce is over.

1. One out of every two marriages ends in divorce.

2. In 1991, only 50.8% of American children were living with a mother and a father.  The numbers have worsened since that study.

3. Approximately 4% of American children are living only with their father.

4. The vast majority of children who are raised in a two-parent home will never be poor during childhood.  By contrast, the vast majority of children who spend time in a single-parent home will experience poverty.

5. Children from female-headed homes are five times as likely to be poor as children in two-parent families.

6. Four times as many divorced women with children fell under the poverty line than married women with children.

7. Children from disrupted marriages experience greater risk of injury, asthma, headaches, and speech defects than children from intact families.

8. Suicide rates for children of divorce are measurably higher than for children from intact families.

9. Children of divorce were found to be twice as likely as chidren from intact families to drop out of school.

10. Young adults ages 18-22 from disrupted families were found to be twice as likely to have poor relationships with their mothers and/or fathers, and that the effects were still evident 12-22 years after the breakup.

11. Divorced adults, particularly divorced men, experience early health problems to a measurably greater extent than married individuals.  Premature death rates for divorced men double that of marriend men from such cuases as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and strokes.

12. The suicide rate for divorced white men was four times higher than for their married counterparts.

13. Divorced or separated men undergo inpatient or outpatient psychiatric care at a rate of 10 times more than married men.  Divorced or separated women’s usage of such care increased fivefold.

The conclusion of the article was that divorce adversely affects children, women, men, and society as a whole.

Springtime: Looking Things Over

Published on 24 April 2010 by in Blog

0

“It’s too early in the season to do much but look things over, to walk around and survey the winter’s damage and the hopeful signs of Spring.

The ground is soggy.  Old leaves pack in among the bushes looking barren now without their leaves.  How like this are the seasonal moods of the soul — now muddy, now bright, now soggy, needing the warming light of God’s presence!  All we can do is notice, gaze, and see the bare truth of our situation.

I stand in my inner garden and in the actual garden.  There is so much work to do, but I know the time for action is not yet.  My arms hang by my sides.  The tools are in the basket.  I try hard to believe the old saying, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

The air feels metallic.  It’s time to go inside again, into more waiting.”

“With or without your hard work God is always moving in your life.  Wait on the Holy.  Wait and receive the gifts that come.”

From A Mystic Garden by Gunilla Norris

Reordered Love, Reordered Lives

Published on 27 February 2010 by in Blog

0

by David K. Naugle
“Happiness” has been a word so overused by our culture as to lose its meaning. In “the pursuit of happiness”, people make all sorts of unprincipled decisions. Dr. Naugle explores the deeper meanings of authentic happiness based on the power of reordered love to heal disordered lives.

The Prodigal God

Published on 27 February 2010 by in Blog

0

by Timothy Keller
An in-depth revisit to Jesus’ parable of “the prodigal son”, as it’s often referred to,  Timothy Keller considers first the wayward son, then the dutiful older brother. He reveals the sad truth that both sons missed the Father’s heart. Since the word “prodigal” actually means “recklessly generous”, it is the Father who is prodigal in His outpouring of love, grace, provision, and endless delights!

The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God

Published on 27 February 2010 by in Blog

0

by John Piper, Ric Ergenbright
 This little gem of a book from Dr. John Piper is a delight of poetry and art. It is a deeply moving meditation on the ancient story of Job. Because poetry is meant to be read aloud, a CD is tucked into the back cover of the book containing the author’s reading of his poetry, interspersed with a lovely, solo, Celtic-sounding voice singing “Be Thou My Vision”. This is a little treasure to be savored over and over.

The Search for Significance

Published on 27 February 2010 by in Blog

0

by Robert S. McGee
I began recommending this book/workbook many years ago as a foundation for rebuilding accurate self worth, especially for those suffering shame-based trauma of many kinds.
 
Dr. McGee’s “recipe for disaster” is the belief that “performance + approval of others = personal worth”. Using his book/workbook as structure has provided many with a way to keep the momentum moving forward on a daily basis while in therapy.