For many people the biggest stumbling block for living happy lives is often directly proportional to their relationship with family members.
When I worked with Teen Challenge – a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation program serving all ages – nearly all the alcoholics and drug addicts in the program had issues with close friends and family members.
This is not to say that their families were the cause of their problems, but the way the addicted individual responded to their family often played a huge impact on their life and substance abuse problems. Often this was in direct correlation to the ability to forgive or hold on to unforgiveness.
Accountability is not just for accountants
As a firm believer in personal accountability we can’t live our life to the fullest as long as we blame others for the problems we face.
William J. Bennett, U.S. Secretary of Education from 1985 to 1988, wrote in his Book of virtues, “Responsible persons are mature people who have taken charge of themselves and their conduct, who won their actions and own up to them – who answer for them”.
The biggest responsibility in life is most often directly proportional to our relationships with our family members. The closer our relationships the deeper the hurt can be.
When an absolute stranger says something hateful or performs an unkind act, we most often can just shrug it off. If I were call you a big stupid jerk and worthless individual your response would be something in the line of “oh yeah just who do you think you are. You don’t even know me”. Yet if your spouse, close friend or family member were to say something similar it would have the ability of cutting you deeply.
Unforgiveness: The closer you are, the deeper the hurt
The closer people are to you, the more significant the hurt can be. This is why unresolved family conflict can cause such problems in people’s life and their ability to live freely.
The other factor that plays into our response to these hurts can be the viewpoint we have of ourselves. This difference in viewpoint shows us why siblings who live through similar experiences can have widely different responses to these events.
The child that has a low self-worth and has high expectations of the offending person will often be plagued with feelings of doubts, fear, anger and resentment. The child that is confidant in who they are and have a tendency to overlook people’s failures will often deal with these hurts in more positive ways.
This is not to say that we can do what ever we like to a person who is confident and easy-going without a negative impact, but it can show why people respond differently to offenses.
Unforgiveness is like a drug, only harder to kick.
After working with hundreds of addicts there was one thing they all had in common, and that was their ability or inability to forgive both themselves and others, especially close friends and family members.
When someone does not learn to forgive they begin to dwell on the offence. As they dwell on the offence they began to harbor feelings of anger and resentment, which if left unchecked can lead to hatred and bitterness.
As hatred and bitterness takes hold of minds and hearts it will soon be reflected in people’s actions. This is not to say that drug and alcohol abuse is only caused by negative reactions to other people, but after dealing with people in these life situations I am convinced it plays a significant role.
Unforgiveness is like lifting weights
When we do not forgive others it can become a weight on our lives that can often inhibit every area of our life.
A common practice in weight training is to increase the weight as you progress in your training. I like to do more repetitions during exercise and not focus on lifting heavy.
For example when it comes to bench press, I prefer to put one forty-five pound plate on both sides of the bar (about 135 pounds) and perform 10 reps. Then I put a ten pound weight on both sides and do nine reps. Then I put ten more pounds on each side and do eight reps. I try to keep going until I can only do one rep.
However by the time I hit 275 pounds, the three reps are about all I want to do, and the next added 20 pounds feels more like 50. By the time I hit my last rep the weight sometimes feels insurmountable.
Unforgiveness is death for relationships Conclusion.
I tell this story because it is analogous of how unforgiveness affects our lives. The first time we choose not to forgive it is fairly easy for us to carry on with life.
But as we stack up our unforgiveness, it becomes more and more difficult to function regularly. Just as it becomes harder for me to do more reps each time a plate is added, so life becomes more difficult as we let the hurts and pains build up in our lives.
This is why forgiveness is vital for the success for both the person and their relationships. So instead of carrying around the heavy weight of unforgiveness, we need to let things go and forgive those who offend us.