The following is from a document called Love and Love Language from the Tim Keller site. It can probably be found somewhere at http://www.redeemer.com
The Resources for Forgiveness.
1. We need enough humility.
Jesus ties our ability to forgive to our ability to repent. (“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” Matt.6:12.) This doesn’t mean that God forgives our sins because we forgive others. It means that in general we are as forgiven by God as we are forgiving to others because unforgiving people are unrepentant people. The more we hold grudges the less we see ourselves as having done wrong and needing forgiveness; the more we see ourselves as needing forgiveness, the more likely we are to forgive others. Why? Resentment requires a person to sit in the position of Judge Rom.12:19-20). We can only hold grudges if we feel superior to the other person. Jesus very directly and bluntly tells us that, if we hold a grudge against another person, we are ignorant of how much we owe God. So the first thing we have to see is our own need for forgiveness. We need enough humility to forgive.
Transition: But this is not enough! Because though pride is one reason that we cannot forgive, emotional insecurity is another. So in addition:
2. We need enough “emotional wealth”.
Why is it that we can forgive some wrongs easily but not others? It is because everyone draws a sense of self-worth (a sense that we are worthy of love and respect) from certain objects. No one can “validate” themselves. We all look to certain ones or things to convince us that we are significant. The more certain we are of this, the more “emotionally wealthy” we are–confident, poised, at peace. What are the things that we look to? Steven Covey calls them “personal centers” and Victor Frankl calls them your “meaning centers”. They may be career, possessions, appearance, romance, peer groups, achievement, good causes, moral character, religion, marriage, children, friendships–or a combination of a several. However, this means that these things are things that we absolutely must have, or we face emotional “bankruptcy” and death. And all our most powerful feelings are connected to them. We respond in deep guilt if we fail to attain them, or in deep anger if someone blocks them from us, or in deep anxiety if they are threatened, or in major drivenness since we must have them, or in despair if we ever lose them completely.
For example. A husband and a wife discovered that a school teacher had been emotionally abusive to their daughter and had fairly ruined her academic year and sent her into counseling. They are both angry at the teacher, but the husband has less trouble “getting past” the anger than the wife. Why? Is the husband a less angry person. No, in general he tends to be more angry temperamentally. Does he love his daughter less? No. The issue is that the wife has tied her own self-image and sense of self-worth to her daughter’s progress and happiness (while the husband does this with his career).
As a result, her anger is far deeper, since she is going “bankrupt”. She feels “if my daughter doesn’t turn out well, what good am I?” So her anger toward the teacher is powerful. Sum: Ironically, it is both a sense of superiority or a sense of inferiority that makes it hard for forgive. Paradoxically, the two can often go together. We often deal with our own inferiority and insecurity by taking a superior, judgmental position toward someone else.
A woman in her late 30’s had never married. Her family and her part of the country believed that there was something radically wrong with any woman of that age that was still single. She wrestled greatly with shame and unworthiness, and she also had tremendous unresolved anger against a man she had dated for many years but who had not married her. She went to a counselor. The therapist rightly told her that she had taken her to heart her family’s approach to personal value and worth. They taught that a woman had to include a husband and children if she was to have any value or worth. She was bitter against this man only because he had come between her and the thing she felt she needed to have to have value. The counselor then proposed that she throw off such an unenlightened view and throw herself into a career.
About this time she was going to a church where she was clearly hearing the gospel for the first time. She heard that the gospel is not that we live a worthy life and then give it to God and then he owes us, but that in Jesus Christ he has already lived a worthy life (he lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died) and that when we believe, he gives it to us. Then we are completely accepted and loved by the only One in the universe who counts. This gives us the ultimate “emotional wealth”, a sense of being loved so deep that we can afford to forgive anyone. She realized that the well-meaning counselor was asking her to throw off a politically incorrect system of works-righteousness for a politically correct one! She said, “why should I leave the ranks of the many women who make ‘family’ their worth and value to join the ranks of the many men who make ‘career’ the same thing? Would I not be as devastated then by career setbacks as I have been by romantic ones? No. I will receive the righteousness of Christ, and learn to rejoice in it. Then I can look at males or career and say, ‘what makes me beautiful to God is Jesus, not these things.’ Only then will I have power and freedom. And power to forgive” She found the “pre-conditions” for forgiveness. It was the gospel message of Jesus Christ that gave her emotional security.
Note: It will become clear that one of the most typical “idols” we can have is our spouse! We may need his or her approval and respect in idolatrous ways–we may look to the other person to be a “savior”, the source of our self-worth. No human being can bear that pressure however. Your spouse is a finite human being with limitations. He or she cannot love you consistently. And if you try to get from your spouse what only the Lord can give, you will be locked in a vicious cycle. Your will not be able to forgive your spouse for his/her failures unless you find a Spouse whose love is perfect and whose forgiveness is perfect too.
The problem with people and the Gospel is we naturally fall back into our old legalistic ways of finding our self-worth. As a result we are like the coins that dont drop all the way in an old fashioned pop machine. To get the coins to drop we need to slap the machine on the side. Lets be honest, we need our heads slapped along its side so the Gospel falls more deeply into our hearts. For what ever reason, we hear the Gospel but the coins never quite drop all the way to the heart.
This is why we need to re-remind each other daily where the bread is. That its found only in Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of our faith.