Your Choice – Forgiveness or Bitterness

October 15, 2014

An interview with pastor Bill Hybels on the secrets for living life with more energy, focus, and peace. Bill is the author of Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul.

BILL HYBELS: You can tell a lot about a person by what they do after they‘ve been wronged. Jesus knows us well, and His counsel to all of His kids is when you’re wronged, be very, very careful. Try to just hold off on that reflex reaction for retaliation and revenge. Just hang on and then think through the alternatives that come to mind. And then maybe by faith, follow the counsel that Jesus gives for all of His followers, which is to eventually, appropriately, and honestly, forgive.

Not all of us, but many of us at some point in our lives will have what I call a “Category 3” experience. It’s a life shattering loss or betrayal of some sort. It’s when your world just gets knocked over. And somebody knocked it over. And you can kind of tell who the offending party was.

I’ve been a pastor for forty years, and I’ve heard stories that defy the imagination. They just make me want to break down crying at the injustice of it all. And often times I listen to stories for hours on end, and sometimes people tell me their betrayals for an hour this week and then an hour the next week, and an hour the next week. And I try to be a good listener. It’s important for people to get their feelings of betrayal out of their system.

But I have no option than to offer the teaching of Jesus at some point in the discussion. At some point I have to say, “So what are you going to do?” What are you going to do with this heartbreak, with this injustice, with this offense that came your way. If you take the revenge route, if you take the retaliation route, well let’s go down that path and see where it takes you. And I know it’s very difficult to think about going down the other path, the path of forgiveness like Jesus taught us and that He modeled for us. Let’s think together about where that other path would lead.

I’ve known many courageous people who have resisted the path of retaliation and who have over time, with the help of the Holy Spirit, forgiven people who have done terrible things to them, who have offended them in mind-boggling ways. And it ways seems to lead a person to a better place – to a place of greater peace, greater sense of honoring God with their life. Again I stress, it is not easy. Life shattering betrayal or offenses are serious business. But if I had another alternative to offer, I’d give it. I really don’t. I think forgiveness is probably long term the only way out of a bitter spirit.

If you want to simplify your life, if you want to live with less clutter in your soul, there’s gotta be peace and resolution and reconciliation in your relationships. So I’m going to ask you to look at all the offenses that have come your way. Decide how you’re going to deal with them – how with God’s help you are going to resolve them so you can get on with a peace-filled life.

See Part 5, Faithful Friends from our interview with pastor Bill Hybels. 

Faithful Friends

October 1, 2014

An interview with pastor Bill Hybels on the secrets for living life with more energy, focus, and peace. Bill is the author of Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul. 

A widely misunderstood word, if you can believe it, is the word ‘friend.’ We all think we know what that word means, but I find that people will say to me, “I’ve got a friend, and whenever I’m with them, we go drinking, or we go out and do this or that, and terrible things happen.” And then they go, “but they’re still my friend.”

And I go, “How are you defining what friendship really means?” The way I understand it, a friend really cares about the future and well-being of the other friend. Isn’t that really what’s at the root of it? A friend wants what’s best for you. A friend will always want you to make wise choices, not foolish choices. They’re willing to say difficult things to you. They’re willing to stop certain behaviors and patterns if they think they are contributing to your demise.

So be real careful how you use the word ‘friend.’ Be real careful about who you consider your true friends are. Do they have your well-being in mind? Do you have their well-being in mind? It’s really important to get a grasp on this.

Something that’s very painful to talk about – and no one gets any joy in a conversation like this – is the idea of actually pruning some of your friendships. Actually going to some people who you realize don’t have your well-being in mind. They’ve kind of got a different agenda for your future. And they don’t really probably care about you. They’re maybe a bit narcissistic, and they’ve got another plan.

Sometimes this leads to the breaking, the pruning, of a friendship. Very difficult. In some cases, tragically sad. Other times, this actually leads to an opportunity to reconsider the path that he or she is on, and to say, maybe I’ll join you on your path for a while and see if we can do this together. But one thing is for sure, that if you have a friendship and you are on divergent paths, it’s going to take a conversation to sort out what needs to happen.

The psalmist certainly got it right in Psalm 133:1. He says, “It’s one of the most beautiful and richest experiences in life when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity.” Not just the absence of division, but unity is spirit, unity in soul, unity in self disclosure where you are known and are being known, where you love and are being loved, where you are being celebrated, and are serving one another.

See Part 4, Overcoming Fear from our interview with pastor Bill Hybels.