Tag Archives: forgiveness

031 – Resolving Unresolved Guilt


Unresolved guilt and shame can quietly suck the life out of us.  It can be a silent killer of our hope, relationships, and even life itself.

Until this point in our series we have mostly dealt with the trauma of the actions others have had on us.  The injuries we endured.  But there can be another side of Post-Traumatic Stress.  The side that is tied to our own actions or inaction.

Today we dedicate this episode to this topic and all who are carrying a heavy burden of guilt or shame.  There is hope!

Psychology can try to resolve these issues.  Scientist can explain some of the neurochemicals involved.  However, there is more.

Today I am sharing as a Christian that has experienced the mercy of God in my own life.  I am sharing from my heart as a chaplain, pastor and priest.

People experience guilt for things done and sometimes things left undone.  It can be powerful and if left unresolved can lead us down an even darker path.

We may have done things we dare not speak of to others.  Things that violate our internal sense of right and wrong.  Things that haunt us in our sleep.  Things that are slowly torturing and twisting our souls.

As it is hidden it grows and takes on a life of its own.  We can lose perspective and may things irrational thoughts about our actions.

Since we dare not speak of it, we may not see a good way to deal with it—let alone resolve the conflict.  This can be a source of isolation.  It can turn into anger, hatred, fear and self-loathing.  We may seek to quiet the guilt with alcohol, drugs, gambling, or other destructive behavior.

Part of the solution is to bring it to light.  But, how?  With who?  In some cases, if certain people found out, there may even be legal ramifications.  Another may think, “If people know what I did…they would hate me…think bad of me…

Consider the story of King David in the Bible.  He took the Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his soldiers on the front lines and got her pregnant.  He called Uriah home so that he would spend time with her to cover up his betrayal and indiscretion.  However, Uriah was so dedicated that he refused to stay with his wife.  Then David sent Uriah back to the front and give the order that Uriah should be abandoned to be killed by the enemy.  Wow!  Who could come back from that?

From this we end up seeing a man who turns back to God.  This is repentance, change, captured in Psalm 51.

Most of us probably cannot relate to King David for the specifics of what he did.  We may, however, be able to relate to doing something that at another time we would find unthinkable.

In war unthinkable things may be done.  Taking the life of another, even when justified by the rules of war, leaves a scar on the soul.  A much worse scar may be left if things that go beyond that are done by us or those around us.

In many Christian traditions there is something called confession (or reconciliation).  I prefer the term reconciliation.  In these traditions it is considered a “sacrament”.  These are moments and situations where God and interacts with us in a special and sacred way.  For these traditions, including my own, things confessed in this context are absolutely sealed.

Penance, as part of reconciliation, is not about earning forgiveness.  It is not about atoning for our sins.  Rather, it is about taking actions to help our heart and mind conform to who we are created to be.

Consider the Apostle Paul.  He once went about arresting, trying and voting to have followers of Jesus Christ executed for their faith.  Then Paul, then called Saul, encountered this same Jesus and his life was radically transformed.  Paul became the writer of most of what we call the New Testament part of the Bible.

I often hear the claim that people do not change.  Perhaps this is true.  At least part true.  We may not be able to change on our own; but God working in us can transform us from what we were to what we were created to be.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici on freedigitalphotos.net

021 – Anatomy of Forgiveness

David Castillo Dominici freedigitalphotos.com

by David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.com

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.*

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi**

Many offences in life can and should be easily dismissed.  Today, however, we are talking about the deep hurts.  The deep wounds that significantly alter our lives.  Some wounds even threaten to crush us from the inside out.  It is these situations that call for a deliberate forgiveness process.

 Forgiveness is possible!  (See last week’s show: Forgiving the Unforgivable.)  It takes great strengths and courage to enter into a forgiveness process for deep wounds. 

Before we begin:

  • Forgetting is not forgiveness.
  • Remembering is not unforgiveness.
  • Forgiveness is a process.

At the Hope and Restoration Team (HART) we use an acronym to help facilitate the forgiveness healing process.  R.A.F.T.

  • Recognize
  • Accept
  • Forego
  • Trust


We can start with recognizing the wrong that has been done AND the impact it is having on our life.  What has been the result of the hurt, violation, betrayal, etc.?  How have you changed as a result of those events?

Why?  Because we need to be able to deal with the REALITY of what happened to us in order to REALLY forgive.

Example: I was having a post traumatic response when interacting with a particular person.  Fight and flight was kicking in even though there was not perceivable danger.  After some reflection I realized that this person exhibited the same incompetents as someone who nearly got me killed.  After recognizing this I was able to deal with that event constructively.


