Why is it that as we age we lose so much flexibility? I don’t just mean physical flexibility; I mean emotional flexibility. The older we get, the harder it becomes to bend and stretch and forgive. As teens go through their transitions and time of adolescence, they need to hang on to their ability to forgive, and adults need to rediscover it. Otherwise, both are left in the black-and-white world of one-strike-and-you’re-out.
The grinding and scraping and grating of adolescence require the healing balm of forgiveness in order to regain relational realignment. And you’re going to need to go first. It is imperative for you to model asking for, receiving, and giving forgiveness. I’m not sure, from a relational point of view, if there is anything more important for you to teach your teenager as an adult skill. Because we live messy lives, and we want to live those lives together with other people, forgiveness is a must.
How do you ask for forgiveness? When you clearly mess up, do you admit it? Do you try to pretend it didn’t happen by not saying anything? Do you try to even the scales by bringing up other issues? Do you try to buy forgiveness as a way to avoid asking for it? These are the sorts of lessons you’re teaching your children about forgiveness as you sit at home, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up. They may not be the lessons you want to teach, but they’re the ones that are speaking out loud and clear to your teenager.
As adults, it can be difficult to admit when you have failed at something. It’s frustrating and we are very human. Do you sometimes just walk away after you’ve hurt someone, desperately deciding the other person will just have to let it slide and not bring it up? Or possibly you try to minimize how bad it was by revising what you meant or said in your mind.
If you haven’t been demonstrating to your teenager the positive power of forgiveness, you’ve been dropping the ball on one of the most fundamental spiritual concepts (with the first being love). If your child didn’t figure it out before hitting puberty, he or she is probably very clued in now about your shortcomings as a person and as a parent. They are, after all, on constant display. By this behavior, you have demonstrated the need for forgiveness but not how to accomplish it. That’s only part of the lesson.
By asking for someone’s forgiveness, you transfer power. That’s why I think it’s easier to say, “I’m sorry,” than it is to ask, “Can you forgive me?” When you ask, “Can you forgive me?” you have to listen and wait for the answer, which could be “not now” or even “no.”
When dealing with teens, it’s important for you to ask the question. They need to understand the power they have over a hurtful situation. They need to learn that what they think about what’s happening to them matters. They need to learn they have the last say. Having that last say gives the hurt person back the control he or she lost through the injury.
It is tempting to try to make excuses, to mitigate the injury when you’ve hurt another person. But it is so important that you avoid this temptation. Sometimes, your words or behaviors hurt someone else without conscious intent. It’s still important to understand the other perspective and express remorse over the unintended pain.
Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.
Once you give up on the idea of a future where your addiction is “manageable,” you must contemplate a future without the addiction in any form. The question then becomes, “Who am I without this?” The addiction has been such an integral part of your life that you have difficulty imagining what life could be, who you could be, without it.
This point was brought home to me last year. I was working with a woman who was trying to overcome a prescription drug addiction. Amy was in the phase of recovery where she was ready to accept the negatives of her addiction but fearful of what life would mean without it. During this time, she got a card from an old friend. She said they’d drifted apart because they no longer lived in the same state. Their correspondences, Amy told me, were usually a yearly holiday missive giving a personal and family update. The midyear card came as a surprise and contained a picture of the two of them that was more than thirty years old. Amy showed me the candid shot of a group of teenagers and asked if I could pick her out.
As I struggled to avoid embarrassment by choosing the wrong person, Amy said it was a picture of her church youth group getting ready to take off for a day hike. When I didn’t pick her out right away, she gratefully let me off the hook and pointed herself out. She lamented how far she’d come from that young, smiling teenage girl. “I can’t remember who I was,” Amy said, “and if I give this up, I can’t imagine who I’ll be.”
I believe this question of who you’ll be without your addiction is a common one. Addiction has the power to co-opt the person you are and change you into someone different, altering your thoughts, actions, and behaviors. The person you were becomes a faded, distant memory. You may look in a mirror and feel unsure of who you were, ashamed of who you are, and fearful of becoming anyone else.
I think people are fearful of giving up an addiction because they believe they will be in pain without it. I’ve heard this sentiment expressed in different ways, though rarely will they use the word pain. Instead, they say without their addiction, they will be frustrated or bored, anxious or afraid. They tell me the addiction, whatever it is, helps them overcome being depressed or angry. In the deepest throes of my overworking, my pain might have carried the name unsuccessful or failure.
Are you struggling with addictive behaviors and feeling depressed? Do you feel that your life is not in your control? The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and speak with a confidential specialist. Begin the healing process and have confidence that there is hope, and that joy is attainable.
What do you think would happen if you revisited some of the old ghost towns that haunt your memories? What if you revisited the house where you grew up and were taught you weren’t a capable person? Maybe it’s the school where you were taunted and teased and picked last. Or maybe it’s a person and not a place — a person who withheld approval and affection, though you did everything you could to earn them.
