When People Behave Badly

“Bad temper is contagious—don’t get infected.” – Proverbs 22:25

Sometimes people can behave badly . . . very badly. When other people are unkind to you, you may be tempted to strike back, either verbally or in some other way. Don’t do it! Instead, remember that God corrects other people’s behaviors in His own way, and He doesn’t need your help (even if you’re totally convinced that He does).

So, when other people behave cruelly, foolishly, or impulsively—as they will from time to time—don’t be hotheaded. Instead, speak up for yourself as politely as you can, and walk away. Then, forgive everybody as quickly as you can, and leave the rest up to God.

We are all fallen creatures and all very hard to live with.   C. S. Lewis

A keen sense of humor helps us to overlook the unbecoming, understand the unconventional, tolerate the unpleasant, overcome the unexpected, and outlast the unbearable.   ~Billy Graham

Bear with the faults of others as you would have them bear with yours.   ~Phillips Brooks

From what does such contrariness arise in habitually angry people, but from a secret cause of too high an opinion of themselves so that it pierces their hearts when they see any man esteem them less than they esteem themselves? An inflated estimation of ourselves is more than half the weight of our wrath.     ~ST. THOMAS MORE


TODAY’S PRAYER

Dear Lord, sometimes people behave badly. When other people upset me, help me to calm myself down, and help me forgive them as quickly as I can. Amen

Forgiving

There are several words in the bible that people tend to cringe at when they hear them. Forgiveness is one of those words. It is a difficult concept to think about releasing someone who has hurt us. There are some drawbacks to holding onto hurts. These include, but are not limited to, giving our own sense of power away, physical ailments such as high blood pressure or headaches, the enemy can set up strongholds, and God will not forgive us (Mt. 6:14-15). There are also benefits to learning to forgive others and ourselves.

Jesus came to provide a way for us to receive forgiveness for our sins. So this seems to be pretty important to him. We want to be free from the weight of our regrets and mistakes and yet, we struggle with the idea of extending that same release to others. We either want justice or revenge. They should understand the pain they caused us. (MT 18:23-30)

The word ‘forgive’ is thrown around as if it is cheap and easy. What Jesus did on the cross to allow forgiveness to happen was not easy. He did not even want to do it, he said “Father if there is any other way, take this cup from me.” MT 26:39 But he made the hard choice and wants us to do the same. Notice, forgiveness is a choice not a feeling. If you wait until you feel like forgiving, it will never happen and you will be stuck carrying the burden forever.

Many people have a misperception that forgiveness is a one time action that “let’s perpetrators off the hook” We are not taught that forgiveness is a process. This process starts with identifying the wound. If we are not aware of what is hurting us, it is extremely difficult to seek healing for it. If you go to the doctor for a cut on your hand but show him your foot, he will have a hard time stitching up the cut and it will be unlikely to heal properly. It will possibly become infected and hurt worse.

Next we need to confess anything that has become sin in relation to the memory of the experience. This is where bitterness, anger, revenge, taking things into our own hands, and selfishness needs to be acknowledged. Wait a minute, are saying I have to let go of my feelings of being hurt? What about the other person? If I forgive them, they will get away with hurting me, why do I have to confess?

This is where one of the corrections to the forgiveness myth comes in. Forgiveness is not for “them”, it’s for you. If you confess your sin first, you are making space for the Holy Spirit to fill you and heal your hurt.

If you try to get back at the person who hurt you, that is the only discipline they will receive. If you choose to forgive them, God will say ‘Ok I’ll take it from here.’ His justice and correction are better than anything I could come up with, so I prefer leaving the discipline, or teaching, to him. After acknowledging the hurt and confessing your own sin, you are now ready to release the person into God’s care. Remember, it is for your freedom and health that you are forgiving them. Be specific. Say “I choose to forgive_______ (name of person) for_______ (what they did) in Jesus’ name. I release them in Jesus’ name” The first time is to break enemy strongholds and the second is so that it comes from the heart. (Mt 18:35)

Finally ask the Holy Spirit to fill you, seal you, and make you the person God designed you to be from the beginning. You are a treasure and you bring glory, honor, and pleasure to God when you forgive others. He sings over you. (Zeph 3:17)

Steps of Forgiveness

  • Acknowledge hurtful situation
  • Confess your sin
  • Choose to forgive and release the person who hurt or upset you
  • Ask Holy Spirit to fill you

Unforgiveness hurts a lot of people. It removes you from relationship with others, yourself, and with God. Making the choice to forgive those who have wronged you allows God to be bigger than the hurt. He wants to bring you healing and freedom. More than that, he wants you back in relationship with Him. There are many reasons to learn how to forgive. It is possible to gain freedom from the burdens you carry. Forgiving is the vehicle to remove the bricks from your backpack so you no longer have to lug them around with you. Your heavenly father wants to relieve the weight you carry as it is too heavy for you. There is hope.

