Forgiveness is a big deal, and it is a bigger topic than one might consider. Dr. Jim Wilder fielded questions at a conference where he spoke about learning to forgive. His answers to those questions are provided here.
Question #1 — Can joy be “faked”? Or, can someone trick themselves into believing they are experiencing authentic joy? What are the repercussions of synthetic joy?
Answer — Yes and no! Since joy is experienced non-verbally through eye contact below the level of consciousness, joy cannot technically be faked. If you smile at someone you’re not really glad to be with, that person will not experience joy in their brain. Or, if someone smiles at you that isn’t really glad to be with you, your brain knows the difference and doesn’t release dopamine in response.
But, we do attempt to “fake joy” in two different ways. (However, these don’t really fool anyone for long!)
One way we “fake it” is when we fake it for others. We put on a “mask” and appear on the surface to be happy and strong. The problem with this is that even when others do have genuine joy toward us, we cannot receive it because we know we are putting forward a false image of ourselves. We might believe that they are glad to be with our mask, but we are unable to believe that they would be glad to be with the real us. You can read more about masks and their effects in Chapter 3 of Joy Starts Here.
Another way we fake joy is to try to fool ourselves. Remember that in the brain, joy is what happens when someone is glad to be with us. Dopamine is released at just the right amount when this happens. But when we try to fool ourselves by doing other things to release dopamine in our brain, our brain’s pleasure center is tricked temporarily into thinking that we have joy when what we are actually having is sugar, fatty foods, orgasm, alcohol, cocaine and other ways of getting a rush.
We refer to this as “pseudo-joy” and the use of BEEPS. The problem with this is that we become attached to these other things instead of joyful relationships, and the demand for more and more dopamine goes up with their use. They don’t satisfy the brain as well as true genuine joy. My friend and colleague, Ed Khouri, has a great resource you may want to consider: I’m Wired for Relationships and I Want My Brain Back.
Question #2 — How do you practice forgiveness when resolving a conflict between your kids?
Answer — At the heart of the problem of conflict is that we almost always want the “other person” to give us peace and resolution to the conflict, and only after that happens do we turn to God to help with forgiveness. (This is especially true with children) The problem with this method is that other people can rarely give us peace, even when they “fix” what hurts us. Getting back what was taken from us, or getting an apology from someone isn’t really the first step to resolving conflict.
If we go to God first and get our peace from Him, then forgiveness can flow much more naturally and honestly. Teaching our children to look to God for peace instead of each other is going to help them handle and resolve conflict more easily as they grow up.
The problem with this answer is that this is a skill that many of us adults haven’t fully acquired. Learning this for yourself is a key first step. We cannot pass onto others what we don’t have for ourselves. To learn more about finding peace with God first, check out our materials on Immanuel Healing or Immanuel lifestyle.
Question #3 — What if you feel and thought you have forgiven someone, yet you have some sort of resentment you can’t seem to figure out or let go of? How can I handle residual sadness and anger that come up even after I feel I have truly forgiven someone?
Answer — There are a few different reasons why we might have leftover resentment, anger or sadness even after we think we have forgiven someone.
1. We might have only forgiven them from our heads (as a decision) rather than from our hearts (spiritual understanding). If this is the case, we might still be seeing the problem more clearly than the relationship.
2. Another reason might be that we have not completely identified exactly what needs to be forgiven, or additional repercussions keep arising that we weren’t aware of when we forgave originally. For instance, let’s say we forgave someone for a damaged car fender, but later we have to replace the tire, then our insurance goes up, and a year later there is a noise and vibration up in the fender that we have to get looked at. These additional features that we were unaware of when we forgave must be added to the cost and may require additional forgiveness!
3. Another common reason for resentment is that we are not fully healed from the damage done and the pain is ongoing.
4. We could be experiencing “triggered memories” associated with an offense. For example, I might forgive my friend for lying to me but discover that resentment keeps showing up because I have unresolved, and unforgiven issues from when my mother would lie to me as a child about her drinking.
No matter what the reason for your leftover resentment, anger or sadness, entering into an open-ended Immanuel moment with the question, “What do I need to know about this nagging resentment (or anger, or sadness) will likely prove helpful.
Question #4 — What if I forgive people, but I don’t feel I need to worry about or concern myself with whether they improve or be the person God intended them to be?
Answer — Jesus’ statement that “If you do not forgive others from your heart neither will God forgive you,” is a sobering one in connection with this question. What is described in this question is actually a feeling of indifference to others. Developing indifference is not the same as forgiveness and Jesus suggests that we will be treated the same way by God. Do we really want God to not worry or to not be concerned about who we become? Forgiveness is a statement of love for who others really are.
Perhaps you might consider exploring this feeling of indifference with Immanuel in a similar manner to someone who has leftover anger. Try asking Him the open-ended question, “What do you want me to know about this feeling of indifference?”
Question #5 — If we aren’t designed to be negative, how can I be such a negative person and never able to find joy or peace?
