Reconciliation Not Required #ForgivenessFriday

Last week I shared that my former pastor and I have reconciled. However, reconciliation is not always a good idea. 

This is a guest post by my friend and colleague Clare Rice.

Clare RiceClare is the Director of Care and Recovery at Bible Fellowship Church in Ventura, CA. She recently completed her graduate studies at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine Law School. Clare is a trained mediator who first felt called to work as a reconciler in December 2001 while working with her dad in Kashmir. Her international reconciliation work has taken her to Kashmir, India and the Middle East. She lives in Ventura with her husband and their 2 year old son.

In my years of studying forgiveness and reconciliation, I’ve learned that one of the common misconceptions about forgiveness is that reconciliation is a natural byproduct of the process.  In fact, many people believe it is a requirement.  For years I believed that if I forgave, the process was not complete until I had reconciled with my offender.  I now know that is a false understanding of forgiveness.  I learned this the hard way through a particularly painful attempt at reconciliation with a close friend.

Paul and I first met when I was a student at USC.  I was drawn to his charisma, quick wit and penchant for pranks and shenanigans.  We lived in the same hall in the dorms and quickly became best friends.  Over the years, we maintained a close relationship.  I moved out of the city, but our friendship remained strong.  I could count on Paul for support and encouragement whenever I needed it.  I treasured our friendship.

Then a shift occurred.  My life changed dramatically.  I met and married my husband and a couple years later we had a baby.  Paul and I had less and less in common.  My priorities and interests had changed.  When Paul and I did speak, we often ended up arguing.  We said hurtful things to each other.  We blamed each other.  We couldn’t communicate effectively. I was baffled that someone who at one time knew me better than I knew myself now seemed like a complete stranger.

My heart compelled me to forgive Paul and we repeatedly forgave and reconciled with each other.  Then I stopped trying to reconcile.  What changed?

I took a class on apology, forgiveness and reconciliation as part of my masters program.  It was during this class that I finally released myself from the obligation to reconcile with Paul.  I learned two important principles about reconciliation.  1.  As believers, we are required to forgive, but we are not required to reconcile.  2.  There are times when reconciliation should NOT happen.

The illustration I shared involved both of these principles.  Through multiple disputes, I forgave Paul and he forgave me.  However, we both had vastly different understandings of what had transpired and what our individual parts of the conflict were.  We both apologized, but neither of us was apologizing for the specific injury we visited upon each other.  However, we let our desire for a harmonious relationship fast track the process to reconciliation and then we were dumbfounded when we were in conflict again.  This cycle repeated itself over and over for a few years.

I realized that not only were Paul and I not required to reconcile, but that we probably shouldn’t reconcile.  David Stoop describes forgiveness as a singular activity but reconciliation as a bilateral process.  Reconciliation is dependent upon the offender offering true repentance and feeling sorrow over his/her actions.  It depends both on the actions and the behavior of the offender.

In my conflict with Paul, I was a victim and an offender.  So was he.  Neither of us was willing to change our attitudes or behaviors that led to the repeated conflict, so we kept on hurting each other.  Today I choose to forgive, but not to reconcile.  I am at peace with that decision because I know it honors Christ’s mandate that I forgive my brother, but allows me the free will to discontinue a relationship that is no longer healthy.

This painful lesson in forgiveness has served me well and is now a source of encouragement when I struggle to forgive someone who has hurt me.  If the fear of reconciliation is preventing you from forgiving, I urge you to take another look.

Greater distance results in greater reunion

Driving through the Arizona and New Mexico dessert, we arrived in San Angelo, TX one day early to surprise our parents. We did. In fact, when Ginger’s Mom answered the door she just cried and hugged. No words. Just an immediate and deep connection.

When we arrived at both sets of parents, we experienced the typical reunion pattern: Hugging, sitting down in chairs near each other, and talking as if making up for lost time.

reunionIt had been a year since we’d driven the 1,300 miles to visit our family in Texas. I noticed the hugs were a little tighter and lasted a little longer.

This reunion taught me something encouraging. Our love wasn’t diminished by our separation. In fact, the greater distance (time & space) equaled a greater reunion.

