As silly as it sounds, my biggest fear was walking into a restaurant and suddenly being face to face with my former best friend. Every time I walked into a public business I worried, “Will today be the day we run into each other?”
I was exhausted from the weight of my grudge. Our relationship was over. Why couldn’t I just forgive and move on? Despite prayerfully begging God to take this away, reading the Scriptures, pursuing professional counseling, listening to other pastors, and reading a dozen books on forgiveness, I still reeked of unforgiveness. (Here’s PART 1 & PART 2 of my story.)
My mind would always get foggy when thinking about my grudge. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you why my past pain bothered me so much. It was frustrating!
I mistakenly thought it was all behind me when God moved me and my family from San Angelo, Texas to Ventura, California in the Fall of 2011.
Like a refreshing ocean breeze, my family immediately embraced our beautiful new world. The first time I walked into a local restaurant without my silly fear was unbelievably refreshing.
But before long, like a unrelenting stench, my grudge began to resurface. I desperately wanted to discover a real step in the forgiveness process.
The day after the Boston Marathon bombing, I watched a live news conference where a member of the press asked a trauma surgeon from Boston Medical Center, “What kind of stories are they (patients/victims) telling you?” The surgeon responded, “Believe it or not, as doctors we don’t ask them their stories. We focus on the surgery and the care.”
Why? Doctors know that the first step to healing is to ignore the story and identify the injury.
I’ll never forget the morning I sat down in my living room to read yet another book on forgiveness. But this time it would be different. After more than a 1,000 days of being stuck in unforgiveness, I was about to discover the step that would unleash forgiveness in my heart.
That morning in my living room I discovered step one: Identify your specific injury. Before that day, if you would’ve asked me to describe my hurt, I would have replayed the entire story: the people involved, their actions, and the consequences . . . in detail. In my mind, the story was my hurt. I hadn’t identified my specific “injury” and didn’t know it could be helpful.
To help me take this new step, I discovered a list of typical injuries. As if identifying a criminal from a police lineup, I immediately recognized my injury. Surprisingly, that actually helped . . . immediately.
That morning I suddenly felt super energized and I couldn’t wait for Ginger to wake up so I could tell her! I was beginning to feel unstuck. In that moment, I had no idea the miracles I’d experience in the months ahead but I could already sense my forgiveness process beginning to take root. That was a good morning!
Why did it help me? For the first time, I was able to surface exactly what I was feeling. I noticed that my “identified hurt” was less emotionally powerful than my “unidentified hurt”. Like a fog lifting, my thinking was suddenly less muddled and blurry.
In the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt 18), the forgiving king knew that his servant owed him exactly 10,000 bags of gold. He wasn’t attempting general forgiveness but specific forgiveness.
“General forgiveness does not heal specific hurts. It’s important to pinpoint what was taken from you.” – Andy Stanley
Are you carrying a grudge? (Not sure? HERE are 5 questions to ask yourself)
Have you clarified what forgiveness is? (HERE are 10 common misunderstandings)
If so, congratulations you are a candidate to begin the forgiveness process TODAY!
To begin, ask yourself these questions:
1. Do you reference your hurt as an event (referencing the people, the circumstances, and the consequences)?
2. When you think about your pain does it cause a mental fog?
3. Is it hard to explain to others why your hurt bothers you so much?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you would probably benefit from identifying your specific injury or hurt. Identifying your injury activates a more efficient mental process and launches forgiveness.
The book I read that day was The Forgiving Life by Dr. Robert Enright. God used this book to help me get unstuck. (Next week I’ll share my recent interview with Dr. Enright.)
I want to share Dr. Enright’s list of typical injuries hoping you’ll recognize yours:
Absent, Emotionally – Person is present but mind seems far away; little love expressed
Absent, Physically – Away from you for long periods
Anger, Displaced – Person is actually angry with another, but takes it out on you
Anger, Excessive – Intense anger expressed verbally and/or physically without actual contact
Anger, Passive – Subtle anger that embarrasses/hurts; not easily detected as anger
Anger, Ridicule – Expressed anger that makes you feel small and judged
Abusive, Emotionally – Extreme and persistent anger; words that damage you psychologically
Abusive, Physically – Extreme physical contact that damages you
Abusive, Sexually – Inappropriate touching and/or physical contact
Excessive Anxiety – Extreme worry displaced onto you
Excessive Punishment – Deserved punishment that goes too far
Excessive Teasing – Joking that goes too far
Excessive Demands – Asking more than what is reasonable
Harsh Judgments – Thoughts/expressions that leave you feeling condemned
Ignoring – Lack of communication
Insensitive – Consistently ignoring your needs
Lack of Love – Failure to express love
Lack of Cooperation – Give-and-take is absent
Lack of Understanding – Failure to see your viewpoint
Poor Decision Making – Decisions are harmful
Selfish – Self-absorbed
Other – Any injustice not specified above
If you’d like more tools to help you identify your injury and discover it’s impact on you, order Dr. Enright’s book by clicking HERE.
Maybe you or someone you know is struggling with a past hurt. Will you share this with them today?
A simple prayer for you to consider today:
“Heavenly Father, as You know, forgiveness is difficult. You sacrificed Your Son to offer me forgiveness. Encourage me to take one step toward forgiveness today. Use this process to shape me to become more like You.”
Click HERE for PART 4 of the #ForgivenessFriday Series.