Summary: Talk about the stumbling blocks to forgiveness (Material adapted from Dr. Paul Coleman's book, The Forgiven Marriage)
A. Linda gave up her college career because her new husband wanted her to stay home. She obliged him. Six months later, she had an abortion because her husband told her they weren’t ready to become parents. As Linda’s resentment grew over the next year, so did her loneliness. He protested that she was growing distant from him. She struggled to keep the marriage alive by trying to please him. He then complained she had no mind of her own. Infuriated, she threatened a marital separation, hoping he would begin to appreciate her. He presented her with a letter from his lawyer and shacked up with a woman he had been flirting with at work. Linda had to take a job in fast food to support herself. In between bouts of depression and anxiety, Linda cursed her husband’s name and refused to forgive him.
We feel for Linda, this is just wrong! However, over time, Linda’s lack of forgiveness will not injure her husband but herself. Some people say that forgiveness is not fair. It is the same as looking the other way and letting the guilty person go unpunished. We have all taken an unforgiving stance after being hurt. We may feel strong and righteous when we withhold forgiveness, but such feelings pale in comparison to the price we pay.
Need to understand that the blocks that prevent us from forgiving are within us. When we tell ourselves we must not forgive because the hurts are against us were too great, we are really telling ourselves that the person who hurt us has set the guidelines for forgiveness. We give the guilty party power over our lives and we injure only ourselves.
Thesis: Talk about the stumbling blocks to forgiveness
Vengeance only adds to the pain, with each side feeling justified to counterattack, thereby making any kind of reconciliation impossible. Vengeance can convince us that our acts of retaliation are caused by the other person. After all, we would have never done what we did if they hadn’t hurt us first, or so the reasoning goes.
After Linda’s husband filed for divorce and left with the other woman, Linda set out on a vindictive course of action. She sought to fight him legally and take away every material possession she could possibly get, even more than she saw necessary. She felt he needed to be punished. But Linda’s strong retaliatory approach hurt her in the long run. As long as she focused on the damage her husband had done to her, she never evaluated and owned up to her own weaknesses and fears. It was as much her decision to leave college and have an abortion as it was her husband’s. We feel justified in seeking revenge.
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:19-21