logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

Road to Recovery #6: "Repairing Relationships"

(Adapted from Rick Warren, Celebrate Recovery)

Apr.21/13 Mt.18:15-22; Eph.4:29-32


Some of you may have seen this photo on social media - at first it's a bit grisly (3 bambis lying dead in the water), but upon closer inspection there's an interesting story and lesson to be learned. It's 3 male whitetail deer, 3 stags in fact, with their horns interlocked. The best conjecture as to what happened is that bulls A and B first got interlocked when butting heads during the season of the rut; then, while they were stuck on one side of their antlers, along came bull C who hit them together and subsequently got his own horns interlocked with theirs. Then while they were tussling, one of them fell into the water, pulling in the other two, and all three drowned.

Some of you have seen relationships like that. Perhaps some of you are IN relationships like that even now - there's a conflict going on, you're locked in a power struggle that's going nowhere, and may even be destructive to those affected. Perhaps it's our hormones that sent us charging into the fray - we lacked self-control and yielded to our desires, as the bucks' hormones spurred them into a turf-war with their rivals. Perhaps it's our bull-headedness that's got us embroiled in an argument, and our pride won't let us back down. Perhaps it's our appetites and drives for satisfaction from intoxicating substances. Unchecked, these drives can bring us to the brink of destruction.

Looking at that picture, what I want to know is: what STUPIDITY prompted that THIRD bull to get involved? He's prancing along through the bush and sees bucks A and B already interlocked. I can understand A and B butting heads, that's how the males test their strength and compete for the herd. But as for buck C - Why didn't he just leave them alone? They would have become coyote chow soon enough. Then all the eligible females in the area would have been HIS by default! But, no, he just HAD to stick his horns in where they didn't belong! So, looking back, we too can think of situations and relationships we'd have been wiser not to have become entangled in. How do we go about repairing relationships damaged by our hurts, hang-ups, and habits?

Going back and trying to repair some of the damage that others have done to us and we have done to others is the letter E in the acrostic RECOVERY that we've been using each week. STEP 6: EVALUATE ALL MY RELATIONSHIPS, OFFER FORGIVENESS TO THOSE WHO'VE HURT ME AND MAKE AMENDS FOR HARM I'VE DONE TO OTHERS EXCEPT WHEN TO DO SO WOULD HARM THEM OR OTHERS.

This is based on Ephesians 4:31-32: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger along with every form of malice.Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you."

There are two parts to this step: first, forgive those that have hurt me, and second, make amends to those I've hurt. We're going to deal with those who've hurt you and those you've hurt. Why should I do this step and how do I do it?



1) Because God has forgiven me.

And if God has forgiven me, I should forgive other people. I OWE IT to them. Colossians 3:13, "Never hold grudges.Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." When I remember how much God forgives me it makes it a whole lot easier to forgive other people. You will never have to forgive anybody else more than God has already forgiven you. I will never have to forgive anybody else more than God has forgiven me. When you have a hard time forgiving other people it's usually because you don't feel forgiven; because people who feel forgiven find it easier to be forgiving. People who feel UNforgiven find it difficult to forgive others. You need to realize, "If God's forgiven me, then I need to forgive other people."

2) Because resentment doesn't work.

It's unreasonable, unhelpful, unhealthy. Job 5:2: "To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do." Foolish! He says resentment is foolish because it is illogical, unreasonable. Does resentment ever cause people to do stupid things? Yes; it's like shooting yourself so you'll hit somebody else when the gun recoils. It doesn't work! You always hurt yourself more than the other person. It's been said, "Resentment is the poison we drink hoping somebody else will die." Ecclesiastes 7:9: "It's foolish to harbor a grudge." It's irrational, a waste of energy; unreasonable. Job 18:4: "You're only hurting yourself with your anger." Unhelpful. Why? Because you always hurt yourself more than anybody else. When you get angry and when you get resentful to somebody, you don't hurt them. You're worrying, stewing, spewing, all upset about it, and it's not bothering them. Somebody may have hurt you ten, twenty, thirty years ago, and you're still resentful about it. It's still making you miserable; they've forgotten it. Resentment cannot change the past, cannot correct the problem, it doesn't change the person, it doesn't even hurt that person, it only hurts you. Makes you miserable. Does it make you feel any better? I've never talked to anybody who's been resentful and they say, "I feel so much better being resentful." Bitterness just makes you mad, unhappy. The most unhappy people are those who are carrying a grudge. It's unreasonable, unhelpful. Job 21: "Some men stay healthy till the day they die...others have no happiness at all, they live and die with bitter hearts." Unhealthy; research has shown that the unhealthiest emotion people have is resentment. Because it's like a cancer that eats you alive, it's poison. It has physical consequences. Have you ever said, "That guy is a pain in the neck"? He may be. That may be the cause of your pain in the neck. (Or elsewhere...A guy walked into the doctor and said, "I need some more pills for my colitis." The doctor asked, "Who you colliding with now?") Dr.S.I.McMillin wrote a book that showed that the two greatest causes of the physical problems in your life are guilt and resentment. He said, "It's not so much what you eat, it's what eats you that matters." When you're resentful it just makes you unhealthy. It has physical consequences. It has emotional consequences: it can lead to depression, additional stress, fatigue, because nothing drains you emotionally like bitterness. Thinking of that person, that former girlfriend, boyfriend, former husband or wife, teacher who embarrassed you in school, or parent who never told you they loved you, that person you were dating then just dropped you and never said anything about it, drains your body of energy. It just prolongs the hurt; it's kind of an emotional suicide. You need to forgive those that hurt you, for your own sake. Besides, Jesus tells us if we won't forgive others, God WILL NOT forgive us (Mt 6:15).

