Charleston Shootings – Is Forgiveness the Way?

Another horrific massacre took place last week in Charleston, SC. A twenty-one year old young man opened fire in a bible study group and killed nine victims including an 87 year old woman as well as the pastor of the church. The young man was eventually apprehended and his license plate bore the emblem of the confederate flag. In a video, the tearful pained voices of the victims’ relatives expressed their hurt and forgiveness to the unemotional lad who stood between prison guards. How does one respond to such an injustice as the loss of a loved one. Is it wise to offer forgiveness to an unrepentant soul?

Now I am all for forgiving others, but I wonder if perhaps this process has been misunderstood by some so I began to do some research. When we are hurt or offended by another person, we usually experience a wide variety of emotions, so let’s explore these for a moment to see how they are to be handled.

When someone hurts us, there are many reactions we may feel; some of these are healthy and some are not. We may feel hurt, grieved, saddened, and sometimes devastated. These are all normal emotions and especially in the case of the death of a loved one. We need to allow ourselves to feel these emotions fully. To deny or forgive the other too quickly is both unhealthy and unwise. We need to take the time to feel and to grieve. Another response is the desire to want to get back at the other person. This is known as the desire for vengeance. So what about when we feel the need to “pay them back” for the hurt they’ve caused us?

The sense of injustice is reasonable. However, when we harbor thoughts of vengeance, these negative thoughts poison our mind and steal our peace. It would do us well to remember that we, too, have hurt others. When we let go of this need, and give it to God, we rid ourselves of that poison. It may be difficult, even painful, to forgive, but unforgiveness hurts us even more in the long run.

I was surprised at how quickly the relatives were to offer forgiveness to the perpetrator who showed absolutely no sign of remorse or regret. Does such a person deserve to be let off the hook, so to speak, so quickly? Is this even biblical?

There are many verses in Scripture that tell us to forgive and how many times to forgive. There is one verse however that may shed some light as to when to actually forgive someone. It is found in Luke 17:3 and reads “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.”. This is from the King James Bible, perhaps the oldest and most accurate version. Notice the caveat – if he repents. In other words, we are not commanded to forgive unrepentant people. Let’s use another scenario.

Say your child tells you a lie or steals money from you and you find out about it. As a parent, you don’t stop loving your child, but would you insist the child apologize? Or would you say “I forgive you” and then let the whole issue drop? If you do, the chances of having a repeat performance is likely to occur, would you agree? The role of a parent is to develop character in their children and teach them right from wrong. When we insist on moral behavior it does not mean we do not love our child. In fact, good discipline is a necessary component of raising healthy adults. There is one more consequence of forgiving too quickly.

When we forgive someone who is unrepentant, we take away the opportunity for real change and growth. Most human beings have some sort of conscience, and without the chance to repent, the person will wallow in guilt and shame. The purpose of true guilt and shame are to bring someone to accept responsibility for what they have done and to change. Then and only then, are we to forgive them for they have shown a change of heart and a true sorrowfulness for their actions.

Now this post might be controversial. I would like to hear your thoughts on this topic. We must stem the tide of these killings and hold the perpetrators responsible. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Until next time, keep looking up!


One Step to True Peace

If there was one thing you could do to have more peace in your life, would you do it? Think about this for a moment – one thing you could do.

Everyone has trials and troubles. That, my friends, is what we call life. Challenges will always be with us. The key is to how we deal with the challenges. People often wonder why so many things go wrong in their lives. We scratch our heads and wonder in astonishment why things have gone awry. This is when I have to take a step back and ask myself the question “What is really going on here?”

We all want to have more peace in our lives. We want things to run smoothly and to achieve our dreams and goals. We want to be happy and have a rich and abundant life.
It is possible if we are sure to do this one simple step. It’s funny, because most of what we need to do to have a good life is very simple. The very first thing we need to do is to start doing the right thing. I’m not talking about the right thing in a moral sense here, although, doing something immoral is definitely not going to bring us peace. I’m talking about doing the right thing in regards to our values and goals.

Let me give you an example. Say you are all upset about your weight. When you get up in the morning, you hate what you see in the mirror. You do not have peace about what you look like. At the office, someone brings in donuts. What action will give you peace? Eating a donut or passing on the donuts? Pass on the donuts because you want to lose weight. You will feel not only a sense of peace, but a sense of mastery and power. You resisted the temptation. Get the idea? Here’s another example. You’ve had a good dinner. It’s a nice evening outside. You can a) plop yourself down in front of the boob tube or b) go for an after dinner walk and help your system burn off some of those calories. Did you know you burn more calories the 20 minutes right after eating? These choices are in line with your values and goals i.e. to lose weight. When we act in alignment with our values and goals, we have more peace in our spirits. This applies to other areas of our lives as well.

Same thing goes with financial peace. Thousands of Americans are in debt because they can’t control their spending. They “need” to have the latest technology, electronic gadget, newest car, bigger house, etc. They feel an inner compulsion to keep up with what “other people” are doing. But they know deep down inside they really can’t afford any of them nor do they really and truly need them. So a new smart phone comes out in the market. Their smart phone works just fine. What do they do next time they are at Best Buy? They buy a new smart phone. Now is this action going to bring them peace in the long term? Their goal is to get out of debt, but their actions are not in line with their values. So no, they are not doing “the right thing” and this choice will not bring them peace.

Do you get the concept here? So much of the stress in our lives can be eliminated if we would simply do the right thing. Act in accordance with our values, dreams,and goals. Don’t allow ourselves to be swayed by others, the media, or advertising. Know what it is we value and want in our lives and then practice saying “NO” to any action, person, or activity that does not fit into the picture. Says author Anne Lamott, “No” is a complete sentence. It is also a very powerful tool in maintaining peace in our lives. Say no to the donut, no to the purchase, no to the event or activity that you really don’t have the desire or the time to attend anyway.

