Written by Kim Thomas
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.Ephesians 4:31-32
When you hear the words, “let it go,” it would not be surprising to learn the popular Disney ballad from the animated film, Frozen, comes to mind. The song, “Let it Go” became one of the top 10 songs of 2014 and quickly following its release, had children of all ages belting out this catchy tune at the top of their lungs. Frozen tells the tale of a fictional character, Elsa, who is born with magical powers of ice and snow. When faced with her own emotions of anxiety, stress and anger, she loses control of her powers and unknowingly thrusts her kingdom into eternal winter and unintentionally freezes her sister’s heart. To avoid further harm, Elsa creates an ice palace where she isolates herself away from all others. But the story does not end here. By the time the story unfolds, Elsa learns that the harm she has caused is only undone when she shows love and compassion for others.
As I thought about this story, I began to reflect on how too often, unbeknownst to us, we find ourselves battling with our own frozen or hardened hearts. A frozen heart may be the result of a betrayed friendship, a wrongful accusation, wounds from past abuse, or any other occurrence that has allowed bitterness to take root in our heart.
To protect ourselves from further injury, just like Elsa, we create a kingdom of isolation. Isn’t that just what the devil wants us to do? He wants us to believe that if we put up walls, keep score of the wrongs done to us, or even refuse to forgive others, we can protect ourselves from being hurt again. He encourages us to rehearse our negative thoughts until they crystalize like an icy blast that continues to freeze and harden the walls of our hearts. Instead of protecting us, this isolation can lead to loneliness, misery, regret, and grief.
Forgiving others who have hurt or wronged us may seem like an insurmountable task. In fact, it can be one of the hardest things we will ever do. It is also one of the most freeing. Lewis Smedes once wrote that “to forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
In Ephesians 4:31, Paul instructs us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”
In other words, Paul is saying . . . “Let it go!”
Scripture goes on to say, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.”
Forgiveness is not the same things as having a lack of boundaries or even restoring trust in a relationship. Forgiveness means giving up the right to punish the other person. Instead of appointing ourselves as both the judge and jury that convicts the one who has harmed us, we allow God to melt our hearts and let Him be the ultimate authority.
In Frozen, Elsa sings of freedom in “letting it go.” While this song is intended to be an “anthem about acceptance,” I would like to offer another perspective. When we choose to let go of the pain and hurtful memories of those who have harmed us, we too, can sense a freedom to move forward. No more keeping score.
If you don’t know where to begin with releasing the hurts and offenses from your past, begin by being honest with our loving, Heavenly Father. He sees, knows, and understands your pain. Ask Him to help you move forward by giving you His heart and eyes of compassion for others.
It begins with a decision . . .
Here’s to taking that first step!
Mark 11:25 says, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
7 Tips on Surviving the Holidays with Family
Here come the holidays! And with the holidays come opportunities (and sometimes obligations) to spend time with family members who have at one time or another been difficult to get along with, we don’t have much in common with, or have caused us pain. Family members seem to know just how to push the right “buttons” in us. Negatively anticipating these encounters can surely put a damper on and create stress for what could otherwise be a pleasant time of year.
This year, make a conscious decision to intentionally make an effort to go into the holiday season with a positive outlook. Rather than just “psyching” yourself up to merely “tolerate” or “get through” any family holiday gatherings, proactively make a plan on how to make this upcoming holiday season more enjoyable.
- Begin with an attitude of gratitude. Instead of anticipating all of the things that could go “wrong” or ruminate on who has offended you in the past, spend some time focusing on the things you are thankful for as well as the things that could go “right.” Take a moment to be thankful for the friends and family members in your life that love and support you rather than the ones who offend or irritate you. The things you focus on, you will find more of.
- Make a plan. Don’t wait until the last minute. Before any gatherings arrive, begin thinking about which family members you would feel most comfortable sitting next to, what you could talk about, and how to fill uncomfortable voids of silence if they arise. Think of questions you could ask and how you can respond if interrogated or put on the spot.
- Avoid topics that could quickly turn into touchy subjects. This includes anything that encourages strong opinions such as talking about religion, politics, or any other sensitive subject that could strike a nerve with someone. Ways to do this include graciously asking the other person to “agree to disagree on this one.” Change the direction of a conversation by asking a question about what is going on in the other person’s life. Most people enjoy talking about themselves or things they are interested in.
- Remind yourself, “What is in my control and what is not?” While you cannot control another person’s attitudes or comments, you are the one in control of your responses, attitudes, and actions. When feeling defensive, take a moment to breathe. Remember to “respond and not react.” Do your best to stay positive and hopefully, others will follow your example.
- If necessary, excuse yourself and take a short break. Go check on children in another room, offer to clear the table and begin helping with dishes, go to the restroom, or simply go outside and get some fresh air. Looking at a funny text from a friend or favorite picture can make you smile and help relieve anxiety or stress.
- Embrace family differences. Even when you don’t agree with someone, it is helpful to remind yourself to allow others to simply be themselves. Just like you want to be accepted, so do they. Someone else’s opinions and actions reflect only them and not you. Don’t try to change others and make sure you have realistic expectations of others.
- Make a decision to forgive those who have hurt you in the past. Harboring grudges from years gone by only robs you of your mental energy and peace. Be willing to admit to ways you may have also contributed to any misunderstanding. Empathizing with the other person and trying to put yourself in their shoes can help facilitate a willingness to forgive. It has been said that, “hurt people . . . hurt people.” Remind yourself of all you have been forgiven for and God’s willingness to forgive us in spite of our sins.
ABOUT: Kim Thomas is a licensed professional counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist and I have a private practice, There’s Hope! Counseling. I am a monthly co-host on KNYD Oasis Network Radio. I am married with a blended family. I’m a mom of 4, mother-in-love to 2, and stepmom to 3 kiddos, and a dog mom to Rae. Contact info is (918)277-0777 or www.thereshopehere.com