It is one thing to recognize what has happened and how it has impacted and changed our lives.  It is yet a deeper thing to accept this as our reality.  These tragedies are part of how we are right now.  They do not define the totality of who we are; but they are part of who we are and who we are becoming.

Due to the wrong actions of others my lungs were severely damaged.  I live with this reality every day.  Even after dealing with forgiving those involved in bringing this devastation into my life I have to live with these physical problems.


Once we know and accept what needs to be forgiven we then forgoing payback, vengeance, and retaliation is part of the forgiving process.  This does not meant that justice will not take place.  It does mean that we let go of being the executor of that justice.

In this step we let go of any demand for payment or payback for the wrong suffered.  It does not mean we will let the offender continue to hurt or damage us.

Consider the idea of a monetary debt.  Someone borrows $20 dollars and promises to pay you back next week.  But instead the next week they come back and borrow $20 more.  This goes on for a few weeks and before you know it they have racked up a considerable sum.

At some point you decide to forgo demanding repayment for past debt.  But that does not mean you allow them to accrue more debt.  You say, “Your debt is forgiven.  But in order for trust to be restored true change (in your life) must take place.”

Forgiving the debt is not forgetting what caused the debt.  It is, however, not demanding payment for that past debt.  Trust needs to be established over time with evidence to demonstrate change (repentance).


By trust we are not here talking about trusting the one (group) that has wronged us.  This should be a goal and our desire.  However, for reconciliation to take place and trust to be restored repentance and transformation must take place.

For me the trust aspect is about trusting God to take care of me.  It is about entrusting the process to the One who is greater than I.  Trust in a God how is just, merciful and loving in ways I can only begin to comprehend.  Trust in God that no matter what the other may choose to do or not do that God will provide, care for and supply all my needs.


** http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/mahatmagan121411.html#PhXxeQWq7lUWqJom.99

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020 – Forgiving the Unforgivable

Photo, "Silhouette Of A Man" by Markuso on freedigitalphoto.net

Photo, “Silhouette Of A Man” by Markuso on freedigitalphoto.net

The concept of forgiveness runs deep at the core of any society.  If we cannot find a way to forgive then vengeance is all that will be left in the end.  But is it always possible to forgive?  Are some actions unforgivable?  What does forgiveness look like?

Today we remember the genocide in Rwanda that took place in April 1994.  This was 100 days of slaughter.  10,000 people killed per day.  In total, over 1,000,000 dead—1/8th the country’s population.  Either such destruction will lead to more destruction or forgiveness can lead to healing.

We will hear from some of those involved in the healing and reconciliation process.  The topics come from excerpts for the PBS show, “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” from April 2005.  As you listen to today’s podcast and look over the note please feel free to enter the dialoge via the comments section.

Facing reality/the truth:

We were hut specifically, we must forgive specifically.  At some point, when we are ready, we have to come to terms with what has happened and the impact it is having in our lives.

“The wounds and the healing is a process that we continue to engage deliberately.”

“To tell people they just can’t cover it up.  We need to be able to unearth it and deal with it head on.”

Benefits of forgiveness:

“Forgiving not only benefits the criminal, it benefits me.”

When we forgive we are set free.  We also open up an opportunity for the offender to find freedom.

It is a process:

Repentance – Counseling – Forgiveness – Reconciliation.  This did not spontaneously happen.  And in order for reconciliation to take place the offenders had to “repent”.  In this they took responsibility for their actions and committed to living life in a new direction.

Sometime reconciliation is not possible.  They offender may not be willing to repent.  They may be dead.  We may not know who assaulted/hurt us.

As a result we may take it out on the group or kind of people involved in our PTSD.  Even if we cannot reconcile with the individual(s) we can reconcile with the gender, ethnicity, or group they represent.

The power of three words:

“You killed my wife and my child.   I will not do wrong to you…I forgive you.”

There is such power in saying and hearing the word, “I forgive you.”  This man captures the heart of forgiveness when he declares, “I will not do wrong to you.”  Forgiveness is not devoid of justices.  Rather it is giving up our right to vengeance or us exacting whatever we consider justice.


First bitter, then…remember Christ’s words on the cross.

“He did not wait for the paint to subside.   He cried to the Father, ‘forgive them for they know not what they do.’”  “The fact that Jesus called from within the pain is a guide and a teaching for us to forgive.”

