Participants: Shelley Quinn (Host), Dick Tibbits
Series Code: IAA
Program Code: IAA000275
00:30 Hello, I'm Shelley Quinn and welcome again to
00:33 Issues and Answers. I think you're going to want to
00:36 sit down and enjoy this program because today we will be
00:39 discussing something that's very important and that is the
00:44 benefits of forgiveness. How do we forgive someone who has
00:48 wronged us? Let me give you some counsel from the Apostle Paul
00:51 from Colossians 3:13. I'll be reading from the Amplified
00:55 version and he says: Be gentle and forbearing with each other
01:00 and if one has a difference against another readily pardon
01:05 each other even as the Lord has freely forgiven you, so must
01:10 you also forgive. You know, this is part of God's plan and
01:14 we don't always understand why the Lord asks us to forgive
01:19 someone else but everything God does is for our eternal benefit
01:24 and for our happiness here. Today I have a very special
01:28 guest with us and his name is Dr. Dick Tibbits and he is the
01:33 chief people officer for the Florida Hospital. Dick, thank
01:37 you so much for joining us.
01:39 Well thanks for having me. It's good to be here.
01:41 Now let me ask you, what is a chief people officer?
01:44 Well my responsibility is for our 15,000 employees at our
01:48 hospital to make sure that they are engaged in serving the
01:51 patient and in fulfilling our mission.
01:54 That's wonderful. Now your Ph.D. is in Christian counseling. Yes.
01:59 Is this what led you to author a beautiful book called Forgive to
02:05 Live. Was your counseling background what caused you to
02:08 become interested in the topic of forgiveness?
02:10 Actually two things were. One is personal. My own life and my
02:15 need for forgiveness because so meaningful to me that I
02:18 determined that was something that was always going to be
02:20 central to my ministry. But in counseling I dealt with so many
02:25 people who had experienced so much hurt and were experiencing
02:29 pain and anger as a result of other peoples' actions that I
02:33 knew that therapy alone was not going to be the complete answer.
02:37 That ultimately people needed to learn to forgive.
02:41 If I were your patient, if I were coming to you as a client,
02:46 and you have a pastoral back ground as well as the pastoral
02:49 counseling or scriptural counseling, what would you say
02:53 to me if I came to you and said I can't forgive 'em, why should
02:58 I forgive this person who has hurt me so deeply?
03:01 Well you know the first resistance to forgiveness is
03:04 it's not fair. After all, I'm not the one that did something
03:08 wrong; they did. Why should I let them off the hook. So people
03:13 will frequently say, I know I should forgive but I don't feel
03:17 like it. And I don't feel like it either because it happened
03:21 so recently ago that the emotions are too fresh in which
03:24 case there may be some time that needs to elapse before I can
03:28 truly forgive. But more often it is that people get overwhelmed
03:32 with the feeling and don't see in that that they really have
03:37 the ability to choose to forgive or to choose not to forgive.
03:40 And forgiveness is a choice. It's a deliberate decision that
03:44 we make isn't it? It is absolutely a choice.
03:46 In fact, it is the best choice. It is a healthy choice. So one
03:50 of the things I do immediately is to take a look at motivation.
03:54 So we examine two pathways. What happens if I forgive and
03:59 how should I expect that to impact my life, and then what
04:02 happens when I don't forgive? And when you don't forgive,
04:06 often times you're left simply being hurt and upset at someone
04:11 who did something to you with no way out. And that can last for
04:15 years. There are people who are stuck in that and here's the
04:19 trap, Shelley. They don't believe there's anything they
04:23 can do to get out because the other person needs to change in
04:27 order for them to be free. When you do that, you put yourself
04:31 square in the world of a victim where there's nothing you can
04:34 do unless somebody else does something. This is the
04:37 motivation I really tell people: Now stop and think. The person
04:41 who you dislike the most is the only person that you believe can
04:46 make your life better. Now does that make sense? And so the
04:49 first step is helping people to realize the consequences of
04:53 their choice so that they can be motivated to make a healthier
04:57 choice. You now, I remember once in my
05:00 life, there's only one time in my entire life, Dick, that I
05:03 really felt hatred towards someone. Someone who had deeply
05:07 wronged me, even threatening to kill me and I hated this person.