3) Because I need forgiveness in the future.

I'll need it in the future. Mark 11:25, Jesus counsels: "When you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins too." Resentment blocks God's forgiveness in your life, both receiving it and feeling it. Jesus is teaching here that we can't receive what we're unwilling to give. It's dangerous to pray the Lord's prayer. "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." "Lord forgive me as much as I forgive everybody else." Do you really want that? You need to forgive other people because God's forgiven you, because resentment doesn't work, and because you're going to need forgiveness in the future yourself, and you don't want to burn the bridge that you've got to walk across.

Forgiveness is a two-way street. A man came up to John Wesley one time and said, "I can never forgive that person.Never." John Wesley replied, "Then I hope you never sin, because we all need what we don't want to give." Don't burn that bridge that you need to walk across.


How do I do this first part of step 6? How do I forgive those who hurt me?

1) Reveal my hurt.

Admit it.Let it out.Face it.Be honest.You can't get over hurt until you admit it. I don't know why, but we don't want to admit the times that people we love have hurt us. Maybe because we have a mistakenly suppose you can't love somebody and be angry at them at the same time. You can. I was talking to a person one time in counseling and they said, "I forgive my parents; they did the best they could." The more I talked about it the more I saw she really hadn't forgiven her parents. She was angry inside. But she said she had forgiven them. That's denial. They didn't do the best they could. Your parents didn't do the best they could. If you're a parent you are not doing the best you could. Because we're imperfect! Nobody does the best they could. That's a form of denial. Until she was able to admit, "No, they didn't do the best they could; they treated me in some ways that were wrong" - then she could learn to forgive them. You can't forgive what you don't want to own up to - that people have hurt you. So you first reveal your hurt. Admit it and put it down on paper. (Advantage of Regier method "resolving bitterness": detail the emotional pain they caused, so can pray about it.)

You've got some options when it comes to hurt. You can repress it--just pretend it doesn't exist, ignore it--push it out of the way. That never works! It always pops out in some other form of compulsion in your life. You can suppress it, just say, "It's no big deal, it doesn't matter, they did the best they could." No they didn't - it hurt! Or you can confess it. You just admit it. Some people say, "I'd really like to close the door on my past.I'd like to get closure so this person doesn't hurt me anymore." But there is no closure without disclosure. First you must admit it, you must reveal it. You must own up and say, "That hurt.And it was wrong and it hurt me."

So what do you do? You make a list of those who've harmed you, what they said, what they did, what they thought, and you put it down on paper and you get it in black and white so you can look at it. It's not this fuzzy thing that I resent, but it's a specific. Think about that teacher who embarrassed you or that parent who said, "You'll never amount to anything and you're a failure." That former relationship where someone dear to you, whom you trusted, proved unfaithful to you. You write it down and you reveal your hurt.

2) I release my offender.

I release my offender; I let them go; I stop holding on to the hurt. How do I do that? How do you release an offender? By forgiving them. It's the only way you can release them. You don't wait for them to ask for forgiveness. You do it whether they ask for forgiveness or not, because you're doing it for your sake not for theirs. Why? Because God has forgiven you and you're going to need forgiveness in the future and resentment doesn't work, it just makes you miserable. So you release your offender and forgive them for your own sake.