Here’s what I know about a future reunion: Jesus is already planning to come a day early (or at least it’ll be a surprise). I bet that day includes long, tight hugs, comfortable chairs positioned near each other and deep connections.

Why? Because the greater the distance the greater the reunion.

My former pastor and I reconcile #ForgivenessFriday

Reconciling is hard! If you have a broken relationship and it’s appropriate to reconcile, I hope today’s post encourages you.

Here’s an interview with my “friend again” sharing our reconciliation process. (I ask the questions and he provides the answers.)

I was not only your Associate Pastor for 12 years, but we were pretty close friends weren’t we?

Phil Webber

Phil Webber – Bible College Professor in Boston

We met in 1994 when my family first moved to San Angelo. You were in the Air Force at the time. From the first I was impressed with you. When things began taking shape for me to assume the full leadership of the church and I began to analyze who I thought would make a great teammate you were my first, and really my only choice. You agreed to come and we worked together for at least a year before the full leadership transition took place. As time went on I came to genuinely love you and respect you. While being different people with different personalities and gift sets (for instance, you are outgoing, I’m a recluse) we seemed to have the same philosophy of ministry and quickly learned to use our differences to forge a strong team. Back in those early days it was you, my wife, and me. We were the team. And I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.

As time went by and the church grew and we added more staff, I think our relationship was viewed as special. We traveled quite a bit together, went to Friday night football games together (although you never stayed till the end), and though our families never really hung out together much, our ministry experience forged a friendship that went way beyond the office or ministry. As I told you in an early email in this process, I would have taken a bullet for you.

I know that ministry peers envied the relationship we had. We enjoyed being around each other. The tough times seemed to make us stronger. I still think you and I were the best ministry team I have ever known.

The last time we sat in your office it was clear that our relationship was ending. I remember we both said, “I hate that it’s ending this way”. That was devastating for both of us. For more than three years we didn’t communicate even though we lived in the same town. God moved me to Southern California and moved you to Boston. About eight months ago, we agreed to give reconciliation a try. 

I was afraid of digging back into those painful memories and afraid of creating new ones. What did you dread most about entering this process? 

When we came to an impasse and I said, “I think we’re through” and you walked out of my office, I felt like my world had suddenly stopped spinning on it axis. But it didn’t stop there. I relived our split every day for years. I couldn’t even think about it without bursting into tears. If anyone who watched it thought there was a winner, they were wrong. The fallout was horrific at the church. People left the church. I lost my leadership integrity even with people who stayed but viewed me with a suspicious eye for a long time after that. My greatest fear in life became running into you in public. I’m not going to lie, one of the happiest days of my life was the day I heard you had moved to California. That was a smattering of closure for me. At least the possibility of a chance meeting at Walmart was behind me.

Then we moved to Boston. Now we were on opposite sides of the nation. Even better yet!

And then I got your email. “I don’t even know what reconciliation would look like for us, but would you be willing to make the journey?” you wrote. I was surprised and scared, but I knew I had to try. If for no other reason, I was willing to take this journey for myself. The physical and emotional toll that unforgiveness and grudge-nursing had taken on me was horrific. So I said yes, if only for the hope of setting myself free.

The main thing I dreaded was rehashing everything. I knew that discussing those issues again would be brutal, and it was. But I felt like we labored until those feelings got lighter. It was the first time we had really talked (and listened) in several years.

You suggested limiting our interactions to email initially (which I think was wise for us). Here are the other guidelines we agreed to: 1) Establish the goal of being at peace with each other (vs. pressure of friendship), 2) Seek to understand the other person’s perspective, 3) Share our perspectives without finger pointing or accusations, and 4) Deal with one issue at a time. Initially, my heartbeat was so fast I thought it was going to explode as I nervously typed. Was it that emotionally charged for you?

My heart was pounding so fast I needed oxygen. The emotion involved in this was almost overwhelming at first. I had two fears: 1) That I wouldn’t be able to really communicate what I needed to say; 2) I dreaded reading your responses. I really figured one of us would say something that would ignite the whole thing over again. This didn’t start because a couple of immature people got their feelings hurt and had a spat for which neither was willing to say, “Sorry.” This was over real issues that we viewed very differently and then the fallout from it. For 3 years I thought, “I can’t believe he would do that to me” and through our communication I discovered that for 3 years you had been saying, “I can’t believe he would do that to me.” Emotionally charged doesn’t even begin to describe it. I was scared out of my mind.