Willing to repent:

Some offenders may never have a conscience concerning their evil actions.  While others seek transformation.  Especially during war wrongs are due by otherwise decent people.  These “moral injuries” can cause deep pain.  This can lead to repentance and transformation.  Seeing the offenders ad humans can help us do our part in the forgiveness process.

Many who have done wrong to others suffer from fear, nightmares, guilt, and self-loather.  One part of us may say, “Good for them.  They deserve it.”  Forgiveness would lead such people toward repentance.

It is not magic:

We have to continue to work the process until completion.

Forgiveness and your journey:

Next Week:

We will consider specific steps toward forgiving the deepest of wounds.

Where are you in this process?  Do you feel stuck?  Are you ready to consider moving forward?  If so and you want someone to walk along side you on this difficult part of the journey contact me, david (at) HealingTheWoundsOfWar (dot) com

Full video of Religion and Ethics Newsweekly story on Rwanda Reconciliation


Why is forgiveness so hard?

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018 – Healing PTSD: The Role of Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness


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There are many parts and paths involved in any healing process.  Post-Traumatic Stress is no different.  We have to address physical, psychological and spiritual need.  Some aspects of these needs we all share in common.  Other aspects may be unique each of us.

The ideas of grace, mercy, repentance, reconciliation and forgiveness are part of the PTSD healing process.  To one extent or another these concepts impart our lives and our recovery process.

In this episode we will,

  • Go beyond the dictionary definition to practical application in a spiritual and healing context. (Dictionary referenced: www.merrian-webster.com)
  • Discuss the relationship between repentance, reconciliation and forgiveness.
  • Forgiveness: what it is not

Question: Is it ever right to not forgive someone?

Request: If you have been blessed by any of our programs.  Please drop us a line and let us know.  Leave a comment, a voice message via Speak Pipe or send an e-mail to david(at)HealingTheWoundsOfWar(dot)com

(Scriptures referenced: Romans 5:8; Matthew 18:21-35)

Ash Wednesday and Lent… What is the big deal?

Cross AshA Special post for; (a) those that follow Christ; (b) interested in Christian spirituality; (c) anyone curious about Christian history, teaching and tradition.

Many Christians all over the world are entering a season of the Church year called Lent.  In short, it is a time to remember our frailty and God’s gifts, goodness and offer for a new life in Christ.  It is a time of reflection and taking inventory of our life and actions.  This is not for the point of beating up on our selves, or others.  Rather it is on opportunity to let go of the past and things that weigh us down.

For those of us dealing with painful experiences and memories it is an opportunity to experience the power and freedom found in the act of repentance and offering and receiving forgiveness.  So Lent can also be a time of healing, even healing the wounds of war.

The following is a quote from the late Robert Webber on the practice of Lent.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps 51:10 KJV).

Ash Wednesday is the service and Lent is the season for repentance from phony Christianity, pretend spirituality, and words without works Christian living. The Holy Spirit uses the Lenten focus as a tool to open our hearts which have grown calloused through selfishness and pride. Throughout the busy year, we become spiritually dull and unapologetically self-absorbed. Our attitudes and actions are insensitive to others’ needs and disobedient to God’s call to life and holiness.

Ash Wednesday stops us in our tracks and reminds us that we are but dust and to dust we shall return. Dust can’t demand, dust can’t argue, dust can’t exalt itself, and dust can’t boast. Dust needs God to have life and only in God can these “jars of clay” minister life (Gen. 2:7, Job 42:6, Eccles. 3:20, Ezekiel 37:4, 2 Cor. 4:7). Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are nothing but dust, muck, and mire without the crucified and risen Jesus.

“We too easily forget our Maker and Redeemer; replacing God with things and ambition. Lent is the season that does something about this situation. It calls us back to God, back to the basics, back to the spiritual realities of life. It calls us to put to death the sin and the indifference we have in our hearts toward God and our fellow persons.

And it beckons us to enter once again into the joy of the Lord–the joy of a new life born out of a death to the old life. That is what Ash Wednesday is all about–the fundamental change of life required of those who would die with Jesus and be raised to a new life in him.”

Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004), pg 99.

Recovery or Revenge: Thoughts on the November 5th attack at Fort Hood, TX

Four years ago hundreds of lives were directly impacted by this act of terror.  For many the pain of this day is still very real.  Yet, our resolve is strong.  Perhaps even stronger than before this attack!  Individually, and as a group, we do not have to allow the evil actions of others keep us down.  Today, If you have the opportunity, (better yet, make the opportunity) thank the men and women that courageously stand against evil in this world.

