By Mark Riggins
You’re going to hurt people and people are going to hurt you. As John Ortberg says living with people is like “dancing with porcupines.” So what will you do when you get hurt?
MY STUCK STORY
As soon as I read the email from my pastor, my heart skipped a beat: “Mark, come to my office first thing this morning.”
You know that feeling when you sense something isn’t right? I told my wife about the odd email, then I drove to the church.
As I walked into my mentor’s large office, he said, “Hey man, why don’t you close the door?” My heart was pounding. I shut the door and sat in the green wingback chair facing his desk. This man whom I’d worked alongside for twelve years began reading a prepared letter. Apparently, there would be no small talk. I didn’t know it, but he was about to make a shocking announcement and instantly end our friendship.
The man reading this prepared letter was not just my pastor; he was one of my best friends. We genuinely loved each other. That’s what made his announcement so gut wrenching.
Due to a philosophical difference, he announced that I needed to have my office cleaned out by Monday morning.
When he finished reading, he looked up and calmly asked, “Do you have any questions?” We sat without speaking, a moment of silence for the death of our friendship. Then I said the only words that seemed appropriate, “I hate that it’s ending this way.” He agreed.
I stood up and slowly walked out of his office. I already felt something hurting deep inside of me. My mind raced in a thousand different directions simultaneously.
FAST-FORWARD TWO YEARS
“Mark, you keep looking back. You need to forgive and start moving forward.” My coach had heard my two-year-old sob story before. On this day, as we sat across from each other at Smokejack BBQ in Alpharetta, GA, I chided myself for yet again rehashing what should have been ancient history.
I took a deep breath and nodded my head in agreement, like you do when someone says something completely true but completely unhelpful. “Forgive and move forward?” I thought. “Sure. No problem. While I’m at it I’ll solve world hunger and negotiate world peace. I want to move forward but I don’t know how. That’s the problem. I’m stuck! What specifically can I do?” I thought. I was exhausted. Something had to change.
WHAT’S YOUR STUCK STORY?
Maybe you’ve experienced something much more painful. Your ex-spouse, a parent, a co-worker, or a close friend hurt you.
Your hurt may include a divorce, bankruptcy, a job loss, betrayal, abuse, or broken trust. The day you’re hurt is a bad day, but the unrelenting weight of a heavy grudge is even worse, isn’t it? When you want to forgive but don’t know how, you feel stuck.
In a nationwide Gallup poll, 94 percent of people said it was important to forgive, but 85 percent said they would need outside help in order to forgive. Apparently, many of us are stuck.
As a pastor who couldn’t forgive, I spent three [years] searching for real steps to take toward forgiving someone who has hurt you deeply.
Here are 6 steps that helped me completely forgive and move forward:
Stop telling your story as a victim
Forgiveness isn’t found in speaking but in surrendering. (Isa. 53:7)
Assess your Injury
“General forgiveness does not heal specific hurts. It’s important to pinpoint what was taken from you.” -Andy Stanley
Value your offender
You do not condone what they did, but you recognize that they are more than what they did. (Luke 23:34)
Intercede for your offender
“The more I pray for an idiot the less idiotic they become.” –Daniel Hahn (Matt. 5:44)
Own your part
As long as you remain 100% focused on their guilt, you will remain 100% stuck.
Release their debt
“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” -C.S. Lewis
Mark is the Community Life Pastor at ENCOUNTER | Bible Fellowship Church in Ventura, CA. His new book STUCK When You Want to Forgive but Don’t Know How is available now on Amazon.