Certain Christian counseling techniques only look at your fault in any given situation and often minimize or discredit the sins done against you. The assumption is that if you start focusing on the other person’s sin, you will likely fall into the “victim” trap where you don’t take responsibility for your own sin but instead blame others for your problems. This has been taken to the extreme in certain disgraceful occurrences where rape victims are told to repent of their sins.
I disagree with the conclusion that you will become a victim if you are allowed to see what sin was done against you. I believe that recognizing the sins done against you is just as important in healing as recognizing your own sins. If you can’t recognize the sins done against you, then you cannot forgive. Forgiveness always includes full recognition of the sins done against you.
In my book: Forgiveness Fail, I poke fun at myself for a time when I helped a friend of mine recognize all the problems in his life without walking with him through any of the forgiveness stuff. To say the least, it was not helpful.
There is a way to forgive that does not minimize the offender’s sin or let them off the hook while also keeping the hurting one from labeling himself/herself as a victim.
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The premise for my upcoming book – Forgiveness Fail – is that many believers today are authentically trying to forgive, but it doesn’t change anything. They’re still bitter, angry and frustrated. Here’s an excerpt from my book:
I grew up overseas in an Eastern country that is not too favorable of their people converting to Christianity. One of my favorite recreational activities was to “teach” our visiting friends a few helpful phrases. It never worked like I wanted it to, mostly because my mom would come to their rescue. Dad, on the other hand, was probably the one who gave me the idea in the first place. The hope was that my friends and family would stroll around town saying, “I have no underwear,” as a formal greeting.
As soon as they started speaking, it would be blatant that they were led astray. The gag would come to a screeching halt, and they would be forced to creatively discover ways to test their newly acquired words before committing to them whole-heartedly, boldly proclaiming their lack of undergarments while wearing an all-too-friendly smile.
We need to start treating our theology in a similar manner.
We know that the Bible is true, like we know that the language we are trying to learn works. What we don’t know is how to appropriately apply the Bible in a way that produces the correct result. Your theology should work! If your theology doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, then it is wrong.
Can failure be worshipful? I think God told me once that it can, and that makes sense to me. I sure hope that that’s true. Twice now in the last year Michelle and I have stepped out in faith and generosity and completely failed at what we were attempting. (Click here to read about a failure that was not worshipful)
Last spring, Michelle was taking a class a local community college as she was trying to knock out a few electives to finish up her Bachelors in Psychology (Which, she just finished! Way to go baby!). One of her class mates was in need of a computer and didn’t have the money to buy one. Michelle decided that we should offer one of our two laptops so that he would have something to finish school with. One computer would be plenty for her and me. He was very grateful when she told him and we were all convinced that God was using Michelle and me to extend the love of God in a very tangible way.
Then, as a responsible computer owner, I wanted to wipe the hard drive before handing it off. I had heard that this was the safest way to ever sell or give a used computer. I’m not very talented with the computer skills, so after fumbling around for about two days I called a buddy for help. He was able to wipe the computer, but then Windows wouldn’t reload. Today, neither Michelle’s classmate nor Michelle and I have that computer. It is still waiting for some miraculous OS download from heaven. Fail.
The toughest part about that one is that if we hadn’t tried to be generous, we would still have a second computer. I wonder how much spiritual warfare plays into stuff like that? Maybe it’s just a result of bad engineering. Then again, that was the same computer that miraculously healed itself of a nasty virus after I prayed over it a year or two prior! No joke, it was broken, got prayed over, and then it was better. Let’s be honest, miracles do happen. God does respond to prayers, and God is really good with computers! Why didn’t he fix it when we wanted to give it away then? I definitely prayed then too. I don’t know. But, I’m convinced that He’s good.
Then there was tonight’s adventure. Michelle and I realized that we had no family plans for Christmas day itself. We easily could have just enjoyed the time alone, relaxed in front of the fireplace, read a book, or taken a bath, but Michelle thought it would be awesome if we invited someone over to enjoy Christmas dinner with us. Someone who didn’t have anywhere else to go and needed someone to show them that they matter. God knows there are plenty of those people out there!
So, off I went to find our person. Michelle stayed home and finished the final preparations for the meal and I went out. We were both very nervous and concerned that we wouldn’t be able to find anyone who needed a place to hang out for the evening. We spent some time in prayer and asked God to lead us to this person that He had targeted. We had felt that God had told us that He already had someone picked out. After driving around for 45 minutes and only approaching one person who seemed like a good candidate, I called Michelle and we decided that I should head home. The food was getting cold and it was getting past everyone’s dinner time. Fail.
Man, can’t a guy offer a free dinner to someone! I would have loved to have heard their story and listened to their struggles and victories. I would have loved to have started a relationship with that person. But, it didn’t happen. I wonder how much spiritual warfare plays into this sort of thing? Maybe it was just bad planning and lack of perseverance on our part. I don’t know.
As Michelle and I struggled to process this all as we ate our amazing feast alone, I realized something. Disappointment sucks. It’s almost painful. It gets you doubting and questioning and wondering and pondering. It’s difficult. But, I’m convinced that it’s not as difficult as waking up one day, realizing you’re 75 years old wishing that you had taken more risks, walked more in faith, given more generously, dared more boldly, and thereby lived more abundantly.
Today I was reminded that I can deal with failure. What I can’t deal with is living a pointless, boring life.