Bob picked me up at the airport in Halifax, Nova Scotia last night and we started talking about what holds men back from becoming who they are capable of becoming. Bob was a little frustrated because he had been on the planning team for a men’s event and was surprised by the number of men he had invited who had decided not to participate. He had obviously been living with the question, “Why would these guys say, ‘no,’ to such a great opportunity?”
One of the reasons he came up with was, “Some of them are still holding on to stuff and refuse to forgive.” We then spent quite a bit of time recounting stories of men who had been hurt, disappointed or painfully surprised at some point in life. Some of these men aggressively chose to forgive and have a story to tell that is postive and full of hope. Others stubbornly have refused to forgive and are stuck in their bitterness. Many of them, of course, are not aware they are stuck because they think bitterness always shows up as anger and they don’t consider themselves to be angry men. Bitterness, however, can show up as underachievement, lack of confidence, short-sightedness, impatience or fear just as easily as anger. As Bob and I talked, he became increasingly aware that these were many of the reasons he had been hearing for why men were not going to get involved.
It was a good reminder for me of why I have made it a point to discuss forgiveness in many of the books I have written (Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti, The 10 Best Decisions a Man Can Make, Love, Honor and Forgive). It also reminded me why I felt such a need to make it practical. For those of you who are not familiar with it, we have broken down the process of forgiveness to six statements which you can say out loud for any situation you need to forgive. It is like a working definition for forgiving. In other words, if you can say all six of these statements, and honestly mean them, you have forgiven. If you cannot genuinely say them, you are not ready yet and you need to ask God to prepare your heart then try again tomorrow. The six statements are:
1. I forgive (name the person) for (name the offense).
2. I admit that what happened was wrong.
3. I do not expect this person to make up for what he or she has done.
4. I will not use the offense to define who this person is.
5. I will not manipulate this person with this offense.
6. I will not allow what has happened to stop my personal growth.
I am committed to not let anything hold me back from being the man God created me to be by living out Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Forgiveness, to be sure, is not easy. I just find it much easier to live free than be bound by bitterness.