05:13 And I remember that as I was praying one night the Lord
05:19 reminded me and led me to Matthew 6:14 where Jesus spoke.
05:22 And in Matthew 6:14-15 he says: If you forgive others their
05:26 trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you, but if
05:29 you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your
05:33 father forgive you yours. Dick, I thought now that's not
05:37 fair. Now Lord how can you, you walked the face of the earth
05:41 how can you expect me to forgive someone when... I mean I don't
05:46 know the end from the beginning but it's just not fair. And I
05:50 thought, you're commanding me to do this. Now there's two things
05:53 that are going on here. If God commands us to do anything, that
05:56 means he's going to empower us and we can't do it on our own
06:01 really. But wouldn't you agree that the reason God wants us to
06:06 forgive is not because... And I did finally, the Lord led me
06:10 through the process where I forgave this man, it didn't
06:13 matter at all to this man that I forgave him but it freed me up
06:18 to be connected with God again. Why do you tell people why it is
06:23 necessary that they forgive?
06:25 Well there's two things. First let me react to the Lord's
06:28 statement because God didn't say you have to forgive in order to
06:33 be saved or he would be turning the gospel upside down and
06:36 saying we're saved by our efforts. What God really is
06:39 saying is that if you truly have experienced forgiveness then the
06:44 natural consequence of having been forgiven is to be forgiving
06:49 and so he was really saying if forgiveness is difficult to you
06:54 come back to me and receive my forgiveness for I really believe
06:58 that all forgiveness begins from God. And until we receive his
07:02 forgiveness it is humanly impossible to forgive. Now the
07:06 second point on that is we're clear that the Bible teaches us
07:11 that we should forgive. What we're less clear about is how to
07:15 forgive. You see, I talk to a lot of people who try to
07:19 forgive. They want to forgive but their never sure if they've
07:23 been successful. If they're still thinking about the hurt
07:26 and anger towards that person does that mean they didn't
07:29 forgive? So I've discovered people often have more questions
07:33 about how do I know if I've forgiven? How do I know if it's
07:37 successful? What do I need to do, than would say I don't know
07:41 if I want to forgive or not. So part of what I seek to do is to
07:44 give people instruction, the how to of forgiveness.
07:49 How do you forgive someone?
07:50 There are three basic principles to forgiveness. The first is
07:54 I've got to deal with the past; my thoughts and memories that
07:59 keep coming back. What do I do with those and how do I alter
08:03 those? Because forgiveness doesn't change the past and
08:08 that's important to remember, because you know the most common
08:12 statement around forgiveness is forgive and forget. Sure. So we
08:16 assume that if we haven't forgotten, we haven't forgiven.
08:20 My definition of dealing with the past is that forgiveness
08:24 does not result in forgetting the past. Forgiveness results
08:28 in remembering the past in a different way. The way you
08:33 remember differently is in a process I call reframing and I
08:36 want to illustrate that. When you have a picture and you put
08:40 a frame around the picture, you use that frame to draw the
08:44 viewer's eyes to a particular part of that picture you want to
08:48 emphasize. So a small frame brings you down to a very
08:52 specific point of that picture that you see and in fact the
08:55 artist will often blow up that part of the picture to make it
08:58 larger and then frame it in so that the viewer's eye is focused
09:02 on that one thing. That's what happens when we don't forgive.
09:06 We focus on one thing about somebody. In fact, what's ironic
09:10 is that person that I hate because of the terrible thing
09:14 they did to me and that's I'm having a hard time forgiving, is
09:18 someone else's best friend. So reframing is really getting
09:22 a different picture. So I teach people to enlarge your frame of
09:28 reference. To see the person more than just the wrong they
09:31 did, to see the person they way they really are, some good
09:34 and some bad. In fact, all of us are a mixture of good and bad.