We exchanged emails several times a week for a couple of months working through important issues. We didn’t agree on everything but I feel like we better understood each other’s perspectives and were able to clarify some important details. Would you agree?

What helped me the most was that early on there were apologies – on both sides. I think it indicated that our hearts were right in trying to heal deep wounds. I knew I had to get to the place that I could apologize, and I was willing to go there, but it helped immensely to know you were there also.

I knew early on in this process that we wouldn’t see eye to eye on everything, but I also knew that if I was going to achieve any semblance of peace I had to get to the point that I was okay with that. I knew that neither of us could just say, “oops, sorry” and sweep it all under the rug as if nothing had ever happened. We had to discuss some tough issues – the very ones that had divided us in the first place, and we had to get closure on them or this attempt would be a failure.

I thought that if we were going to take a stab at this we would need some pretty defined guidelines and boundaries. I thought we negotiated those well. It would take place via email (I couldn’t have done this via phone. I wasn’t there yet.) We also agreed that we would not allow reading anything into statements. It is impossible to read emotion or intent in an email, so if there were any uncertainties, we would stay at it until we got a clarification. Those happened several times. The other requirement had to be complete honesty.

I absolutely agree that we were able to clarify some important details. I think we both saw some statements and decisions that were made in a different light than before. I think we both came to understand several issues differently and gained insight and perspective that had been lost on us in the heat of the moment.

Reconciliation doesn’t mean that two people return to the same relationship. Here’s some insight from one of your emails to me:

I think there are things about those days that we would still disagree on and about, and I am perfectly okay with that. I have gotten some clarity and perspective through this quite extended exchange we have been having. My vote is that we move on and forward. We are both analytics and I suspect we could debate specific points till the cows come home, but my perspective is that would be pointless and potentially harmful, and I would like for our harmful days to be behind us. I would like for you and me to be able to do something that Paul and Barnabas were evidently unable to do: experience disagreement and hurt but move past it to a restored friendship. The mutual regrets expressed, apologies offered, and explanations given are enough for me to move past them, and I am ready to do so.

It would be unrealistic to expect the reconciliation process alone to immediately heal everything for us. However, it has helped me gain a bigger perspective about the past, about you, about us and softened my heart toward you. How has the reconciliation process helped you?

In the same way. Although anything we build from here on out will obviously be built on the foundation of  what we had before, I tend to see it more in the context of a new endeavor than a revival. We have common memories  (and I think more good than bad) but everything else has changed. We live in different places. Our ministries are different. Our families are at different stages. That is a lot of new material with which to rebuild, with 12 years of great memories and victories thrown in to season it and give it a familiar foundation.

At the end of it all, I had to come to the place I was no longer willing to let one disagreement define my relationship with you. As stated, I’m sure we will never see everything about that issue eye to eye, but was I willing to let one issue kill the 12 incredible years we spent together in ministry? My answer was no. During those years we were leading the fastest growing church in San Angelo. Every day was a new adventure. We both wear wreathes and scars from those days and  I wouldn’t have wanted to have experienced that with anyone else. I wish we had not lost those years.

We are still rebuilding our friendship and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have you back into my life. To help display our renewed friendship, would you publicly and fully declare yourself a Dallas Cowboys’ fan?

Nope. That is where I draw the line. That loud thud you heard was me putting my foot down.

Q: What’s the difference between the Dallas Cowboys and a dollar bill?

A: You can still get 4 quarters out of a dollar bill.


Our broken relationship caused me to become stuck in bitterness and unable to move forward. If you or someone you know is struggling to forgive, pickup your copy of STUCK When You Want to Forgive but Don’t Know How.

Sticky hands and dirty faces

We had a ritual. For the last six years, I’d spend an extra hour with one of my four kids and then take them to preschool every morning.

Each morning when we’d get out of the car to walk to their class, I’d hand them their lunch and hold their hand. Without fail they’d ask, “Daddy is my face clean?” I’d lick my thumb, swipe it across their face and say, “Yep.” Then they’d give me their sticky little hand (who knows what from) and we’d walk together to their class hand-in-hand.

sticky handsEvery time I felt their little sticky hand in mine this little thought would flash across the back of my brain, “I’m gonna miss this someday.” I’d try harder to soak in the moment.