Irreconcilable Differences

A friend of mine recently e-mailed me an article written by a clergyman, in which he discusses the idea of irreconcilable differences. It was a revelation to me, and got me thinking about the way marriage is going in our country these days: Downhill.

Before we begin, let me just say that there certainly are circumstances in which a divorce is permitted in the minds of even the staunchest Christian. No one believes that you must stay together when your spouse has committed adultery, and if you have been abandoned without word for years, this also qualifies as a reason to be divorced. I personally also adhere to the belief that when one spouse becomes abusive physically, this is a deal breaker. However, in the first case, that of adultery, I have worked with many couples who can repair their marriages through counseling and spiritual work, and this is a good thing, since divorce really is a horrible thing, most notably on the spiritual level.

The premise that was set forth in the article was this: Men and women by nature, are created to have irreconcilable differences. They are made to complement one another, to join together in a mystical union. If we look at the book of Ephesians, this mystery of union is compared to the joining of the human and Divine natures of Christ. Those two natures simply cannot be joined together, since they are qualitatively different. And yet, it happens: A mystery.  This is the highest view of marriage possible, and one which obviously has pretty much disappeared in our self-absorbed society.  So, while this view has obtained for thousands of years, it is suddenly non-functional. Let’s look at why this might be.

What is the Purpose of the Family?

No one can doubt that the family is the basic unit, the fundamental organism of society. Without stable families, a situation unknown until our present times, society will begin to come apart. Without stable families, people become mere individuals, living for themselves, unable to invest in others, unable to sacrifice for others. We see this process happening all over our society, and few have understood that this situation is an entirely new societal formation. Families are no longer required in order to have children. Families are no longer stable multi-generational groups who live in love and care. All is fragmented, broken, disjointed. Of course, there are millions who still adhere to the old ways, but over time, the preponderance of those prizing the individual over the family will tip the balance, and families will go the way of the horse and buggy. Replacing them will be various assortments of people living together with little or no commitment to the family’s health. Of course, all will suffer, but especially the children. We can already see this happening right now.

Myths about Marriage

In order for this breakdown of the family to occur, it is necessary for alternate theories to dominate the national psyche. While families were relatively stable until the Twentieth century, when divorce laws began liberalizing across the western world, there is at present very little non-spiritual incentive to stay together. Even though researchers have demonstrated that children of divorce have trouble in their own marital (or non-marital) relationships, this fact has done little to stem the tide of divorces. Why?

There are many myths which swirl about in the ether, and they are both powerful and seductive. Some of them are:

  1. I have a right to be happy in my marriage. If I’m not happy, I can pull the plug and move on to someone who makes me happy.
  2. I need to find my soulmate. My current spouse is not on the same wavelength as I.
  3. My spouse and I are as different as oil and water. We are just different people, and we need to find new spouses have similar interests.
  4. I don’t love my spouse any more. There is someone else whom I feel attracted to, and I want to love that new person.

You’ve all heard these arguments for divorce, and over them all, like a banner are the words:  Irreconcilable differences.  Yes, you and your spouse do have irreconcilable differences, because that is the essence of marriage. That is the basis for the sacrifice you are called to make in forming a family made up of those who have different wills than our own. Bridezillas aside, we don’t always get our own way when we marry. It may be necessary to submit our will to that of another: a spiritual exercise of the highest order.

The ideas that there is someone else “better” for us out there is a temptation to be resisted at all costs. We have chosen our spouse, and failing the major impediments to marriage mentioned above, our job is to find a way to live joyfully within those boundaries.  It is certain that no children desire their parents divorce, unless there is criminal behavior, such as assault, being demonstrated in the home. Is there drunkenness or other substance abuse? This is another spiritual matter that needs fixing, and it may promote the need to separate until it is dealt with.

But, since men and women are different qualitatively, it is ludicrous to bemoan that fact, and cite it as grounds for divorce. It is actually grounds for marriage! The desire to join together in union with another soul different from our own is the basis for marriage, and the programme is this:  I will spend my life serving this person, and will be faithful to the other until death. It is a serious vow one makes, and finding it difficult is no cause for release from it. Temptation to do so is all around us, but if it is recognized as such, we can fight against it.