09:38 It reminds me of the scripture that Jesus said when he was on
09:42 the cross: Father forgive them. He knew that forgiveness was
09:46 essential but notice how he got there, the next phrase: For they
09:51 know not what they do. What that basically is, is he took a frame
09:55 that said I could look at these people who are nailing nails
09:59 into my hands and frame it right there and say what miserable
10:03 people that are doing this terrible thing to me, or I can
10:06 get a larger frame of reference and recognize that these people
10:10 don't even understand what they're doing. They don't
10:13 understand who I am, and if they did they wouldn't do it. I mean
10:17 that is reframing a picture in a remarkable way so that Christ
10:21 could forgive easily. And you know what? He's never going to
10:25 forget that, but he'll not remember in the way that you and
10:28 I might if we were there at that time.
10:30 It's kind of like I think it's 1 Corinthians 5:16 where Paul
10:35 says we no longer look at any man from a human perspective.
10:39 We once looked at Jesus this way but the inference of the
10:43 scripture is that we are now looking at someone from God's
10:48 perspective. So I know what the Lord had to take me through was
10:53 to let me see this man from his perspective as someone who was
10:59 lost and suffering and this helped me. He totally reframed
11:04 that. Let me ask you before we go on to these other steps
11:08 though; when you're reframing there's someone in our audience
11:12 no doubt who has been possibly sexually abused by their own
11:18 parent, how do you explain to them to reframe and to look at
11:22 someone who's doing something maybe so hideous, so heinous
11:26 so grievous. How do they reframe that?
11:31 Well good point. First of all I want to remind everyone there
11:35 is no delete key for reality. So you don't change what
11:39 happened in the past. The facts don't change. Reframing never
11:44 changes the facts. You don't deceive yourself to think
11:46 something that wasn't true. Forgiveness would never lead us
11:50 into dishonesty. So reframing is not changing the facts of the
11:54 terrible thing that was done. It's seeing it from a larger
11:57 perspective. Two things that I think help us to do that.
12:00 One is empathy. Can I feel for the other person's situation or
12:06 do I need to keep them as a total monster? If I can feel
12:10 for them a couple things we know about human personality. Abusers
12:15 tend to have been abused themselves when they were a
12:18 child. So getting a perspective that this person is not a
12:24 monster but is a troubled individual who needs help.
12:27 Now what they did to me was terrible and from a human
12:30 perspective unforgivable. But If I don't forgive, I will be
12:35 punishing myself year after year. The second thing I need to
12:40 bring is humility. By that I mean we all make mistakes, some
12:45 worse than others, but there's not one of us that is freed from
12:50 the need to be forgiven. So freely you have received, freely
12:55 give. Now I want to acknowledge that some situations like the
13:00 one you illustrated on childhood sexual abuse, is the most
13:04 traumatic, difficult thing there is to forgive and so I'm
13:09 reminded that forgiveness is not an act, it's a process. I don't
13:14 say I forgive you and it's gone and we don't think about it
13:17 again. I have to forgive perhaps multiple times. In fact, I even
13:23 like to interpret Jesus' statement to his disciple when
13:26 Peter came up and said, How many, seven times, is that
13:30 enough Lord? And the Lord said 70 times seven. Now that can be
13:34 interpreted in two different ways is if someone does
13:37 something to you, you forgive them; if they do it again, you
13:39 forgive them, if they do it again your forgive them.
13:42 490 times. Or it could be interpreted that when you
13:45 forgive someone the feelings and memory will come back again
13:48 and you need to forgive it again and you need to forgive it again
13:51 and that process of forgiving and reframing multiple times
13:55 eventually moves you to a different place.
13:59 Hmm that's good. Okay so now in these steps then to forgiveness
14:03 and how to forgive; beyond the reframing what is the second
14:07 step? The second step is what do I do
14:09 right now. You know reframing is a process of dealing with the
14:12 past by changing its story, but what do I do right now?
14:16 Psychologists say that creatures tend to be stimulus/response.
