Category Archives: Christian Counseling

Healing Through Forgiveness (Part 3)

What is Forgiveness

Read Part 2

What is forgiveness and what is it not?

Most of us assume that if we forgive our offenders, they are let off the hook, while we unfairly suffer from their actions. While God commands us to forgive others, he never told us to keep trusting those who violate our trust.

  • Forgiveness is returning to God the right to take care of justice. By refusing to transfer the right to exact revenge, we are telling God we don’t trust him to take care of what concerns us.
  • Withholding forgiveness is a refusal to let go of perceived power. We can feel powerful when the offender is in need of forgiveness and only we can give it. However, this is like drinking poison and expecting it to harm the other person.
  • Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It’s normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When thoughts of past hurts occur, it’s what we do with them that matters.
  • Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook. We can and should hold others accountable for their actions.
  • Forgiveness is not letting the offense recur again and again. We don’t have to tolerate lack of respect or any form of abuse. Some people will never change, but we may need to change the way we respond to them and quit expecting them to be different.
  • Forgiveness does not mean we have to revert to being the victim. Forgiving is not playing the martyr, enjoying the performance of forgiving people because it perpetuates our victim role.
  • Forgiveness is not the same as reconciling. We can forgive someone even if we can never reestablish a relationship with them.
  • Forgiveness is not based on the actions of others but on our attitude. People will continue to hurt us through life, but we can choose how to respond. We can stay stuck and angry, or we can keep our minds on our loving relationship with God, knowing and trusting in what is pure.
  • Forgiveness starts with a decision. Decide to let go of the resentment and then start your emotional healing.
  • Forgiveness does not mean we do not do the work necessary to heal ourselves from the pain. Sometimes we find that we say we “forgive” to make “it all go away.” We have to be careful, however, not to simply cover our wounds.
  • Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It might take some time to work through our emotional problems before we can truly forgive. Forgiveness probably is not going to happen right after a tragic event and that’s okay.

Yes, forgiveness is a process, so stay connected to Read Part 4: Forgiving yourself

Submitted by:

Crystal A. Jackson, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist

Healing Through Forgiveness (Part 2)

What is Forgiveness

Read Part 1

Forgiveness: Forgiveness is the intentional, voluntary decision to no longer allow the offense of another person toward you to dwell in your mind, heart or spirit.

What can happen to our bodies when we hold onto an offense toward us?

Negative thoughts fill our bodies with excess stress hormones of cortisol and epinephrine (which can be harmful), while positive beliefs relax our nervous systems and allow our bodies to heal.  Negativity, suppresses our immune system while positive thoughts and laughter boost our immune system. The bible tells us in Proverbs 17:22 King James Version (KJV):

22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

Cortisol deactivates your body’s natural self-repair mechanisms, which means that your immune system, perfectly designed by God to keep you healthy, goes kaput, leaving you vulnerable to every germ you encounter.

Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill the other person. When in fact, we are harming ourselves.

Physicians tell us that stress can worsen just about every physical ailment (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.).

In addition, to the physical effects of unforgiveness, the emotional affects are great as well:

Feelings of Anger, Feelings of Depression, Feelings of Rage.

In fact, research from Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that: chronic anger puts us into a fight or flight mode which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and immune response. Those changes then come and increase the risk of depression, heart, disease, diabetes, among other conditions. The research, however, indicates that forgiveness calms stress levels, leading to improved health.

The bible tells us to love one another. It actually gives us a definition of love:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 King James Version (KJV):

  • Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
  • Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

  • Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
  • Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

Forgiveness is a process, so stay connected to Read Part 3!

Healing through Forgiveness (Part 1)

What is Forgiveness

What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is the intentional, voluntary decision to no longer allow the offense of another person toward you to dwell in your mind, heart or spirit. Forgiveness is the act of understanding Ephesians 6:12 King James Version (KJV): For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

By understanding Ephesians 6:12, we understand it is not beneficial to use our time fighting against people who do wrong toward us because we understand that behind every action is a spirit.  It is completely understandable, however, that our flesh may want revenge when someone has done wrong toward us, but again, we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness in high places. So, if we wrestle against the spiritual then we must use spiritual principles.

What are those relevant spiritual principles we must use?

Just a couple of those principals include Luke 6:28- pray for those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you and Matthew 5:44- love your enemies and pray for those which despitefully use you and persecute you.  Keep in mind, forgiveness will be extremely difficult if we are not spending time reading and meditating on the word of God or surrounding ourselves and thoughts, on a daily basis, on things that are noble, pure, lovely, and admirable, as the bible says in Philippians 4:8.

Are we to just let the person who offended us continue to hurt us?