The only other thoughts which this idea of the “rightness” of irreconcilable differences brought to my mind was this: If these differences are the essence of marriage, according to God, what does this say about those who try to bypass these difficulties by marrying another person who is very similar? I am referring, of course, to gay marriages.

The idea of marrying someone alike short circuits most of the inherent struggles faced by those following the mystical plan of marriage instituted by God.  These couples can never know the fullness of the mystery of union between a man and a woman, and the homosexuals’ decision to call what they do “marriage” does not present a comparable struggle.  Can I unite myself to another whose very being is mysterious to me? Can I take a chance and see if love can flow from this union, if children will be sent us through this mystical union? This is the dignity and grace of marriage as instituted by God, and no other arrangement contrived by man can compare.

Beyond Guilt

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
ROMANS 8:1 NKJV

All of us have sinned. Sometimes our sins result from our own stubborn rebellion against God’s commandments. And sometimes, we are swept up in events that are beyond our abilities to control. Under either set of circumstances, we may experience intense feelings of guilt. But God has an answer for the guilt that we feel. That answer, of course, is His forgiveness. When we confess our wrongdoings and repent from them, we are forgiven by the One who created us.

Are you troubled by feelings of guilt or regret? If so, you must repent from your misdeeds, and you must ask your Heavenly Father for His forgiveness. When you do so, He will forgive you completely and without reservation. Then, you must forgive yourself just as God has forgiven you: thoroughly and unconditionally.

If God has forgiven you, why can’t you forgive yourself? ~Marie T. Freeman

Spiritual life without guilt would be like physical life without pain. Guilt is a defense mechanism; it’s like an alarm that goes off to lead you to confession when you sin. ~John MacArthur

You never lose the love of God. Guilt is the warning that temporarily you are out of touch. ~Jack Dominian

One of Satan’s most effective ploys is to make us believe that we are small, insignificant, and worthless.   ~Susan Lenzkes

TODAY’S PRAYER
Dear Lord, thank You for the guilt that I feel when I disobey You. Help me confess my wrongdoings,  help me accept Your forgiveness, and help me renew my passion to serve You. Amen

Look Up and Move On

All bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander must be removed from you, along with all wickedness. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
EPHESIANS 4:31-32 HCSB

The world holds few if any rewards for those who remain angrily focused upon the past. Still, the act of forgiveness is difficult for all but the most saintly men and women. Are you mired in the quicksand of bitterness or regret? If so, you are not only disobeying God’s Word; you are also wasting your time.

Being frail, fallible, imperfect human beings, most of us are quick to anger, quick to blame, slow to forgive, and even slower to forget. Yet as Christians, we are commanded to forgive others, just as we, too, have been forgiven.

If there exists even one person—alive or dead—against whom you hold bitter feelings, it’s time to forgive. Or, if you are embittered against yourself for some past mistake or shortcoming, it’s finally time to forgive yourself and move on. Hatred, bitterness, and regret are not part of God’s plan for your life. Forgiveness is.

Be so preoccupied with good will that you haven’t room for ill will.   ~E. Stanley Jones

Acrid bitterness inevitably seeps into the lives of people who harbor grudges and suppress anger, and bitterness is always a poison.   ~Les Strobel

Anger breeds remorse in the heart, discord in the home, bitterness in the community, and confusion in the state.   ~Billy Graham

Bitterness is the trap that snares the hunter.   ~Max Lucado

TODAY’S PRAYER
Heavenly Father, free me from anger and bitterness.
When I am angry, I cannot feel the peace that You intend for my life. When I am bitter, I cannot sense Your presence. Keep me mindful that forgiveness is Your commandment. Let me turn away from bitterness and instead claim the spiritual abundance that You offer through the gift of Your Son. Amen

The Need to Forgive

All bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander must be removed from you, along with all wickedness. And be kind and compassionate to one another,  forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
EPHESIANS 4:31-32 HCSB

It has been said that life is an exercise in forgiveness. And it should be added that forgiveness is an essential step in overcoming tough times.

Christ understood the importance of forgiveness when He commanded, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44 NIV). But sometimes, forgiveness is difficult indeed.
When we have been injured or embarrassed, we feel the urge to strike back and to hurt the ones who have hurt us. But Christ instructs us to do otherwise. Christ teaches us that forgiveness is God’s way and that mercy is an integral part of God’s plan for our lives. In short, we are commanded to weave the thread of forgiveness into the very fabric of our lives.