Rick Warren tells of one lady who went through a very messy divorce, and developed blindness in one eye. But when she prayed and forgave those who'd treated her wrongly, her sight came back! You have no idea of what can happen in your life when you let go the people who have been hurting you.

How often do I have to do it? Peter once asked, "How many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me?" Jesus answered, "Not seven times but 77 times." (Mt 18:22) He's saying it's got to be continual. Forgiveness is not a one-shot deal where you say, "I forgive 'em," and that's it. Because those feelings are going to keep coming back, and every time you get those feelings you've got to forgive them again. Forgiveness is not a one-shot deal. It is a repeated issue. It's got to be continual. Jesus said, "Over and over." And every time they come to mind, you must forgive them again until you know that you have released them fully. That may take three hundred times, I don't know.

How do you know when you have released an offender fully? When you can think about them and it doesn't hurt anymore; you can pray for God's blessing on their life. You can begin to look at understanding their hurt, rather than focusing on how they hurt you, because hurt people hurt people. So you begin to understand their hurt. That's when you know you've released them. You keep forgiving them until finally you can think of them and it doesn't hurt anymore. How do you forget a divorce? You can't, but you can get rid of the pain. You can let go of it.

Now, in releasing an offender it's not always possible, and sometimes not even advisable, for you to go back to somebody who's hurt you. Their circumstances may have changed. Maybe your parents hurt you; they never even knew about it. For you to go back to them forty years later and say, "You did this" would just blow them away. They never knew what they did. Some people have changed. Some people have remarried. Some people have moved away and you don't know where they are. Some people have died. What do you do in those kinds of situations? You can use the "empty-chair technique." You get a chair and set it down in a room and sit facing it and imagine that person in the chair and say, "I need to say some things to you; here's how you hurt me" and you lay it out. "You hurt me this way, this way, this way.But I want you to know I forgive you because God has forgiven me and because resentment doesn't work and because I want forgiveness in the future.I am releasing you." You say it to the chair. Another way to do it is to write a letter that you never mail and you put in black and white, "This is how you hurt me." You write it down, you let it unload off you. You've been carrying it so long, you need to unload it and you let it out in a letter. At the end you say, "But starting today I forgive you because God has forgiven me and because resentment doesn't work and because I need forgiveness in the future." And you do it for your own sake. You release them so you can experience freedom.

3) Replace my hurt with God's peace.

Col 3:15, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." How? You might be tempted to think, "It's unfair.If I forgive them they get away scot free." No they don't - let God settle the score. He can do a whole lot better job than you can! The Bible says one day God is going to settle the score and He's going to call in the accounts and He's going to balance the books, and one day He's going to have the last word. Rom 12:19, "Leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.'" So let God have the last word on that. OK? He'll take care of it. He's the judge of all the earth who will do right. He's just. That's why I believe in hell. Jesus talked more about it than He did heaven. If there is no hell, then people like Hitler would get away scot free and that's not fair and God is a fair God. According to Scripture, there will be judgment. So you just release them and in the meantime you focus on God's peace rather than trying to get even. Let the peace of Christ rule / take charge in your heart. The fact is relationships can tear your heart into pieces; they can just rip it apart. But God can glue those pieces back together and surround it and cover it with His peace over your pieces. You must release those who hurt you so God can do some repair in your heart.


But there is a second half to this step because in life, not only have people hurt you, you've hurt some people. The second half to this step is to make amends to people I've hurt. Is this really necessary? Absolutely.


Because unresolved relationships are the root of your problem and they prevent recovery from happening. So you have to take the second half of the step, make amends to people you've hurt as well as releasing the people who've hurt you. Why? Hebrews 12 says, "Watch out that no bitterness takes root among you, for as it springs up it causes deep trouble hurting many in their spiritual lives." God's saying here the reason you can't get over that habit, that hang-up, let go of that hurt, is because you're holding on to some unresolved relational wreckage. And that must be dealt with if you're really going to get on with your recovery and become the person God wants you to be and enjoy the kind of happiness He meant for you to have in the first place.


How do I make amends to the people who've hurt me? You do the same thing.

1) Make a list of those I've harmed and what I did.

You say, "I can't think of anybody." I figured you'd say that. So I put a few starters down here. Is there anyone I owe a debt to that I haven't repaid? Is there anyone I've broken a promise to? Is there anyone I'm guilty of overcontrolling? A spouse? A kid? A brother? An employee? Friend? Is there anyone I'm overly possessive of? Is there anyone I'm hypercritical of? Have I been verbally abusive to anybody? Or physically abusive? Or emotionally abusive? Is there anyone I haven't appreciated or not paid attention to or forgotten an anniversary? Is there anyone I've been unfaithful to? Or have I lied to anyone? You make a list of those you've harmed and what you did.