Sometimes the life we live causes stress and sometimes the life we lived causes stress. Each of us is a product of our past. If that past is full of ghosts, that past will haunt the present. To determine if memories of your past are creating stress in your present, ask yourself the following questions:
- What negative memories seem to haunt me? Which events and the pain they caused are still vivid, as though they just happened?
- What words or voices from the past are still ringing in my mind today?
- If you find that past pain still has power over you today, you need to begin moving out of your past and into the present. Start moving out of your ghost towns by reminding yourself those days are over. You may have had no power to stop them negatively affecting your past, but you do have the power to keep them from negatively affecting your present. Even more, God has the power to redeem those negative events and turn them into good.
Think about the good things of the present and be thankful for them. Think about each of your abilities and gifts and how each has played a part in making you the unique person you are. You will have to make a daily decision to dismiss the hurtful memories of the past and concentrate on the positive things of today, until the past no longer controls your thoughts.
The choice is yours. It will require some risk and demand a deeper trust of yourself and of God, but that will only enhance your growth. In the end, all you will lose are your ghosts of the past. What you will gain is an opportunity to regain control of your life.
We all have the capacity to become what we were meant—created—to be. Our ghosts haunt us and keep us fearful. God means for us, through his power, to break free from the past. Do you believe God has the power and desire to do that for you? Can you say, like the apostle Paul, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13–14)?
If you or a loved one is struggling with hurtful memories from the past, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues, and bringing healing to the whole family. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.
Vented anger, because of its “out there” nature, can be much easier to identify. However, many people still attempt to diffuse it by calling it other names.
I’d like you to take a look at the following list of words and mark any you identify as part of your anger repertoire. Be honest and bold. If you have a loved one or close friend, consider asking him or her to look over the list and discuss it with you. Other people are a good barometer of what you aren’t able to recognize in yourself.
All of these can be ways of expressing anger. Look over your list and answer the following questions.
- What do you tell yourself when you feel this way?
- Does your thought life escalate or deescalate your feelings?
- How do you feel after you express these feelings?
- How do you feel about yourself?
- How do you feel about anyone else involved?
- How do you feel physically?
- How long does it take you to get over the feelings?
- Do you “replay” the event and the feelings inside your head?
- Are you ashamed of how you reacted?
- Are you remorseful over how you reacted?
- If you could get rid of one of these reactions, which one would it be and why?
Be aware of your anger levels over the next several weeks. Write down, if you’re able, what you feel and any reasons you determine for feeling that way. Note any out-of-line or extreme reactions or feelings. Be sure to write these down for more examination, thought, and prayer.
Above all, remember you have an active partner in this process. Just as God said to Cain, he says to you: “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?” (Gen.4:6). There is a why to all of this, a why that can be determined and brought out into the light.
If you or a loved one is struggling with a anger issues, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. Call 1-888-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.
Forgiving someone is never easy. It does not happen overnight; it is a process. Often it requires getting over the faulty beliefs and practices taught to you by the very people you are trying to forgive.
Beware of the need to punish. In your anger, you may withhold the healing act of forgiveness as a way to punish or to retaliate against the person who hurt you.
Beware of the desire to continue focusing on yourself. Forgiveness allows for you to move on to a healthier focus in life, away from your self-consuming relationship with food and on to a healthy balance of focuses and interests.
Beware of the belief that you deserve to be hurt and miserable. You don’t; that’s your eating disorder talking to you. Forgiveness will bring you peace, healing, and relief.
Beware of pride. Your eating disorder or disordered eating patterns may have brought you a perverted sense of pride as a way to counteract the pain. Forgiveness, by lessening the pain, interfered with the maintenance of that pride.
If you were never provided with an example of love and forgiveness growing up in your immediate family, where can you find these examples? Try to remember the people who did give them to you as a child, maybe a grandparent or a family friend. Then, think back to how much you needed love growing up. Remember how you would have felt if you had received acceptance. As a forgiving adult, you can give those who wronged you the very things you were denied as a child.
If you have constructed the myth of a happy childhood, giving up that dream will be painful. You will have to discard your idea of the perfect mom and dad, or the image of an idyllic, loving family. Instead, you can establish a new relationship with your family, just as they are.
For some people, their pain and hurt are so deep inside of them that their ability to forgive is buried under layers of anger and resentment. If this description fits you, you will need to search outside of yourself for the strength to forgive. Again, you need to understand that forgiveness is something you can rarely accomplish immediately. You’ve lived with your pain for many years; allow yourself time to work through your need to forgive.
Your eating disorder is a response to your pain and anger. If you can understand what happened, get past the anger, and forgive the pain, the reason for your behavior will no longer exist. When the reason no longer exists, and the health-related complications of your behavior are addressed, true healing becomes a reality.
Once you are able to acknowledge the truth of your pain, you must look towards proactive forgiveness. You have to decide to forgive—not because you want to, not because it feels good, and not because it’s deserved, but because it is the healing thing for you to do. A conscious choice on your part to forgive can counteract your conscious decision to continue in the behaviors of your eating disorder or disordered eating. Your will is the same, but you are choosing to use it in a healthy, uplifting way.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 29 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.