Emotional Baggage – Part 2
The key concepts in this series come from Andy Stanley’s “Enemies of the Heart”. In week two as we continued to talk about Baggage we began by talking about when someone owes you something. We pick up baggage when someone owes us something and we are holding their debt waiting for re-payment.
The way we realize we are carry this baggage around with us is when we have re-occurring anger towards someone. It is when someone’s name is mentioned and we get upset. We see someone and our mood suddenly sours. We bump into someone and we feel hurt and pain from their actions towards us.
To let go of this baggage we have to determine what it is that we feel they owe us. What debt do they need to repay us? Often times this looks like this:
You said hurtful things to me and I feel like you owe me my dignity, self respect, self esteem, pride, etc. You spread a rumor about me and now I feel like you owe me my reputation. You stole my girlfriend and you owe me a relationship. You cheated me out of having a dad at my ball games and you owe me experiences other kids had but not me.
The first step into letting go of this baggage is to identify what it is that we think they owe us. This is not always easy and sometimes we may feel they owe us one thing or 20 things. I have had times when it took weeks of contemplation before I figured out what it was that they owed me.
Once I identify what they owe me I have to determine what it is that I feel they need to do to settle the debt. How does a dad repay missing all my ball games? How do you repay telling a secrete I shared with you? How do you pay me back the hurt and pain you caused me? Can you really pay me back? What do I really want? An apology, a token that shows you are sorry, to feel understood, et… If there is a debt that can be paid back then ask for it to be repaid. This may feel awkward but it is better than carry around baggage the rest of your life. But there are some debts that can never be fully paid back or someone who will not repay you.
This is where forgiveness comes in. At some point I need to forgive the debt. This is never easy because depending on the amount owed it is hard to forgive. If you owe me $5 I can let that go tomorrow. If you owe me $50,000 I will have a hard time forgiving that debt. But if I don’t I will have to carry around all my anger, hurt, and pain.
When I look through the Bible I see many people who forgave people of their debt. I focused on Joseph. Although Joseph is the vice president of Egypt (at least 8 years at this point) his ability to forgive is amazing. Think about what his brother took from him: trust, security, freedom, family, hope, etc. Joseph had spent up to 13 years of his life as a slave or prisoner because of what his brothers did to him. Think about the bitterness, anger, heartache he must have experienced. Then he comes to power and his brothers need his help. He is now in a position to crush them and make them pay for all the pain he brought on him. He does throw them into prison for 3 days but in the end he forgives them.
The big question is how do you do this, especially when the debt is big and maybe the person who owes you could care less. The first thing I would say is that this will be a process and it may take a long time to forgive their debt. Jesus says we should forgive someone 7 X 70. I think sometimes we may have to forgive a debt 490 times before we can let it go. I have had experiences when the debt was high and the pain was deep that I had to constantly forgive them for one action.
Two tips for helping you forgive. 1) You may want to have a ceremony where you forgive the debt. Maybe you write out everything they owe you and you burn the debt. You may burry it under a cross. Put it in a bottle and throw into the ocean or river. I like tangible ways to symbolize I am letting go and forgiving you. 2) When the anger and pain returns, and it will, use that as a prayer prompt to ask God to help you forgive them and let go. It is amazing how if you do this enough the pain will begin to fade.