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Expert Insights: Learning About Forgiveness with Dr. Jeff Klick

March 20, 2013

by Michelle LaRowe
Editor in Chief

It seems that the older you get, the quicker you realize that holding onto forgiveness doesn’t hurt anyone but yourself. How can we help children learn this lesson early? Dr. Jeff Klick, pastor and author, offers some insight into the history of forgiveness, what forgiveness is and isn’t and how we can teach our children the value of forgiving others.

eNannySource: What is true forgiveness?

Dr. Klick: Forgiveness is a gift from our Heavenly Father. We forgive others because we are forgiven. Jesus told many stories about forgiveness. One of Jesus’ key men was Peter. We know from the Bible that Peter struggled with both anger and unforgiveness. When Jesus was being arrested in the garden on the night He was betrayed, Peter is the one who swung the sword at a man’s head. He missed and only cut off an ear, but the intent was clear.

Peter also had a problem with forgiveness. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells His followers how to confront sin and gain restoration. After Peter heard these words, he asks Jesus a question. “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Peter thought he was being generous with the unheard number of seven times. Jesus’ answer was as shocking then as now, “I do not say to you seven times, seventy times seven.”

To further illustrate His point, Jesus tells the story of the unforgiving servant. While the details are important, what really should shock us is the punch line to the story. “So also My heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” What will Jesus’ Father do? Turn everyone over to the torturers until they pay every penny of their debt if they refuse to forgive!

To forgive means we release, let go of and set people free from the debt they owe us. Jesus did this for us freely, and we must do so for others.

eNannySource: What are the benefits of forgiveness?

Dr. Klick: If avoiding torture is not enough, then how about being Christ like? Jesus forgave, and so must we. In addition, we receive grace when we forgive others. The Golden Rule states “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I want forgiveness when I mess up, so I must give it first.

Forgiveness leads to freedom and unforgiveness leads to bitterness. Have you ever been around someone who is angry and bitter? Did you wonder how they became so? Somewhere in their past they would not forgive. As they nursed that hurt or deed that was done against them, it grew. Each time they pulled it out and went over it in their mind it grew and became worse. As the years went by the deed became huge. Eventually, bitterness consumes the one who refuses to forgive. After being consumed by unforgiveness, our words change. So do our actions. We begin to be hard, cynical, critical, and just unpleasant to be around. We do not have to become bitter, but we will if we refuse to forgive others as we have been forgiven.

eNannySource: How can parents teach their children to forgive others?

Dr. Klick: Children catch what we are, and not only what we tell them. We must model forgiveness to our children if they are to learn how to forgive. We must learn how to say we are sorry first if we hope to instruct our children in how to do it.

Children listen to everything. When mom and dad are being unkind or unforgiving, the children know it. What do the little ones around us hear coming out of our mouths as parents? As we talk on the phone to someone, what do the children hear? If we walk around grousing all day about someone who hurt us, what do we think our children will do when they are offended?  If we wonder how we sound, then listen to our children playing. Observe what they are saying and then realize where they first heard it. Ouch.

Parents need to be around to observe their children’s behavior and hear their words if they are going to be able to offer correction. As we hear our children speak of wounds, anger, bitterness and unforgiveness, we must take them back to how much we have been forgiven by Jesus. We did not deserve it, and neither does the one who hurt you, but we must. We are forgiven and we must forgive. There is no substitution for talking and modeling with our children. We cannot, must not delegate this away to someone else.

eNannySource: People often say, “You can forgive but never forget.” Is this true?

Dr. Klick: God does not have amnesia and neither do we. God promises to forget our sin, but it is through a willful choice He makes. We must do the same. In most of our lives, there is pain, offenses and deeds done by those who wrong us. We can choose to forgive people, but we will not soon forget what happened.

Forgiveness is not a onetime choice, but an every time choice. When someone has abused us, hurt us, abandoned us or betrayed us our brain records the event just like a cut or bruise in our bodies. We will heal, but depending on how deep the wound is will tell how long the scar remains. We can forget many of the details, but most of us will not forget that we suffered pain.

What we must guard against is becoming bitter over the wounds. Scars take time to heal and forgiveness does not remove the pain.

eNannySource: What does forgiveness in practice look like?

Dr. Klick: Forgiveness is a choice of our will. A battered spouse can forgive her attacker, but the bruises will remain for quite some time. A willful choice is made to forgive because we know we are also guilty of many sins. We can and should flee an abusive situation, but we must not make it worse by becoming bitter over it. Bitterness is never an appropriate response. Forgiveness always is.

Jesus died for us, loved us and forgave us before we asked or even knew we needed it. We must do the same to those who hurt and offend us. Freely we have received, freely we give. I am not denying the pain endured, we just do not need to go through it repeatedly by embracing it. Forgiveness leads to freedom, and not forgiving, well, that leads to more pain.

Dr. Jeff Klick has been in full time ministry for over 30 years and is the senior pastor at Hope Family Fellowship. Dr. Klick married his high school sweetheart, Leslie, in May of 1975. They have three adult children and 10 grandchildren. Dr. Klick loves to learn and has earned a professional designation, CFP, earned a Master’s degree in Pastoral Ministry, a Doctorate in Biblical Studies and a Ph.D. in Pastoral Ministry. In addition to serving as senior pastor at Hope Family Fellowship, Dr. Klick is a consultant with The Institute for Church Management, a teaching Fellow with Christian Discipleship Ministries, part of the Pastor’s Panel for the Alive in Christ Radio Show, Co-Host of Christian Business 360 Radio Show, serves on the Board of Directors for The Council for Family-Integrated Churches and is the president of Trinity Discipleship Institute. Dr. Klick writes a weekly blog, is a guest contributor to several websites and has published multiple books. Learn more about Jeff at www.JeffKlick.com


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