Freedom from Eating Disorders, LLC
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Christian Eating Disorder Recovery Course
This lesson will provide you with valuable principles to help you forgive and heal from the effects of others’ offenses.
While forgiving others is freeing, I understand that it’s hard to do, having struggled with it myself. As you apply the biblical principles in this lesson, may it be healing and freeing for you.
Inner healing is important in recovery. Painful emotions fuel an eating disorder. If you feel stuck in your emotional healing, examine your heart to see if there’s anyone you need to forgive. When you read the word forgive, someone might immediately come to mind. Whether you’re keenly aware of the need to forgive or you just feel unsettled about the person, you know that things aren’t right between you.
There are all sorts of things that may have happened to you. Others may have made fun of you, minimized your pain, belittled you, said insensitive things, lied about you, acted rudely toward you, or betrayed you. Perhaps someone has abused you mentally, physically, verbally, spiritually, emotionally, or sexually. Whatever has happened, you know it has affected you and that you somehow need to forgive.
It’s the most natural thing to hurt deeply as a result of another’s actions, to be bitter toward someone who has wronged you, and to seek revenge on that person. If any of this describes how you feel, start by recognizing those thoughts and emotions. Scolding yourself for how you think and feel won’t heal you. Admitting what you think and feel is a first step toward healing. Then think about what forgiveness means.
What Forgiveness Is and Isn’t
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re saying what someone did to you is acceptable. Even if the person is a family member or someone else you love, it doesn’t mean you have to minimize what happened.
- Forgiveness means you recognize what the person did was wrong. You don’t need to deny what the person did or make excuses for the individual. You can be brutally honest about what happened.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re giving permission to this person to continue hurting you. You can set boundaries. You can even sever the relationship, if appropriate.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to trust this person. In some cases, trust can be rebuilt. In others, it can’t. The point is that you don’t have to trust the person in order to grant forgiveness.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily forget what happened. With smaller things, this may occur, but much of the time, forgetting the offense simply isn’t possible. You have probably heard the phrase “forgive and forget.” But please know that just because you remember what the person did doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven. You don’t have to forget in order to forgive.
- Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to let the person off if a crime was committed against you. Anyone who commits a crime can expect legal consequences. Just because you have held someone accountable for criminal actions doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven.
- Forgiveness means you don’t harbor offense any longer. You aren’t bitter over it. You no longer hold it against the person, and you don’t seek retaliation.
- Forgiveness means you will no longer allow the pain this person has caused you to affect you in negative ways. When you forgive, you can remember the situation without the accompanying pain. When you forgive, you can break free of this person’s control over you.
When you don’t forgive, you keep the pain from someone’s offenses or violations alive. The hurt, anger, or whatever you feel will continue to feed on unforgiveness. As it thrives, it will continue to harm you, and that emotional turmoil will drive you to food-related behaviors even more. Forgiving is one way to break free of the inner turmoil that drives you to food-related behaviors.
Consider some principles that promote forgiveness so you can work toward breaking free of what’s happened to you. You’ll find that some of these points are more appropriate for smaller offenses and some for more serious transgressions.
Tips to Help You Forgive
Take these thoughts to heart as you ponder how you might be able to forgive. It may seem impossible to do, but give yourself a chance. Actually, give yourself several chances, because it might take many attempts. Even so, when you enjoy the results of your hard work, you’ll be glad you made the effort.
- Recognize that, in his love, God commands forgiveness. “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another” (Col. 3:13). He knows that holding onto hurts will only continue to harm you. He doesn’t want continued turmoil for you, and he knows an unforgiving heart will block his efforts to restore you.
- Pray and ask the Lord to heal and strengthen you to forgive others. Since he commands forgiveness, he certainly stands ready to help you obey this command.
- Reflect on God’s forgiveness of you and how he wants you to forgive others as he’s forgiven you. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). Think of it as an opportunity to become more Christ-like.
- Understand God sees your heart and can sense when you’re sincere. If you find it difficult to forgive, use that struggle as an opportunity to let God deeper into your heart. Open yourself up to his healing and strength so you can genuinely forgive.
- Forgive others of their sins so God will forgive you of yours. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14-16).
- Reflect on how others have forgiven you. Then offer that same forgiveness to others. Think of it as paying it forward.
- Consider the cost of unforgiveness: emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical. Think of the inner pain, mental torment, lack of peace, and even physical symptoms you may feel as a result of bitterness. Realize that if you have a pattern of withholding forgiveness, you’re just going to hurt yourself more and more. The betrayal, disappointment, anger, or whatever emotions you feel will fester and the pain will build from one circumstance to another. You don’t deserve to live buried in sorrow like that. Forgive so you can heal.
