The Pathway to Forgiveness – Showing Empathy


Peninsula Community Church

The Pathway to Forgiveness – The Process

Showing Empathy

February 5, 2012

Colossians 3:7-13 – …. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator…. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

As we begin this morning, let me take a moment to review some of the key principles that we have learned through this series. First we understand forgiveness as both a decision and as a process where the emotions must catch up to the decisions we have made. David Ausburger stated that forgiveness is a series of individual decisions and incremental steps toward total forgiveness. Secondly, we have seen that forgiveness is as much for us individually as it is for the other person. If the other person never accepts our forgiveness or ever responds to us we can know that we have done the right thing.

We must remember that forgiving depends on feeling differently about a person who hurts you or offends you. We know that we have forgiven others when the victim can “view the wrongdoer with compassion, benevolence, and love while recognizing that he has willfully abandoned his right to them .

One of the keys to moving toward forgiveness is to empathize with the person who has wounded or hurt us. When we see things from their perspective it can change the way we feel about the individual. By empathizing with the other person we begin to see things from their perspective and we begin to understand why it is that they may have said or acted the way they might have.

So how do we do this” How do we empathize with others? Let me give you a few suggestions about this.

First, we must recognize that there are soft emotions often hidden behind hard emotions. What do I mean by this? It is that when someone hurts or wounds another many times it is because of a fear, worry, stress or other such emotions that they are dealing with. Sometimes a fear of failure or a lack of self-esteem causes one to negatively respond to others. The fact is that most people do not wake up in the morning looking for ways to hurt others. In fact these folks are usually more needy than they appear. Think about a time in your life when you hurt or wounded someone unintentionally.

Secondly, people are often influenced by situations around them. Too often the situation causes them to respond in a way that causes hurt to others. One might be tired, afraid of losing their job. I once worked for a boss that would fly off the handle and would be curt and rude in their remarks. It seemed that he was always trying to prove himself and his authority. On one occasion we were invited to a party where he and his wife attended. What we found is that his wife was constantly attacking him, correcting him and putting him down in front of those in attendance at the party. On the job he was simply reacting to his situation at home.

Thirdly, people are generally wired for survival. In other words when they feel cornered or attacked themselves they will respond in kind. This could be a real attack or an imaginary one.

Fourthly, people are conditioned by past experiences. Have you ever witnessed a child that might flinch when you raise your hand around them. Many times this is a result of abuse in the home or the fact that when the child did something wrong, they would be slapped by a parent. The result is that they have been conditioned to flinch. For some folks they have been conditioned to hurt and wound because they have been hurt and wounded and have never received healing for their woundedness.

Fifthly, people don’t think things through when they are hurt. In many cases people react rather than act upon the issues that they confront. Rather than stopping to think about what their words or actions may do they hastily speak out. Have you ever said something that you wish you could take back almost as soon as you said it or in today’s environment as soon as you push the send button?

But as believers in Christ, we should have a different approach. Consider that you a Christian. What does that mean to you and to the other person. When we are passionate followers of Christ we respond and act differently. We must understand the following:

  • You are being transformed. The fact is once we received Christ there was a transformation that took place. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul reminded the believers that they are new creations in Christ. He stated, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” But in Romans 12:2 Paul reminded believers that they were also in a process of transformation. Because we are in a process of transformation into Christ’s image we are also learning how to think about others. While we are not perfect we are perfectable. Therefore we are allowing God to work in us all that we need.
  • As believers we also have God’s nature within us. John wrote that ” No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (I John 3:9). This is because we have a desire now to please God and to honor God in everything we do. That is why it is hard for us to do anything without the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
  • As believers not only are we being transformed and not only do we realize we have God’s nature within us but we also realize that have the mind of Christ. In Romans 8:10 Paul stated, “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” And again in Colossians 3:3 Paul states, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
  • We are led by the Holy Spirit. “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11) and But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). Because we are led by the Holy Spirit we do not have to respond as others do. We can respond as in love and genuine care for others.

Thus we recognize that we have been called to treat others differently as commanded by:

  • Colossians 3:8-14 “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
  • Galatians 5:19-25″ Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. “
  • Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. “

We must believe that often the things that bug us in others is what we are struggling with or is a weakness in us.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

2 responses to “The Pathway to Forgiveness – Showing Empathy

  1. Michelle

    This is such a hard thing to do! I need to make the “choice” to empathize with someone who has hurt me? Wow!! It shows us how desperately we need God’s supernatural grace to even think about responding this way to someone! Thank you for the reminder that God is always, always, always more interested in my heart……the forgiveness journey continues!!!

    • revodom

      It is a hard thing but it is worth it. As we take the step to do the right thing God empowers us to do what we can’t do on our own.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s