This story appears in FCA Magazine’s September/October 2017 issue. Subscribe today!
“Then Peter came to him and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’” – Matthew 18:21-22
Back in the 1980s, trips to the gym were different than today. You had to schedule a specific time, and your trainer was there waiting for you with your workout card on a clipboard.
My first trainer was an absolute beast. He was preparing for a tryout with the Dallas Cowboys, so he was ultra-focused in the gym himself, and he came with an extra dose of edgy intensity and intimidation!
One day, I could tell he was in the mood to make me suffer. About halfway through the workout, he informed me I would finish by strapping on a 40-pound weighted vest and running stairs. I had done this before, so I knew there was no way out but through. His mission was to make me my best, and adding that weight was one way to accelerate that.
I still look back with amazement on the gains I made that summer in terms of speed, strength and power. Once I was free from the added weight in my workouts, I could perform at my absolute best. (And my absolute best had become even greater than I thought possible.)
Similarly, once we are able to shed the “added weight” of burdens in other areas of life, we’re able to live a life of freedom: mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Free from the additional weight caused by negative words, emotions and experiences.
Negative words from others (or even yourself) reinforce your fear and doubts and can make you want to quit. Negative emotions caused by stress, anxiety and the pressure to perform make you feel like a failure, like you’ll never be good enough, or that the challenges you face are too big to overcome. Negative experiences from the past—if you hold onto them—can lead to a victim mentality where you believe you have no say about your choices for today and the direction for your future.
All of these additional weights become a kind of “de-motivational” playlist in our minds that discourages us and wears us out.
Let’s forgive others and ourselves and start to take ownership of our health and our life.When things don’t go our way, the additional weight leads to excuses and the blame game. But getting rid of the mental noise, emotional pain, and burdens of the past is often an exercise in forgiveness.
When Peter asked how many times he should be willing to forgive, Jesus basically said, “every time.” Jesus knows that holding onto grudges eventually leads to bitterness, which becomes a very heavy and destructive burden to carry. It keeps you stuck, preventing you from moving forward and achieving your goals.
Two images help illustrate this burden. The first is like watching young kids carry around their school backpacks stuffed with heavy textbooks; by the end of the day, they are worn out. The second is like watching someone who is overweight struggle to do simple day-to-day activities because they are carrying around an extra 40 or 50 pounds.
So here are three steps to forgiveness you can do right now to “drop the weight” and experience the freedom to be your absolute best.
1. Release Others. We all have the power to choose to forgive. Whether it’s those who may have spoken words of defeat or doubt or criticism and condemnation, or those who planted seeds that you have allowed to limit your progress. We are the ones who suffer from the burden of hanging onto anger, resentment and bitterness. So it’s time to forgive others and drop that weight.
2. Give Yourself a Break. So many of our burdens are self-imposed. We are often our harshest critics and hold ourselves to impossible standards of perfection. Stop reminding yourself of all the ways you’ve failed or fallen short. Ask God to forgive you, and then forgive yourself. The goal is progress, not perfection.
3. Take Ownership. It’s time to stop playing the blame game and making excuses for why we’re not who we want to be or doing what we want to do. When you release others and give yourself a break, you are free to take ownership of your life. Taking ownership means taking responsibility for every choice you make and trusting God with the outcome.
In Matthew 11:28 and 30 (NIV), Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest … For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus came to set us free from the weight of anxiety and worry, our pain and our past, and even sin and death. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
Let’s forgive others and ourselves and start to take ownership of our health and our life. When we drop the weight and become mentally, emotionally and spiritually free, we’ll become our best in all areas of life.
1. Write down 2 to 3 names of people you need to forgive and release.
2. Write down 2 to 3 personal failures you need to ask God to forgive you for, and then forgive yourself.
3. What’s one thing you can take ownership of with respect to your personal health?