Everyone likes the idea of starting fresh in the new year. But how much spiritual clutter is getting in your way?
Nothing clutters the spirit like “unforgiveness.”
I know, I know; there is no such word. I had an e-mail discussion with my pastor about this. He pointed out that the proper phrasing was “lack of forgiveness.” “Unforgiveness,” he wrote, was technically incorrect.
As it turns out, however, UNforgiving is the exact way to describe the phenomenon.
In the Lord’s Prayer we say, “…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12 ESV) But, if we look at the condition of our souls, is that true of us? Have we “forgiven our debtors?” Or are we desperately hanging on to every misdeed of those who have wronged us? Do we trot them out to re-examine them and recite them to anyone who will sit still long enough? That’s spiritual clutter and it gets in the way of our ability to grow as Christians.
The reason God can’t forgive us if we don’t forgive others is because WE DON’T LET HIM. We barricade the door from the inside. Jesus stands at that door with gift of mercy and freedom and we decline it because we MUST see that those who trespassed against us pay — and pay dearly. And the only way to do that is to have constant reminders cluttering up our psyche and keeping us anchored in the past.
The truth is that we ARE forgiven by God because of what Jesus did – it’s a “done deal;” then, in our anger and sin, we UN-forgive – not only the other person (who Jesus also forgave by His death on the cross), but we UN-forgive ourselves as well. We don’t benefit from the work that Jesus did because we don’t take it up. Rather than give up the rotting corpse of death that we have our arms wrapped around, we tighten our grip in hopes that we will be justified by the fact that the trespasser against us is a much bigger sinner than we ever were. We admit our sin to a point, but his is worse. What we did is annoying; what she did is all but unforgivable.
When we are so busy having to maintain our status as a less sinful being than someone else, we lose our testimony – and the opportunity to introduce people who desperately need forgiveness to our Lord Jesus. The clutter of our anger and our sin obscures the message we want to give.
We build internal walls with the clutter of our ego-driven arguments the same way we build literal walls around us with physical clutter. Both need to be faced and handled in order to live life with purpose and joy.
Consider private confession with a pastor or trusted spiritual leader as a first step toward decluttering your soul and regain the ability to forgive – and be forgiven. And once you’ve cleared that spiritual clutter, you can have that fresh new start!
Have you decluttered your spirit by forgiving — and being forgiven? Let us know in the comments!
Ann G. says
Sometimes the people we need to forgive are the very ones who modeled bad household habits. Who had adult-size expectations of us as small children. Or who reacted with anger, impatience and criticism instead of showing us how to get started and breaking down tasks into child-size bites.
Forgiving these people– often family members– can be difficult when they “still live inside our heads”. It can seem impossible to forgive when we don’t “feel like doing it”.
But it’s important to declare (even if it’s only to yourself, in private!) that you are willing to forgive. If forgiveness feels like an act of will rather than a loving gesture, that’s perfectly fine.
And please notice, forgiving DOES NOT mean the other person was right and you were wrong. It does not mean you now have to agree that you “deserved” unfair treatment.
Like decluttering, forgiveness is about releasing something you no longer need to hold onto. It takes energy to hold resentments in place, whether consciously or unconsciously. That energy will be released once you resolve to old habits, like resentment.
Like so many things, it’s a matter of taking babysteps. And like decluttering, it will take time until the hurt is no longer there. But in the end, it’s YOU who will benefit the most.
Brenda Spandrio says
Great insights! You are absolutely right. The clutter of the past — especially anger and resentment — keep us as trapped as physical clutter.
Thanks for sharing.