Last week we celebrated my youngest child graduating from preschool. No more extra hour in the morning. No more walks into preschool class. That chapter ends. But it’s only the great chapters that we wish wouldn’t end. So I’m grateful.

A new chapter begins. I’m tempted to rush into it.

But today I want to pause and thank God for those sticky hands and dirty faces.

This is a transitional season for many of us. What are you grateful for?

“How Do You Forgive A Sexual Abuser? Writing A Letter” by Mary DeMuth #ForgivenessFriday

Sexually abused as a little girl, Mary’s heart needed the healing only forgiveness could provide. Mary decided to take a bold step.

Today’s post may help you take a bold step.

marygreen

Mary recently wrote an OPEN LETTER to the boys who abused her. Do yourself a favor and read it.

Today Mary shares why writing this letter helped her forgive and why you may want to write your own letter.

Who’s Mary?

Mary DeMuth is the author of over a dozen books including Everything: What You Give and What You Gain to Become Like Jesus and The Wall Around Your Heart (Thomas Nelson). She speaks and writes about finding an uncaged, freedom-infused life. She lives in Texas with her husband and kids.

I wrote the letter to the boys (now men) who molested me because I wanted to be freer from their clutches. I’ve grown significantly in my healing, but there was something about writing it all down that helped me reframe the past and clarify what it was I was forgiving. I was afraid to do it mainly because the letter is achingly vulnerable. It shows my anger. I share what they did and how it affected me.

I also believe by being so darned honest, I opened myself for spiritual attack. I don’t believe the enemy of our souls, Satan, wants sexual abuse victims to feel whole, clean and free. And boy did the attack come (in different ways). I particularly worried about my family of origin mocking me for the story, or making them angry by sharing it (though they had very little to do with the sexual abuse).

Writing the letter opened up a door for those boys to somehow find me, find grace and truth, and perhaps experience healing. I actually wrote it for them, with pity and empathy in my heart. In the book, As We Forgive, by Catherine Claire Larson, we learn an acronym of forgiveness called REACH:

Recall the hurt (don’t deny or minimize it).

Empathize with the person who hurt you (try to see it from their perspective)

Altruistic gift of forgiveness (Remember when someone forgave you)

Commit publicly to forgive

Hold on to forgiveness

This letter was all those steps. I recalled the hurt in detail, not holding back the pain. I showed empathy for those who hurt me. I remembered Jesus’ outrageous act of forgiveness for me. In writing the letter, I certainly committed publicly to forgive, and now, in the aftermath, I’m holding on to forgiveness. Forgiveness is a lifelong struggle.

For others who have been hurt, I would recommend writing a letter. It may not ever be sent, or shared in such a public way as mine was, but I believe just writing it will help. Be sure to give yourself permission to say it all. Be angry. Be hurt. Be truthful about how the person’s sin has hurt you. Try to find a point of empathy. Write the difficult “I forgive you” words. Perhaps share your letter with a close friend or spouse as your act of publicly forgiving. Then whenever you wonder if you’ve forgiven, refer back to the letter. It will serve as a tangible reminder that you have made the choice to forgive.

Click HERE for PART 8 of #FridayForgiveness

Find out more at marydemuth.com. Twitter: @MaryDeMuth. Facebook.com/authormarydemuth

How do you know if you’re winning?

You’re going to chase something for the rest of your life.

Real Win will help you lock in on exactly what that should be. Colt McCoy and Matt Carter teach the difficult truths we face as men and leaders.

Ladies, this would be a great Father’s Day gift!

real win

The co-authors:

Colt McCoy was the winningest quarterback in College Football history. (Hook ‘em Horns!)

“I would have never admitted it, but because of my hard work and ‘obedience,’ I felt that God owed me success.”

Matt Carter started Austin Stone Church in Austin, TX which is a growing mega-church with thousands of people attending weekly.

Both faced major disappointments:

Colt was injured in the most important game of his life (2009 National Championship Game).

Matt was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 31.

