Your past need not control your present or determine your future unless you choose to not face it. However, if these steps are not taken, a person will be forever in bondage to their past. They will not know freedom from such things as shame, guilt, fear, anxiety and insecurity to name just a few. How can a person properly process their past? This would involve identifying the issues, extending forgiveness where necessary, rejecting false belief systems, accepting the truth, and letting go of unhealthy emotions. Let us look at part of the process of attaining emotional and relational freedom in life.
Four core issues everyone faces
We can look at four core issues (or sins) we must all confront at some point. From a biblical perspective, we can say the root of the human problem is sin. However, let’s define the issue in greater detail. Bill Gothard identifies four root sins of the human fallen condition; they are moral impurity, bitterness, self-image, and a temporal value system. Gothard believes you can trace any human sin back to one of these four roots. Now let’s also look at one solution that can resolve many of these four root sins and bring healing to our lives: forgiveness.
The cycle of sin and hurt
God told Moses that the children would reap the iniquities of the fathers to the third and fourth generation. This principle is about the reality of how sin and its harmful results can travel through family systems for several generations. This goes on until someone decides to break the cycle. The truth is, most of us have been hurt by someone else and this person was usually close to us. These emotional hurts cause us to develop emotional defense mechanisms as children. These may have helped us as children, but don’t work in adulthood. They create pockets of immaturity that hurt our adult relationships and this is where so much of our baggage comes from. This baggage does not just disappear by itself; it needs to be unpacked and put away. This is where forgiveness comes in.
Four groups to forgive
Out of those four root sins, the one occurring most often in people is bitterness. In fact, bitterness often plays a major role in the development of the other three root sins. It is the absence of bitterness that reveals when healing has taken place. When you can thank God for what he has done in your life because of that person or event that previously made you bitter, then you know you are free (Romans 8:28-29). What or who are the groups you will need to forgive to gain freedom?
First is your parents (remember there are no perfect parents we are all sinners). Parents are our first attachment figures and we need unconditional love from them. They must be present for our needs to make us feel safe and secure. One or both of your parents could have been absent physically or emotionally. This absence may have been well-intentioned or neglectful. Perhaps they were abusive because of their own selfishness or lack of knowledge. They could have been ignorant to the parent’s role because of a lack of a parental model of their own.
Romantic partners are another group that requires forgiveness. This can include boy/girlfriends, fiancées, or spouses. Perhaps one of these people betrayed you, was unfaithful, called off the engagement, or filed for divorce. Maybe they just made you feel unvalued or unappreciated. It could have been the wounds caused by their words, or their inconsiderateness and inconsistency. They left you with a pile of unmet needs and unfulfilled expectations. How do you heal from this?
A third group is people in general. The sad truth is that people fail. Some do it part of the time and some do it all of the time. But everyone will fail you at sometime because they are sinners. This is a trait we all have inherited from our parents going all the way back to Adam and Eve. An excellent book to help you heal from this part of your past is Search For Significance by Robert McGee. This book will help you break free from your past by breaking free from wrong belief systems – a major cause of staying locked in the past.
A final area needing forgiveness is particular life events. Life is full of disappointments, heartbreak and unmet expectations. If you could rule out all the events that you caused yourself through bad decisions, wrong influences or an ungodly lifestyle, you would still get hurt by events caused by others. God is still sovereign and nothing can come into your life without his permission. Rather than curse that which is out of your control, seek to learn and grow better by it. These are the kinds of things done by those who have made peace with their past and enjoy freedom in their present.
Can you think of a time when forgiving someone set you free? Share your forgiveness story with us at [email protected]
Dr. John Hawkins, along with his son John Jr., runs Gateway Counseling Center in Boynton Beach. He can be reached by visiting gatewaycounseling.com.