14:21 Something happens and I react. I want to say that for the
14:26 religious person, for the person who follows God, there is a
14:30 pause between stimulus and response and that pause is where
14:35 I can step back and not let someone else dictate my response
14:40 but I can choose my response. You see one of the things that
14:44 God gave to us was the freedom of choice. Now we can make bad
14:48 choices, but we can make good choices. But choice is our God
14:52 given gift and between stimulus and response there's a pause
14:56 where when something happens to me that upsets me I can
15:00 consciously make a choice; do I choose to forgive and move down
15:04 that pathway or do I choose not to forgive and move down the
15:09 pathway of revenge, bitterness and deep disappointment in life.
15:15 By making that choice I set my decision, I set my reaction and
15:19 the critical thing is if I don't make that choice the other
15:23 person is determining my response by what they did, what
15:27 button they pushed, how they got to me. If I make the choice,
15:31 then I am placing myself and ultimately the Lord over my
15:35 life than giving that to someone else.
15:37 So would a good pause maybe be if someone has really done
15:41 something to wound me that I would take it to the Lord in
15:45 prayer and that gives me that time to pause and reflect on
15:49 this and pray about it.
15:50 Yes. And depending on the severity that pause may be over
15:54 days and I may say Lord I just can't deal with this right now.
15:58 You've got to help me. So I keep bringing it back to the Lord in
16:02 prayer and it may take over time but I am pausing. I am not
16:06 allowing myself to do the lowest common denominator that you'll
16:09 find in the animal kingdom that when something has happened the
16:14 whole wiring is they react. I can rise above that. And so the
16:18 pause may be brief, it may be a quiet moment in meditative
16:22 prayer, it may be prolonged when I ask for extra support from God
16:26 to deal with this troubling situation.
16:29 Okay. So we've got the steps to forgiveness: reframing, a pause
16:33 before you react. And choose forgiveness.
16:36 Choose forgiveness. Because forgiveness is a choice.
16:38 Okay. So now what is the next step?
16:41 The third step is forgiveness needs to set me free from the
16:45 past to open up a new future for me. And most people who have
16:50 been deeply hurt believe that not only did this past event
16:55 hurt them then but it's continuing to affect their
16:57 their future. I often hear this especially in situations where
17:01 someone's been abandoned either through marriage or a family
17:05 member; not only what they did now but they've ruined the rest
17:10 of my life. Forgiveness renews hope, because forgiveness says
17:15 that my future is not determined by my past but my future is
17:20 determined by my goals. And when my goals are the kingdom of
17:24 heaven and I'm in touch with God about what do I need to do
17:28 each day to move on that journey, then my past is almost
17:31 irrelevant. In fact, you remember the statement, what
17:35 good thing can come out of Nazareth? They were trying to
17:38 say that Jesus' past determined his future. How can he be a
17:41 religious leader? No religious leader has come out of Nazareth.
17:45 The past didn't matter which is so different than what most
17:49 people think. We think that we're shaped by our past, but
17:53 we now know that we're really shaped by our goals and
17:57 forgiveness sets me free, allows me to let go, allows me to
18:01 escape the repeated stories and the entrapment of the past and
18:05 allows me through Christ to establish goals for the future.
18:09 For God desires for us great things, he just wants us to be
18:13 on track planning those.
18:15 You said that we're not really shaped by our past but by our
18:20 goals. Would it be fair to say that some people choose to be
18:24 shaped by their past? Well it would be unfair to say
18:28 that the past has no effect on us because it does. Our history
18:31 shapes us. I was speaking more in terms of which is the
18:36 stronger force. Is the stronger force our past experiences or
18:40 is the stronger force what we're attracted to in our future goals
18:44 See I think that sometimes we hear the expression now about
18:49 people who carry baggage and I think that you can meet someone
18:54 and I had someone actually in mind right now who is articulate
19:00 intelligent and has many lovely qualities but is so busy living
19:05 in the past rehearsing the past continuously, rehearsing the
19:11 past, playing the victim. You have counseled and you think
19:16 that you've made a breakthrough and this person will live free
19:21 for a number of months and then right back into the past and
19:25 it's so frustrating because you see that she doesn't want to let
19:30 this go. Well let me speak to that
19:32 briefly. You know we have the expression as you say, carrying
19:35 baggage. Another expression is that someone is full of anger.