That’s a good question. Some people may feel that if they forgive someone, then they have let the person off the hook or somehow excuse or condone the wrong behavior. Let me set the record straight and say this is not remotely true. When we forgive others, we are in fact letting ourselves off the hook from holding on to baggage (i.e., hurt and pain) from the past and allowing ourselves to freely move forward in life in peace, joy, and happiness.

Forgiveness is a process, so stay connected to Read Part 2!

Counting Our Blessings

Count Your Blessings

During the Thanksgiving season, we often focus on what we are grateful for and what God has done for us this year thus far. This is a great mental exercise to help us focus on the goodness of God rather than on our problems or the problems of the world.

Do you remember the hymn Count Your Blessings? The lyrics say: “Count your blessings; name them one by one. Count your blessings; see what God has done.” It is a great hymn reminding us to take time to reflect on the ways God has been good to us.

Why should we limit this exercise just to the Thanksgiving season? The Bible says we should have a grateful heart and praise God continually. Having such a mindset has a positive effect on all areas of our lives, including our relationship with God and others and our overall mental health.

  • Being grateful can calm our anxieties and fears. It helps us focus on what God has done for us rather than on the ways that life feels out of our control. We can rest in the sovereignty of a God who takes pleasure in blessing us.
  • Being grateful can also reduce our depression symptoms. When we think about all the ways God has come through for us, we are reminded that He has never left us nor forsaken us, though we may feel that way sometimes. Having a grateful mindset renews our hope and gives us strength.
  • Being grateful has the effect of reducing our anger as well. When we focus on how God has blessed us we shift our focus from how others have mistreated us or how life seems unfair. Instead we remember that God loves us and moves in our lives despite how others may have hurt us.

Counting our blessings is not an exercise meant to minimize or invalidate our feelings. Anxiety, depression, and anger are real emotions and we have to process the triggers for these feelings to fully resolve them. However, in the meantime, when negative emotions arise, focusing on our blessings can place those feelings in a larger context, one that includes a personal God who cares for us. It opens our eyes to realities that our negative emotions may have otherwise shrouded. Try it: “Count your blessings; name them one by one.” It may be surprising how much our perspective on our circumstances changes and much better we feel.

Intimacy (Into-Me-See)

Couples Counseling Intimacy

I often ask couples who come in for marital counseling to give me another word for “intimacy”. Husbands typically answer “sex” while wives use words like “romance”, “candle light dinner”, “just the two of us spending the day together”. I usually smile at the responses because I find that in most cases these answers are very gender based. Husbands view intimacy as a time where they can connect with their wives at a very intimate sexual level. Wives, on the other hand, look at intimacy as everything else…except sex! Romantic dinners, long walks on the beach, a get-away weekend, all seem to describe what most wives view as a way to intimately connect with their spouse. Would it surprise you if the definition of intimacy encompassed all of these views…and more? The word “intimacy” means many types of behavior all of which can lead to a definition I believe fits God’s plan for what husbands and wives can experience in their marital relationship.

In God’s sexual economy intimacy is 3-dimensional. Ephesians 5:32 tells us “and they shall become one flesh…this is a profound mystery…”. The Apostle Paul was referring to couples coming together in a marital relationship. It is important to note that it is not a mystery to connect physically. Anyone can do that…even the beasts of the fields can mate! However, it is a profound mystery to connect with our bodies, our souls, and our spirits. When God created male and female and brought them together as husbands and wives, He had more planned for this union than just procreation. God desired that His creation experience the profound mystery of becoming one at every level of their relationship. God desired for His creation to enjoy “total intimacy”.

Total intimacy involves 3 dimensions. It is deeper than just body involvement. Total Intimacy includes physical pleasure, emotional bonding, and spiritual unity. Total intimacy has been best defined by authors Mark and Grace Driscoll as “Into-Me-See” (Thomas Nelson, January 2012.33). This was God’s plan before the Fall…”and they were naked and unashamed” Gen. 2:24

However, total intimacy does not automatically occur in a marriage and without careful attention, it may never develop or it can quickly disappear. My therapy hours are full of couples who have neglected practicing total intimacy in their marriages. Many believed that because they were in love, intimacy would naturally follow. Others never had any expectation of enjoying this level of intimacy in their relationship. It is important to understand that if the habit of practicing total intimacy is neglected and the importance forgotten, any marriage will suffer.

When there is a strong friendship surrounded by exclusive behavior reserved only for the couple…it will ignite not just into raw passion, but a depth of “Total Into-Me-See”.

King Solomon writes in his Song of Solomon, “I am my lovers and my lover is mine…let my lover come into his garden and taste its choice fruits”. Those choice fruits are available for you and your spouse!

If your marriage is struggling or you are just looking to enhance an already healthy marriage, please know that at Perspectives of Troy Counseling Centers, you need not walk alone!

Cristina Broomfield MA, LLP