Do you invest more time than you should reliving the past? Are you troubled by feelings of anger, bitterness, envy, or regret? Do you harbor ill will against someone whom you simply can’t seem to forgive? If so, it’s time to finally get serious about forgiveness.

When someone hurts you, the act of forgiveness is difficult, but necessary. Until you forgive, you are trapped in a prison of your own creation. But what if you have tried to forgive and simply can’t seem to do so? The solution to your dilemma is this: you simply must make forgiveness a higher priority in your life.

Have you sincerely asked God to forgive you for your inability to forgive others? Have you genuinely prayed that those feelings of anger might be swept from your heart? If so, congratulations. If not, perhaps it’s time to move past your own particular tough times by freeing yourself from the chains of bitterness and regret.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.   ~C. S. Lewis

TODAY’S PRAYER
Heavenly Father, forgiveness is Your commandment, and I know that I should forgive others just as You have forgiven me.  But, genuine forgiveness is difficult. Help me to forgive those who have injured me, and deliver me from the traps of anger  and bitterness. Forgiveness is Your way, Lord; let it be mine. Amen

Make Peace With the Past

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
JOHN 14:27 KJV

Some of life’s greatest roadblocks are not the ones we see through the windshield; they are, instead, the roadblocks that seem to fill the rearview mirror. Because we are imperfect human beings who lack perfect control over our thoughts, we may allow ourselves to become “stuck” in the past—even though we know better. Instead of focusing our thoughts and energies on the opportunities of today, we may allow painful memories to fill our minds and sap our strength. We simply can’t seem to let go of our pain, so we relive it again and again . . . with predictably unfortunate consequences. Thankfully, God has other plans.

Philippians 3:13-14 instructs us to focus on the future, not the past: “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (NKJV). Yet for many of us, focusing on the future is difficult indeed. Why? Part of the problem has to do with forgiveness. When we find ourselves focusing too intently on the past, it’s a sure sign that we need to focus, instead, on a more urgent need: the need to forgive. No amount of anger or bitterness can change what happened yesterday. Tears can’t change the past; regrets can’t change it. Our worries won’t change the past, and neither will our complaints. Simply put, the past is, and always will be, the past. Forever.

Can you summon both the courage and the wisdom to accept your past and move on with your life? Can you accept the reality that yesterday—and all the yesterdays before it—are gone? And, can you entrust all those yesterdays to God? By God’s grace, you can.

So if you’ve endured a difficult past, learn from it, but don’t live in it. Instead, build your future on a firm foundation of trust and forgiveness: trust in your Heavenly Father, and forgiveness for all His children, including yourself.

If you are God’s child, you are no longer bound to your past or to what you were. You are a brand new creature in Christ Jesus.   ~Kay Arthur

TODAY’S PRAYER
Heavenly Father, free me from anger, resentment, and envy. When I am bitter, I cannot feel the peace that You intend for my life. Keep me mindful that forgiveness is Your commandment, and help me accept the past, treasure the present, and trust the future . . . to You. Amen

Positive Pain

Steve Arterburn

Sometimes forgiveness involves pain. When we confront people regarding betrayal, abandonment, abuse, deception, or other offenses, we’ll likely experience sorrow. We need to accept this as part of the consequences of sin and learn to freely express it to God. He can transform the pain associated with wrongdoing and bring about good for everyone involved.

Remember men: not all sorrow is bad for you. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Corinth that made them sad because he confronted them about wrongdoing. He initially regretted hurting them. But after reflection he wrote these words, which you can find in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10: ‘Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to have remorse and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed’in any way. For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow.’

The grief Paul described was good. It was caused by his love for others in action, and accessed in light of honest self-evaluation. Like Paul, we too must learn that sometimes sorrow is a positive part of our spiritual growth. So when you’re confronted with it, don’t run from it and don’t reject it. Enter into it asking God to use it to direct the course of your life along redemptive paths.

The Choice to Forgive: Healing is a Choice Part 2

Steve Arterburn

Real resentment over real damage by a real person produces a justifiable resentment, and it becomes such a huge part of your life that it feels like a vulture sitting on top of you, a dark and dangerous presence that affects everything that you do.

If the resentment was not justifiable, someone could just talk you out of it. A friend could tell you things he or she has told others who had a bad attitude;

1. Stop being so negative

2. Look at the bright side of things

3. Stop seeing the glass half empty

4. Start thinking more positively

5. Look for the good in people

6. Try accepting people for who they are.

These are the things people say to someone who just needs to make a few changes to make herself more comfortable and enjoy life more.