19:38 I have a physician pathologist who is a friend of mine and so
19:42 I jokingly asked him, I said, the last time you did an autopsy
19:45 where was the pouch of anger? Where was the bag of baggage
19:49 that people carry with them. He laughed and he said of course
19:53 there's no pouch of anger or no baggage. What happens is it's
19:57 not that we carry anger with us because it doesn't reside
20:01 anywhere. It is that you carry the memories with you and every
20:05 time you repeat the story of some past event you bring anew
20:09 that feeling. So I've actually talked to people that have
20:12 shared with me a story and it was so emotionally gripping
20:15 that I said, wait, we got to do something about this and they
20:19 said well you know this happened 20 years ago. And it's almost
20:22 hard to believe. But it's the rehearsing of the story and so I
20:26 tell people this: If you always tell yourself what you've always
20:30 told yourself, you'll always feel what you've always felt.
20:34 Forgiveness is a way of retelling the story through
20:39 reframing so that it doesn't go away but it becomes so
20:43 significantly different that it's no longer the same story
20:47 and therefore it no longer has the same baggage or the same
20:51 impact. So if my father sexually abused
20:54 me as a child, would this be a good example, that I could go
20:58 back and by reframing this so say, you know my father did love
21:02 me in many ways. He was a sick man because he was abused as a
21:07 child and he was perhaps a drug addict or on alcohol. It was not
21:11 my fault. There was nothing that I did to provoke this. My father
21:16 was really someone that I should pity. He was a lost and
21:19 suffering man if I look at him from God's view point. Perhaps
21:24 if he's alive today I could pray for his salvation and that would
21:29 help me to forgive because I found that you can't pray for
21:33 someone's salvation and hold something against them. But what
21:36 happens if he's dead? What do you do when you're trying to
21:40 forgive and someone's dead?
21:42 Well you know, first of all, forgiveness has to happen in
21:45 your mind as a result of your choice. You choose to forgive
21:49 and then you act forgiving. Now if the other person's alive then
21:53 there's another step in which you have a conversation with
21:56 that person and you begin to talk about your perceptions and
21:59 their perceptions and you can actually begin to bring healing
22:03 as long as both are willing to talk. But you can have a break
22:06 down in several ways. One is the other person is unwilling to
22:09 talk and therefore you can't really talk to them or they
22:12 could be dead and there's no way to talk to them then but
22:15 that doesn't stop the forgiveness process. I still
22:18 begin that process in my mind and if my mind I have forgiven
22:22 them, even though we can't reconcile or talk it through or
22:26 work it out forgiveness is as complete as it can be and
22:29 therefore it is forgiven.
22:31 So how do you know? Let's say that someone's listening and
22:35 they say well I've tried these steps. Maybe they've read your
22:38 wonderful book and they say I've tried these steps before. How do
22:42 I know? I don't know if I've really forgiven though.
22:45 How do you know once you've reached that goal?
22:48 Sure. A couple of key things that will help you. Number one:
22:51 Have you made the choice to forgive? Only you can answer
22:55 that. No one else can answer that for you. If you've made the
22:59 choice then the next thing you can start to ask yourself is, is
23:03 the story that's upsetting me so much, is it beginning to change?
23:07 Am I beginning to see things differently? Am I bringing new
23:11 perspective to it. Because remember whenever we remember
23:15 something, we selectively remember. We cannot remember
23:18 every detail that happened. We choose those things to remember
23:22 that reinforce our beliefs. So if you're changing your belief
23:26 from I will not forgive to I will forgive you will bring in
23:30 different parts of the story that you missed before and as
23:34 your story grows and becomes more holistic, more balanced,
23:38 from all perspectives then you know that forgiveness is at work
23:41 because without forgiveness this story would never change.