2) Think how I'd like others to make amends to me.

Luke 6:31: "Do to others as you'd have them do to you." So you stop and think, "If someone were going to come and apologize to me, how would I want it done?" And you'd do it that way. There are three issues you need to look at:

a) The right time. Ecclesiastes 8:6: "There's a right time and right way to do everything." You don't just drop a bomb on somebody. You don't throw it at them when they're rushing out the door or laying their head down on the pillow, "Oh, by the way I've got some stuff to deal with." You do it according to their time, not when it's best for you but when it's best for them.

b) The right attitude. Ephesians 4:15: "Speak the truth in a spirit of love." How would you like somebody to apologize to you? Privately with humility, with sincerity, to simply say what they did was wrong, not make any justification for it, no excuses, not talk about your part, just assume responsibility. They may have had a part in the problem. But you're just trying to clear up your side of the ledger in this step. You don't try to justify your actions, and you focus only on your part and don't expect anything back from the person you're trying to make amends to.

Make restitution where possible. If you've borrowed something and not returned it, you return it. If you owe somebody some money, financially, you pay it back. The object is to make a list and go back to make amends so there are no skeletons in your closet; so you can come to a point in your life where you can say, "I have nothing to hide.I'm not perfect, but all the things I've done have been repaired, have been made amends for." That gives you freedom and confidence.

Remember Zacchaeus in Luke 19? Jesus came to his house, the house of a tax collector...in those days whatever you could charge people, you'd pay Rome what they asked for and then you could keep over and above anything else you got. So tax collectors would rip off everybody, and they were the most hated people in society, yet Jesus chose to go to his house. Zacchaeus's life was changed when he met Christ. He said, "Lord, I'm going to go back and restore fourfold everything I've cheated anybody of." Jesus looked at him and said, "Salvation has come to this guy." This man means business, he's a real Christian; he's willing to put his money where his mouth is. Zaccheus made restitution wherever it was necessary.

Note: The more serious your offense, the less likely it is that you're going to be able to make restitution. There are some things you can't restore that you've taken away from other people. But don't underestimate the power of a sincere apology. What you do is go to that person at the right time, with the right attitude and say, "I'm sorry, I was wrong, I don't deserve your forgiveness, but is there any way I can make amends to you?" And you leave it at that.

c) Is it appropriate? Proverbs 12:18, "Thoughtless words can wound as deeply as any sword, but wisely spoken words can heal." There are some situations where it would be unwise to contact the one you've hurt. Remember the qualifier on this step is "except when to do so would harm them or others." Some situations you wouldn't want to go back to because it would just open up a whole can of worms and probably make the situation worse. You could harm them or harm an innocent party. You don't want to go back to an old girlfriend who's now married.Or boyfriend. You don't want to do that.There's an innocent party. If you were involved in some kind of affair you don't need contact with that person. So what do you do? You use the empty-chair technique. You write the letter that you never send, but do what you can to balance the ledger. Romans 12:18: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

3) Refocus my life.

Refocus your life on doing God's will starting today in your relationships. That's what recovery is all about.

God wants to recycle the emotional garbage in your life and bring good out of it. How does He do that? Job 11: "Put your heart right, reach out to God...then face the world again, firm and courageous, then all your troubles will fade from your memory, like floods that are past and remembered no more." Notice this passage suggests there are three steps to refocusing your life:

a) Put your heart right. Release and forgive.

b) Reach out to God. Ask Christ into your life. Say, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, come into my life." Reach out to God. You can't manufacture enough forgiveness for all the times you're going to be hurt in the world. You just don't have it. Human forgiveness runs dry. You need to plug in to Jesus Christ, so that each day He gives you the forgiveness you need in order to let go of your bitterness on a daily basis, and finally it's released. You reach out to God and He gives you forgiveness you thought you didn't have in you.

c) Face the world again. You don't withdraw, you don't hide in a shell, you resume living, you take chances, you say, "I'm not a victim anymore." And you start looking ahead.

Notice what the verse says happens when you do these three steps: "Then all your troubles will fade from your memory." The memory will fade away. Wouldn't you like to be free from all that relational garbage, the past run-ins that (like the deer) have us all locked up? That's the purpose of Step 6. I challenge you to take it today, and discover the wonderful feeling being a receiver and giver of forgiveness and grace. Let's pray.