- Realize that if you remain in unforgiveness, you’re likely to become angry and bitter. These pent-up emotions can affect you in other areas. For example, you may overreact and go off on someone in a situation that you would otherwise respond to more calmly. Be aware that if you remain unforgiving toward one person, you may jeopardize a relationship you have with someone else. You could end up hurting others, and yourself, even more.
- Know that holding onto the offense just seals in the hurt it’s brought to you. Unforgiveness keeps you bound to the effects the wrongdoing had on you. Think of how it has affected you. For example, maybe you’re fearful in other relationships, causing you to miss out on the good that could come from getting to know people who could add to your life and whose lives you could add to. By forgiving, you can take the next step and begin reaching out to others.
- Endeavor not to take things personally. Remember that you take in information through a filter, so to speak. This filter is made up of things like past experiences, your personality, and beliefs about yourself and the other person. This makes it easy to misunderstand someone’s intentions. Examine your filter and see if there’s anything that needs to be cleared away. Maybe you have a false belief about the individual. Perhaps you need healing from your hurts associated with past events. If you find this is the case, maybe it will be a little easier to forgive the person.
- Try to see things from the other person’s viewpoint. Consider this individual’s upbringing, relationships, experiences, and personality. You won’t always comprehend the “why” behind what happened, but in some instances you might be able to, and it can help you see the actions as a reflection on the other person, not you. However, this isn’t to say you have to understand in order to forgive. In many instances, you’ll need to accept there are things beyond figuring out and yet choose to pardon the person anyway.
- Realize that, in some instances, the person didn’t have bad intentions and doesn’t realize what he or she did. Sometimes a person can do something for reasons completely separate from anything to do with you and, therefore, be clueless of the effects it will have on you. This individual had no intention of harming you in any way. Certainly, some things are so blatant that there’s no question, but it’s possible, in some incidents, that the individual didn’t even know. Evaluate the person and the offense and consider whether this might be a possibility. If it is, forgiving might be a little easier.
- Recognize that a person who hurts within sometimes lashes out to hurt others. That isn’t to say that makes what the individual did okay. It doesn’t. But consider that it could happen to you. As a hurting person, if you become bitter, you could get to the point of wanting to hurt someone else – something you would never do if you weren’t hurting. Stop the cycle. Don’t let someone else’s actions toward you change you into someone who will hurt others.
- Know that if the person who harmed or violated you is a pastor or church leader, that doesn’t mean you need to minimize or excuse what this person did. If you do that and stop there, you won’t move toward forgiveness. This person’s wrong is no different than anyone else’s, so don’t dismiss what happened. Position has nothing to do with it. Acknowledge what this individual did and endeavor to forgive just like you would with anyone else.
- Resist the temptation to replay the offense. It was bad enough to live through it in the first place. You don’t need to relive it. Going over and over it in your mind isn’t going to lead you closer to forgiveness. It’s like repeatedly re-opening a sore. The wound can’t completely heal. When you feel lured back to memories of the wrongdoing, try to redirect your thoughts to other things, such as some of the other points in this lesson.
- Resist thinking that if you felt you deserved harm, it erases the wrong someone did to you. This thinking doesn’t make what happened okay. Furthermore, as a child of the King, you don’t deserve mistreatment.
- Understand that forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. You may not “feel” forgiving, but you can still “choose” to forgive. As you continue to make that choice, you’ll probably find that your emotions will eventually catch up, so you won’t feel that same anger and bitterness you once felt.
- Realize forgiving doesn’t make you weak. Forgiving doesn’t make you a doormat. It doesn’t mean you’re okay with the offenses committed toward you. It means you’ve acknowledged what’s happened, but chose to free yourself of its effects. It isn’t easy to forgive. If anything, forgiving makes you stronger.
- Examine your heart in light of Eph. 4:31. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” God doesn’t want these painful, intense emotions to hurt you.
- Evaluate your relationship with God. Does unforgiveness seem like a barrier between the two of you? Would you feel more comfortable approaching him if you practiced forgiveness? Do you feel you’re missing out on more from God as a result of unforgiveness? Be honest with yourself and think of how different your relationship with God might become if you choose to forgive.
- Look to those in the Bible who forgave others of some horrific offenses. Paul was a victim of persecution, yet he wrote Eph. 4:32 mentioned in # 3 above. Joseph was sold by his own brothers. What betrayal! Yet he said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…” (Gen. 50:20a).
