T.D. Jakes explains how you can apply forgiveness to your everyday life in his new book. Here's an excerpt.
The other insidious danger of not practicing forgiveness is that we become contagious carriers of the very offenses that we ourselves have suffered. If we saw our parents use violence to handle conflict, then that’s how we assume we should handle conflict. If we were betrayed by an untrustworthy partner, then we’re tempted to resort to the same tactics to avoid being betrayed again ourselves. Or consider this: Researchers discovered decades ago that the vast majority of child molesters were themselves sexually abused as children.
Now, that’s not to say that everyone who suffered abuse as a child is destined to become an abuser. Some face eating disorders, promiscuity, or other scars like low self-esteem. Not only people suffering with these issues, but also all of us who have had some deeply painful moments of life. Not all rise to that level but inevitably not one of us will live and die without our tear ducts being used along the way. The goal is to protect our future from being infected with the many woes of our past. This is no easy flip-an emotional-switch kind of process, I realize. So if you are thinking, “If you knew what I’ve been through in my life, then you would understand why I could never forgive the people who hurt me,” please know that I understand the enormous difficulty of your burden.
However, I also know that God did not design us to be victims. Even as we experience the selfish, painful, sometimes evil choices of other people, we are not without the same power to choose not to be further molested by the ghost of our hideous experiences. We always have a choice. The tragedy is that so many people become trapped in hell long after their wounds were inflicted. Just as our bodies are designed to heal and recover from our physical injuries, our souls want to help us to recover from the internal wounds that we’ve suffered. Without realizing it, however, we are often the ones holding up the process because we do not have the tools, the role models, the maturity, or the spiritual insight to move forward and allow healing to take place. We have not learned early-detection procedures that would allow us to enjoy a healthier, more balanced quality of life.
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My hope is that this book will provide you with all of these most vital elements in practicing the art of forgiveness. And please understand that in order to forgive others, we must be willing to look at our own ability to hurt, offend, and injure those around us, often the people we love the most. As we will discover, the Lord’s Prayer provides us with a key insight into how we can experience the joy and abundant life that Jesus told us he came to bring. “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” Jesus taught us to pray (Matthew 6:11–12, KJV).
I fear that many people do not realize when they pray this most famous prayer that they are asking God to forgive them in the same way that they themselves are forgiving (or not forgiving) other people! I do not believe God is punishing us in this manner, telling us that basically we’ll receive from him the same thing we’ve been dishing out to others. God is much bigger than that, much more loving, gracious, and compassionate to us his children. No, what I believe Jesus reveals in the Lord’s Prayer is that our human capacity to receive God’s grace is blocked when we are not willing to forgive those who have hurt us. We cannot embrace God’s forgiveness if we are so busy clinging to past wounds and nursing old grudges. In order to move into the blessings of our future, we must relinquish the pains of the past.
Forgiveness doesn’t exonerate the one who hurt you nor does it trivialize the depth of your trauma. No, not at all. What it does do is liberate you and your soul from living in the Amityville Horror house of memories and agonies that aren’t worthy of more time in your life. Forgiveness, then, is a gift you must find a way to give yourself regardless of who or what has dropped you into this grievous state of affairs. I earnestly believe that unforgiveness is the leading cause of divorce — not adultery or even economics, which are often touted as the culprits. It has been a sword devastating sisters, mothers, fathers, and countless sons. It has damaged office relationships and undermined the teamwork that increases profit margins and coalesces the best of the best into a business model with higher yields and greater proficiency!
So, then, forgiveness is essential if we are to grow into the fullness of who God created us to be. As we are made in his image, we share his capacity to love, to experience betrayal from those we love, and to extend forgiveness and risk loving again. Forgiveness isn’t about weakening you but strengthening you to live again and love again, performing at your highest capacity, unencumbered by yesterday’s maladies. I want to coach you back to your fullest potential and stop the brain drain and agony of a memory gone wild. And help you regain your control as you do have enormous power to change the quality and direction of your own life, away from the path of soul stagnation and bitterness and toward the spiritual healing of grace and peacefulness.
Do you really want to experience the fullness of the life you were meant to lead, a life of contented purpose, creative vitality, and joyful intimacy with those you love? Are you willing to let go of the chronic emotional ache from the many blows you’ve experienced in life? Can you sense that now is your season of transition from the old, cracked, and chipped containers of your energy to the joy of new wineskins?
Then it’s time to experience the supernatural power that’s unleashed when we let it go!
Excerpted from Let it Go: Forgive so you can be Forgiven by T.D. Jakes. Copyright © 2012 by T.D. Jakes. Excerpted with permission by Atria Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive