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What If I Don't Have Hurt Feelings?

By Dr. Don Dunlap
Pastoral Counseling
Even if you feel fine towards an offender, you may not have forgiven him. -

The Forgiveness Series – Article 7 of 71

Many Christians believe they’ve forgiven an offender because they no longer are experiencing hurt feelings. In this part of Dr. Don Dunlap’s forgiveness series, Dr. Dunlap discusses the biblical principles of forgiveness and how important it is that we as Christians apply these principles. For if we fail to truly forgive, we will continue to suffer emotional, spiritual and physical consequences long after the actual feelings of hurt have subsided.

Most Christians believe that they fully understand what it means to biblically forgive someone who has hurt them. The many deceptions that surround this topic, however, often cloud the spiritual vision of someone who has been offended. The most prevalent deception that abounds concerning forgiveness is the conclusion that, “People who hurt me are acting solely on their own initiative, and authority.”

Even if you feel fine towards an offender, you may not have forgiven him.

Many Christians believe a second deception regarding biblical forgiveness. It is the assumption that “I have forgiven my offender because I no longer have hurt feelings towards him.” Someone who is currently going through a difficult situation may be experiencing deep feelings of hurt and bitterness. However, if the offense took place in his life years ago, such as events that happened when he was a child, the painful emotions that he once experienced may have long since subsided.

I recently spoke at a workshop that was attended by 97 people. At one point, I asked them, “How many of you remember specific offenses that your parents committed against you while you were growing up?”

I suggested that perhaps there had been conflict in their home or maybe their parents had been guilty of anger or harsh discipline. I went on to explain that the problem may not have been so much the things that their parents had done to hurt them – maybe they had good parents who took them to church and who were faithful to one another – but the offenses grew out of the things that their parents had not done that they should have done.

Parents are called to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

A Christian parent must fulfill certain obligations in order to raise a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

I asked the workshop attendees some further questions. “Did your parents teach you how to pray? Do you remember listening to your parents’ prayers? Did your family have consistent family worship? Did you read God’s Word and seek His guidance together as a family? Were you taught to memorize Scripture and get it deep in your heart and soul, so that it was there to draw upon in times of temptation and difficulty during those critical teenage years? To summarize, did your parents not do some things that they should have done?”

After I explained my questions to the workshop participants, I asked everyone in attendance to bow their heads, and close their eyes.

Then I said, “Based on these questions that I have just asked—regarding parents who did things that they should not have done or parents who didn’t do some important things that they should have done—how many of you were offended by your parents while you were growing up?”

Almost every person in the auditorium raised his hand. It is possible to be unforgiving towards someone and not be aware of it.

Then I asked them a second question, “Now that you are adults, many of you married, with children of your own, how many of you, still, have hurt feelings toward your parents today?”

I was not at all surprised by the response. Only one man raised his hand. In the same way that feelings of grief gradually diminish in their intensity, feelings of hurt tend to dissipate with the passing of time. This is especially true if the offenses are no longer ongoing.

So the mistaken conclusion that is often reached, particularly by Christians, is, “Because the offenses took place a long time ago and I no longer feel hurt or resentful towards my offender, I know that I have forgiven him.”

It is crucially important, however, to understand the truth of the matter. Even though someone believes that he has forgiven his offender, he will experience long-lasting adverse effects in his life if he does not understand how to forgive biblically.

If we fail to thoroughly apply the principles of biblical forgiveness to each offense that ee encounter, we will continue to suffer emotional, spiritual and physical consequences long after the actual feelings of hurt have subsided.



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