If we will begin to implement this one simple step – doing the right thing – we will find more peace because we will be saying “Yes” to what it is we really and truly want in our lives. We will be living more in congruence with our values and our decisions will become easier. A tip is to ask ourselves this question: “Is this the right thing for me?” If the answer is a sincere “Yes”, we are good to go.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. If you have any comments or feedback, I would love to hear from you so please post them. Until next time, just do the next right thing and keep looking up!


How to Tell If You’ve Stopped Growing

Hard to get out of bed in the morning? Has joy all but disappeared from your life? Still battling the same problems and worries you were 5 – 10 years ago? These are all signs we have stopped growing. So how does this happen?

It’s been said that aging is inevitable but growth aka maturity is optional. Personal growth is a choice. It takes intention and action. Growth doesn’t happen on its own. It happens when we take intentional steps to learn. When we grow we feel more alive, invigorated, and motivated. We look forward to each new day with enthusiasm and passion. We’re not held back by our problems. Joy pours out of us like syrup onto pancakes. Our energy level soars.

Many times it takes a crisis, a setback, or a big mistake to push us into growing and maturing. As I say in my book, “The Power of Faith”, rather than viewing difficulties as obstacles, try to view them as opportunities to grow. Life is a huge university and the trials we encounter are vehicles designed to move us forward into our destiny. As John Maxwell says in his book “How Successful People Win”, there are two basic reasons for our trials: 1) ignorance and 2) stupidity. Either we didn’t know better or we knew better and failed to act properly.

We all go through tough times. I would venture to say without tough times, we would grow very little, if at all. The tough times show us what we are made of and what needs to change. Most people resist change because they get cozy with the status quo. Like the fruit on my counter, if we stay in the same place long enough eventually we will rot. We were made for more. Here’s an example.

We all know people who are divorced. I am one of them. Divorce is ugly and painful and leaves us with deep wounds that take time to heal. We have three choices: we can either learn and grow from the pain; we can turn angry, bitter, and resentful, or we live in denial and pretend we are the innocent victim. Only the first is a healthy response. No matter how awful the other party may have been, we always have our part to play and our lessons to learn.

I learned more about who I am and how my past and my parents influenced me. When I had serious health issues, I realized I needed to make changes in my diet and my thinking patterns. We are, after all, body mind, and spirit. When one part of us is hurting, the other parts hurt as well. As author Wayne Dyer says, there is a spiritual solution to every problem and I agree. Our souls are trying to go to the next level.

Growth and change don’t always feel good at the time. We may experience “growing pains” as we transition into a new season of life, but let me encourage you by saying this. It’s all good. Trials can build character and make us stronger. They can uncover gifts and talents we never knew we had. Growth is good for our souls.

Is it time you felt more joy and energy in your life? If so, try adding something new: a new hobby, a new job, a new relationship. Give it some thought and do post a comment what you and let me know plan to do to expand your horizons.

Until next time, keep looking up!


Choose Peace and Find Favor

I hate getting lost. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, I know I’m in for a test. It seems like it happens when I’m in a hurry to get someplace. You know the feeling, I’m sure.

It was a Friday night and my son, Jon, and I were out celebrating his 30th birthday. We had just finished a lovely meal at a Spanish restaurant in Houston and were headed to a dance studio to take a salsa lesson at 9 pm. We had less than 30 minutes to get there. On the way to the car after dinner, I started to get excited about the evening. It would be the first dance lesson my son has had and perhaps I was more excited than he. I had found a coupon for free entry if we arrived before 9:30.

“This is going to be so much fun!” I exclaimed as I settled into his new Nissan with the homemade birthday cake on my lap.

Now, Houston is not exactly the easiest place to get around. The city is huge and so are the highways. Jon plugged in the address of the studio into his trusty GPS and waited. And waited. And waited. No response.

“I know where this place is,” he announced and pulled out of the parking spot.

“We’re looking for 59 north,” he said.

As we headed out of the city, it seemed we were going into nowhereland.

“I don’t see any signs for 59 north,” I said. After circling the side roads, we eventually hit a dead end. Jon’s tone was becoming firmer and the tension in the air was thickening by the minute.

“Doesn’t look like we’re going to make the lesson, so we might as well go home,” he announced. It was like someone stuck a pin in my balloon of anticipation and excitement.

“Ok, if that’s what you want to do,” I surrendered.

Then Jon says: “I think the enemy is trying to get us into a fight to ruin the evening. But he’s not going to get his way. Forget this GPS. I think I know how to get us there,” Jon stated with a renewed sense of determination. My hopes started to rise again as he found the way to a highway.

It was 9:20 when we pulled into the parking lot of the studio.

“Let’s take a few breaths,” Jon said and we both sat in silence for a few minutes collecting ourselves.

Peace must be fought for.

We knew we had avoided a close call and we both accepted that fact that we had missed the lesson.

“At least we made it in time to get in free,” I offered.

We stepped into the studio. The place was hopping with activity.

“I guess the lesson is over,” I said to the gal checking us in at the door.

“No, as a matter of fact, it is going to start in 5 minutes.”

Jon and I looked at each other in amazement. We both knew what had happened.

“That’s God’s favor,” Jon says quietly. “Because we didn’t get into an argument in the car,”.

I was grateful for both the unexpected blessing of the dance lesson and for the fact that Jon was so wise to have learned this lesson so young. It had taken me years to realize this.

So, next time you find yourself in a tense situation that is out of your control, remember to defuse it by surrendering. When we choose peace instead of conflict, we not only save our energy and our spirits, but God smiles upon us with favor.

Love to hear your feedback on this adventure and until next time, keep looking up!