These life-changing events caused both men to redefine success.

“When a man grasps how short his life is, he begins to live with a new sense of what’s truly important.”

“If the pursuit of God and trusting Him fully isn’t at the core of your life, then it’s going to be impossible for you to really win.”

“There is only one place a man can find true happiness and contentment. In God.” “Your heart will never be satisfied with anything under the sun except God.”

Real Win explores the real win at home (chapters 3-5), at work (chapters 6-7), in your character (chapters 8-9), and long-term and finishing well (chapters 10-11).

“The deepest desire of your heart is God.”

Do you think no one really understands your grudge? #ForgivenessFriday

I live in a coastal town in Southern California. From my backyard I can see a beautiful mountain range in one direction, palm trees in a different direction, and an avocado orchard in the opposite direction. I love my backyard view!

However, when a morning fog often rolls in off the Pacific Ocean, I can no longer see beyond my backyard fence. After a few minutes my eyes won’t even look for the mountains, orchard, or trees. They instinctively focus on what is visible . . . my extremely tiny backyard.

#ForgivenessFriday aims to unleash forgiveness in people’s hearts. (Click HERE to read the beginning of this series.)

It’s as if the surrounding beauty has been completely erased. Deep down I know the beauty is still “out there” but the longer the fog lasts the more I forget. If the fog lasts for several days, I subconsciously begin to wonder if I’ll ever see my view again. The fog is especially heavy this month and is simply referred to as the “June Gloom”.

But in the moment the fog lifts, I feel as if God reassembled a majestic mountain, swaying palm trees and a fertile orchard that I can clearly see again. I usually take a deep breath and think, “Now that’s a beautiful site!”

Picture my wife took as Venturan fog rolls in on Easter Sunday

Picture my wife took as Venturan fog rolls in on Good Friday – 2013

While I carried my grudge I experienced a mental fog. I saw nothing but my pain. It’s all I talked about and I thought no one understood. I wanted to say, “If you only knew how badly I was hurt, you would feel so sorry for me.”

Forgiving seemed as far away as the mountains, orchard, and palm trees feel in a Venturan fog. Deep down I sensed the beauty of forgiveness was “out there” but the longer I was in this mental fog the more I doubted it’s existence.

Ever been there? It’s hard to fully describe isn’t it? Maybe, you’re there now.

What can you do? First, it will help to ask yourself “How did I get here?” “Why am I carrying a grudge?”

According to Dr. Fred Luskin in his book Forgive for Good, there are three components of a long-standing hurt:

1. The exaggerated taking of a personal offense
2. The blaming of the offender for how you feel
3. The creation of a grievance story

I had done all three of these things.

You can battle component one (exaggerated taking of a personal offense) with one simple exercise: Identify your specific injury. (If you haven’t done this, click HERE to identify your injury.)

Because the circumstances of your hurt are unique, you sometimes falsely believe your injury is unique. Your circumstances are unique but your injury is common.

The moment you identify your specific injury, I think you’ll feel the mental fog lift. You’ll take a deep breath and discover, “I’m no longer alone and that’s a beautiful site!”

Click HERE for PART 7 of #FridayForgiveness

Struggling to wait? My 9-year-old daughter wants to encourage you

I asked my 9-year-old daughter Kennedy to write today’s post. Enjoy.

patience

Patience = waiting until later for what you want now.

I learned that at church last month.

So we went to Disneyland for the first time in December. We rode scary, exciting, and fun rides at the “Happiest Place on Earth”. We had lots of fun!

At 9:30pm we returned to our suburban. We discovered the battery in the suburban was dead! We called the Disneyland auto club to come help us. The guy could not fix our battery.

Two or three hours later a man named Bobby showed up. He asked if he could help. Surprisingly, he was able to fix our battery and we left the Disneyland Parking Lot at 12:15am.

I think God was teaching me patience. I had to wait until later for what I wanted now.

I’m grateful for people like Bobby who helped us. I’m grateful we made it home safely.

“Wait for the Lord. Be strong, don’t lose hope. Wait for the Lord.” Ps. 27:14 (That’s the verse we learned last month at church.)

Sometimes God wants you to wait until later for what you want now. God will bring the people you need into your life and He will bring you home safely.