Answer — The short answer is that you aren’t living as designed. You are in short, malfunctioning from the original design. You are not the only one. Malfunctions are so common that we can rightly claim that all people have failed to become the person they were meant to become. Malfunctions are also so common that most people believe that the way they are functioning is normal. They believe that they were probably designed to be the way they are.
It’s not hard to become low-joy when we have lived our entire lives in a low-joy environment, been sinned against, mistreated ourselves, or lived with attachment pain from past, present or feared losses. This type of life has fear as the driving factor rather than joy. When our brain runs on fear it focuses on the negative, it’s always on the lookout for unseen and potential threats that may or may not actually be there (this process is also referred to as STRESS). Recognizing that this “negative” attribute is actually fear-based is an important realization. To learn more about fear check out the JimTalks Vol 22 titled “No Fear”.
Another helpful thing is to be sure that your nervous system “normal” is set to “appreciation” and not to “worry.” A surprisingly easy to understand (but often not so easy to do) solution can be found by first learning to feel a sense of appreciation in your body until you can sustain the feeling for 5 minutes. Next, you spend the first and last 5 minutes of each day, along with 5 minutes in the middle of the day, feeling appreciation. Within a month of this daily practice, most people will reset their “normal” to appreciation rather than fear. Most of the Life Model Works courses include instruction on feeling appreciation if you need more help.
Question #6 — Where is the place of the Holy Spirit in forgiveness and joy?
Answer — The Holy Spirit is fully involved in forgiveness and joy without you even realizing it. The Holy Spirit doesn’t usually draw attention to himself when helping those who are not aware of God’s activity on a regular basis.
The Holy Spirit provides:
- The peace
- The vision of who the other person is
- The understanding of who we really are created to become
- The vision or sense of God’s “Presence” that our brain must be trained to recognize and value
Question # 7— How do you forgive someone that will never change?
Answer — The fact is that we will often have to forgive other people who don’t want to change. We have to remember that getting them to change is not our primary goal. Remember that Jesus said “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
Forgiveness is between us and God. If another person is to change, that’s between them and God? So how do we interact with those who have hurt us and don’t want to change? We tend to think of forgiveness as walking away as though nothing happened. That’s actually denial.
Most of the time we forgive someone it will be for something that the person we forgive will never change. They might even be proud of it. Forgiveness never says it’s fine to go on doing wrong things.
Consider for a moment the example Jesus gave us. He was the master forgiver who was on the earth for little other reason than to practice forgiveness. If you look at how he treated people who never changed, we will see that he insisted up to the moment of his death that they should turn from their ways and start to act like they were created to act and follow Him. Jesus never forgot that they were in a very serious malfunction and not acting like themselves. We have the opportunity and the privilege to remind them that change is possible, if they turn to Jesus.
Question #8 — How do I talk to my kids about behavior that is “not their true selves”? How do I not condone the behavior but show “joy” and acceptance?
Answer — Perhaps the simplest answer to a very complex question is, “Talk to your children with a curiosity about who they really are.” It might go like this.
“Henry, I see you shouting at your sister. When you were a tiny baby I used to look at you and wonder who you would be when you grew up. I knew God gave you a wonderful identity that we would need to discover as you grew. When we forget who God created us to be we feel very unhappy. How unhappy are you right now? (A lot) I don’t think your sister can make you peaceful right now because every time you look at her with your Lego box you just get angrier. We will take care of your sister as soon as we can find who you really are and get your peace back.”
This is where our own relational brain skills (or lack of them) will show up.
- Can you stay relational and return to joy from anger yourself? If not, then that missing skill will cripple you until everyone in the room is no longer angry (and that could take a long time).
- Are you able to remain aware of God’s presence in the midst of conflict? (You can’t teach your children this if you can’t do it for yourself)
- You might be able to ask children things like “Can you see Jesus here with us right now?” and if yes, “What does he want you to know?” even if you struggle with this because children are often more aware of God than we are.
- Do you have the skill we call “God-sight” which would enable you to be able to tell the difference between what Jesus might actually be saying and a child’s projection of God into their will and anger? (Pay attention to what Jesus says to each child personally. Be very cautious of any message through a child or anyone else that purports to be from God that seems manipulative and does not bring peace!)
- Can you quiet yourself? Quiet others interactively?
- Do you know when to take a break (either a long one or a brief pause to check on your own relational circuits and attachment?)
Transforming Fellowship is a helpful tool for learning about these skills but without a full toolbox of skills even talking to children about their true selves can be very difficult to do. Remember, if you are raising your children well you will be able to help them develop a curiosity over time about who God wants them to be in every context of life. It makes an excellent way to learn together.
Question #9— Because adolescence is the time a person becomes aware and develops their individuality, and because we cannot see ourselves as we are, does it seem harmful for kids to be around their peers all the time?
Answer — Adolescents will develop deformed identities if:
- They are around their peers all the time
- They are not allowed to have enough time around their peers
Interaction with peers is essential to developing a group identity, learning to use power well, achieving a personal sense of style, and forming lifelong partnerships. However, when this process is not supplemented with excellent adult role models, partnerships and responsibilities, the outcome can be a disaster. This is why the concept of the “multigenerational community” is so key. Learn more about this in the book, “Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You.”