The following is from a posting I wrote shortly after the shooting–while I was stationed at Fort Hood:

It is normal, and even healthy, to experience outrage, anger, fear and a whole host of powerful emotions. Some may experience suspicion of Muslims and even hatred. It is important to acknowledge how this affects us and the emotions and thoughts an event like this brings to the surface.

Two tours in Iraq and multiple destructive encounters (combat) with those waging war on us have taught me the pains of war. I have also spent hundreds of hours counseling and caring for Soldiers during and after combat operations. Sometimes simply listening and at other times helping put the pieces of their torn lives and souls back together. War and violence result in a complex emotional response. Their effects are long lasting and profound.

When this event happened so close to home some of these old emotions surfaced to the forefront of my mind. Past experiences relived as if they were recent events. So close to home, so close to my family and friends. To make it a little closer to home, this is a man that I have met and offered my hand in friendship, a man that I directly helped support his religious liberties, a man that wore the same uniform and took the same oath of office as I took when I accepted a commission as an officer in the US Army.

There is no quick fix to the pain and grief that follows violent events. The hurt and impact of this despicable display of violence will be with many people for a very long time.

As followers of Christ we are not immune to the above mentioned emotions nor are we immune from the desire for revenge. What are we to do?

Recovery starts with allowing ourselves the opportunity to grieve. This is a process and it takes time. It often should involve talking to someone who understands this process—such as a pastor, chaplain, counselor, etc.–to help you move through the process. It is easy to get stuck in the anger aspect of grief and never move beyond that natural component of the grieving process.

Over the past few days I have heard many express a desire to personally exact revenge on Mr. Hasan. This is not uncommon following such an event. Similar, but less specific, talk also takes place concerning anyone who may be of the same faith or ethnicity. People are expressing their anger, grief, frustration and fear. Sadly, some do not really move past this part of the grief process.

As followers of Christ we are commanded, not suggested, to love our enemies, pray for our enemies and forgive those who have wronged us. Ouch! This is not easy; nor does it just happen. It takes courage, lots of courage, great strength, and time. Nevertheless, it is not an option, we must forgive, love and pray for our enemies (I must admit, it was not emotionally easy for me at church today when Fr. Paul lead us in a prayer for Maj. Hasan). And in His grace, he provides us with everything we need to accomplish the process.

Holding on to anger beyond its role in processing grief will hurt us, even consume us, and rob us of the joys of living. So what does forgiveness look like?

Forgiveness is complex. It may be easier to first consider what forgiveness is not.

Forgiveness is not “forgive and forget”. That sounds more like denial or thought repression. It does not release the one who has wronged us from the responsibility or consequences of his/her actions. People must be accountable for their deeds. Forgiveness does not mean that trust is automatically, or ever, restored. It does not mean that new opportunities are given to the offender to trample on or destroy us or those we love.

Forgiveness is a process. It can be painful because it forces us to acknowledge how we have been hurt, how we have been violated, what has been taken away from us, what we have suffered! It is not something that just happens in our hearts at the moment we want it to happen or when we say the words “I forgive you”. Forgiveness releases the offender of the burden he/she owes you personally. You no longer require or seek for the offender to suffer as a result of what they have done. It also releases us from carrying the burden of revenge or requiring payback. It releases us to continue the grieving process and the healing process—the healing process of our soul and mind.

If we do not grow into forgiveness, our hearts, minds, judgments and perceptions grow clouded. We lose the joy of living and our ability to see the beauty and goodness in creation.

Forgiveness also affects how we will be forgiven. In the familiar Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6: 12). And just in case we did not get the message he continues after the prayer, “If you do not forgive men their sins against you, your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:14)

As Christians we must handle those who are struggling with anger and forgiveness with grace and love. We are to patiently bear one another’s burdens, realizing that each is dealing with these issues carrying different baggage; and each will grow at a different pace.

The goal of this posting is not to solve the complex problem of anger and forgiveness that results from this or other tragedies—volumes have been written on these subjects; but rather to simply open the door toward the eventual journey of healing and restoration. There is hope for our souls to be at peace and for our hearts to be mended. It is not easy and it takes time and effort, but it can happen.

Perhaps you have experienced a deep hurt at the hands of another, or perhaps God will bring someone across your path who needs a patient, loving, grace filled companion on their journey through grief and forgiveness. Whatever the case, God has not left us alone. He has left us with the Holy Spirit, His Word, the Sacraments and yes, each other.