But none of those things apply to you, because you have something to hang on to. There is a date and a person and a trauma that really happened. It is your Auschwitz, and those who know of your terrible ordeal support your feelings. That is the problem; no one questions your feelings. Everyone feels horrible for you, so it is easy for you to hang on to the resentment. Anyone would, but you can’t.

You can’t, because it is eating you alive. It is your own internal terrorist that is destroying your life, keeping you from living the best life possible. It is hurting your relationship with God and with others. You will be firmly rooted to your past and to your abuse as long as the justifiable resentment grows within you. Everything you do in life will lean up against your grudge. It will come to define who you are and limit what you can become.

Although it might be very difficult to imagine, you really can be free from that justifiable resentment. You can let it go and experience the healing power of forgiveness. You can choose to heal a very troubled area of your soul by choosing to walk through a path of forgiveness. And if you take this path, something very amazing is going to happen to you one day.

One day you are going to awaken and realize that everything in your life has changed. You will sense that you are no longer rooted in your past. You will realize that what once defined your life and your inner thoughts is no longer relevant to how you live your life. You won’t forget what happened, but you will be aware of something with the magnitude of a fly you just swoosh away. That little fly is nothing compared to the vulture that now sits atop your head, talons deeply implanted in your heart. One day you will awaken and that vulture will no longer be there, and you will be free!

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you’re carrying justifiable resentment, we’d like to help. Please join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Rebuilding Trust in Friendships

Clint Thomas

Friendships can be an incredible source of stability, encouragement and strength. God said in Genesis 2:18, ‘It is not good for man to be alone,’ thus the friendship between Adam and Eve began. Also in Hebrews 10:24-25 we are exhorted to, ‘spur one another on toward love and good deeds as well as maintain meeting together for the purposes of encouragement.” In other passages (Eph. 4, 1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12) Paul talks of Christians working together as a body in interdependence. All throughout scripture we see examples of the importance of friendships.

A good friendship requires maintenance and care, time and attention. Something we guys don’t think much about this part of friendship, expecting that it won’t require any effort. In effect we sometimes treat friendships as if they have very little value. In large part we have not been taught how to maintain or value these relationships. An unfortunate fact about our culture today is that most men have very few friends compared to women. As a result this has negative effects on our emotional and physical health.

Friendships are primarily about intimacy; knowing another person and being known. The phrases ‘see into me’ or ‘into me see’ describe it well.

Maintenance within a friendship is allowing yourself to be fully known and showing interest in knowing the other person. When this happens a deep connection can be experienced. However, what happens when we are caught up in sin that we are ashamed to share with our friends? Can we be intimate and hide simultaneously?

This is the ultimate struggle in friendships and marriage for that matter; allowing our sin to be known as well as our positive qualities. I hear from wives who are broken by their husband’s sexual sin say, ‘I thought I knew him but I guess I didn’t. I feel so hurt, I don’t know if I can ever trust him again’.

They feel betrayed, foolish and vulnerable. While wives are our closest friends, our other friends will sometimes feel similar.

Friendships are like taking a walk with someone. The further you travel the closer you become. However, at the point you begin to lie, or deceive, you are no longer walking with that person even though they think you are. You have chosen a separate fork in the road.

Rebuilding the friendship is much like walking back to the fork in the road where you separated from your friend and starting from that point forward. Your friend will know that you are trustworthy by your willingness to do this without defensiveness. They will see they are important to you by your willingness to put this kind of effort forward to restore trust with them.

A trustworthy person will have words and deeds that match. What they say and what they do will be the same. They will also acknowledge when they have hurt someone. Taking responsibility for their actions, they will apologize. Their non-verbal communication such as body posture and facial expressions will match this as well. When this repentant stance is taken over a period of time trust will begin to build.

A repentant heart leads to rebuilding trust and reconciliation can be the end result. You don’t have any guarantees that your friend will respond to your efforts but you will never know unless you put the effort forward. When your friend knows that you mean what you say he can trust that it will be safe to get close to you and reconcile an intimate relationship.

The Greek term for reconcile is to bring back to a former state of harmony. This harmony can only be gained when there is true repentance on the offender’s part and therefore safety in the relationship.

For more help on this subject see Every Man\’s Battle and The New Life Weekend.

Tour Israel with Steve Arterburn and New Life Ministries