23:45 I think something for myself, my personal experience. When I
23:48 could talk about things... I grew up in a very dysfunctional
23:51 home and I didn't realize I had unforgiveness in my heart.
23:56 But when I was able to really speak about it without having
24:00 that same gut feeling like someone had just punched me in
24:03 the gut, I realized forgiveness had come. So for someone who's
24:08 watching us today, Dick, and I know that there are many of you
24:13 out there who struggle with something from your past and you
24:18 feel like I need to forgive this what benefit is there? What can
24:22 we tell our viewers, why should they forgive? What's the benefit
24:26 to them? Well in a study I did at Florida
24:29 Hospital, one of the benefits that was a surprise, is we
24:33 taught patients with high blood pressure how to forgive and we
24:37 measured, during an 8-week program of teaching forgiveness,
24:40 their blood pressure and we saw clinically significant drops in
24:45 blood pressure from stage 1 hypertension to normal blood
24:49 pressure. You say, how can that happen? Well because the body
24:52 reacts to the mind's thoughts and emotions. We know from
24:55 studies done through the American Heart Association that
24:59 anger is a primary risk factor for heart disease.
25:02 It produces stress hormones.
25:04 Oh yes, and it elevates blood pressure. So forgiveness reduces
25:09 anger and by reducing the anger I'm reducing the driver of high
25:14 blood pressure, or one of the drivers. We actually clinically
25:17 proved and then had it published in a professional peer review
25:21 journal that by teaching people how to forgive we could lower
25:24 their blood pressure. So we know it's good for the body. We know
25:28 it's good for the mind because anger is toxic and chronic anger
25:33 is death-leading, it can kill you. So by reducing the anger
25:37 you give a person a chance to have a more rewarding life and
25:42 of course spiritually we started this program right in the
25:45 beginning... Excuse me for interrupting but
25:48 this is so interesting because I'm listening to you talk and I
25:51 though you're using a word that I don't always associate with
25:55 unforgiveness. That is anger. Sometimes would you say that if
25:58 someone's feeling wounded that that's still a form of anger?
26:02 That's interesting. Psychology would tell you that
26:05 anger and hurt are the same thing, just two sides of the
26:08 same coin and you're not going to feel angry unless you've been
26:11 hurt and you're not going to get through the hurt unless you
26:15 express the anger. So what we want to do is to teach people to
26:19 express anger in a healthy way, not in a destructive way that
26:22 reinforces the anger by shouting and hitting pillows but by
26:25 expressing the anger so that it can be given up through
26:28 forgiveness. Okay. So the benefit then is
26:31 it's a physical benefit, it's a mental benefit, what about a
26:37 spiritual benefit. Well spiritually it is the only
26:40 way to salvation. There is no way we can earn it, there is
26:44 nothing we can do to achieve it but to simply accept forgiveness
26:47 In the text you read, when I accept forgiveness and feel it's
26:51 power to release my life why would I go back to my
26:55 relationship with someone else and become trapped again in
26:58 misery because I won't forgive them for forgiveness not only
27:01 is about the other person but it's about setting me free.
27:05 So I need to forgive to set me free as much as I need to be
27:08 forgiven to be set free.
27:09 And you know we can forgive someone and not maybe return to
27:14 and intimate personal relationship with them because
27:17 we certainly don't want to go off the air and leave the
27:20 impression with you that you should be, what would you say,
27:24 a rug for someone to wipe their feet on.
27:28 You certainly don't put yourself back into a situation where
27:30 someone can harm you.
27:31 Okay. Dick this has been wonderful. I'm so sorry that we
27:35 are out of time already. We're going to have to have you come
27:38 back some time and do some more programs with us because you
27:41 have given this a lot of study and a lot of thought and written
27:44 this wonderful book, Forgive to Live by Dr. Dick Tibbits.
27:48 Thank you so much for joining us and may the grace of our
27:51 Lord Jesus Christ and the love of the Father be with you today.