- Open your heart to God’s healing and direction as you move forward. Know that he can help you grow from this experience. Forgiving now can help you face future situations stronger. Imagine something good he may bring out of what happened. Watch for it
- Remember that God warns not to retaliate. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). You may not see what God has in mind for this person, but know that what happened hasn’t escaped his view. He knows. You may never see the consequences this person will experience, but ultimately, no one “gets away with” wrongdoing. Also, if you try to get revenge, it could backfire on you; you could end up hurting even more.
- Consider whether you want to carry the weight of a grudge with you every day for the rest of your life. Think of the time and energy you spend thinking about this person, what was done to you, how it’s affected you, and how you wish you could get back at the person. If you could break free of all that, think of the other things you would do with your time and energy.
- Work through the emotions associated with the offense. Let yourself feel whatever it is: hurt, betrayal, anger. Feel the feelings as you pray, journal, and talk about them. This will help you release them. Once the raw pain has healed, it will help you look at the event with less intense emotions and more openness to forgive. The lesson Experience Inner Healing has more on this topic.
- Remember that emotional turmoil is one of the main things that can drive a person to food-related behaviors. If you will forgive, you can heal. Once you’ve healed, there will be less emotional upheaval to draw you into the eating disorder.
- Be careful with how you manage your anger. Some things that have happened to you may have been so blatant and unquestionably intentional that there’s just no getting around feeling angry about it. You can choose, though, what you do with that anger. This may take many attempts, but keep Paul’s words in mind. “In your anger do not sin; do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Eph. 4:26). If you let your anger lead you to sin by becoming bitter or vengeful, for example, you’ll just be in bondage to it. It’s hard to let go of resentment, but it’s even harder to live with it brewing inside of you. Find ways to release that anger so it doesn’t lead you to sin. For more on releasing feelings, explore the Learn to Deal with Emotions lesson.
- Break it down if need be. If you can’t absolve everything someone did to you, start by forgiving one offense and work from there. Certainly, the ultimate goal is complete forgiveness. But it’s better to go about it in steps than to get overwhelmed and discouraged and not do it at all.
- Discern whether you should confront the person. While confrontation isn’t always necessary, it can sometimes be helpful. See the thoughts about confrontation in the next section of this lesson.
- Recognize that the person doesn’t have to ask for your forgiveness in order for you to grant it. Ideally, this individual will admit and apologize for the wrongdoing, but this won’t always happen. That doesn’t mean the offense has to keep hurting you; you can still choose to forgive in the absence of an apology. The person might try to apologize, but it may come across as insincere to you. Perhaps it’s a pattern for this person in order to manipulate you or maybe it seems it isn’t heartfelt for a different reason. Sincere or insincere, you can still forgive. You don’t have to let an insincere confession prevent you from forgiving and healing from what happened.
- Know that forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to trust that individual. In some instances, the person may earn your trust back. In other situations, it won’t happen. So don’t let the fact that you aren’t comfortable trusting the person stop you from forgiving. Also realize that just because you can’t trust the person again doesn’t mean you shouldn’t forgive. Forgiveness will be healing for you. Don’t let the actions of someone untrustworthy deprive you of that healing.
- Imagine how you’ll grow as a person once you’ve forgiven others. Picture yourself stronger as a result.
- Think of the future and how you’ll be able to help others forgive and move on from their own agonizing experiences.
- Cling to God to help you forgive. Be open to his work in your heart. He’s there to love you through this process and heal you. In the end, you will end up with more of God, and he will have more of you.
- Be honest with yourself. If you’ve chosen to forgive, then feel hurt and bitter all over again, don’t bury those feelings. Acknowledge them, and pray and journal about them. Maybe you’re still in the process of healing, or maybe there were numerous or horrific offenses. Perhaps you struggle to be sincere in forgiving. Explore what you think and how you feel. Discuss your concerns with your counselor or someone else you trust and then choose to forgive again.
- Forgive as many times as it takes. If you forgive once and it doesn’t “stick,” don’t let that stop you from trying again.
- Keep forgiving. An individual may continue to do wrong to you, so you may have to forgive the same person many, many times. “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Matt. 18:21-22).
- Pray for the person. Make it a general prayer to begin with if that’s all you can do. If you can’t bring yourself to do it at all, keep trying until you can. Write out a prayer to say later even if you can’t say it right now.
- Know that you don’t need to forgive yourself. There’s no Scripture that says you need to do so. To say you need to forgive yourself is like saying God’s forgiveness isn’t enough, that you need to do more than he can. Granted, you may have sinned and feel guilty over it. Let that drive you to confession, repentance, and accepting God’s forgiveness—forgiveness he’s promised to give. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). After you’ve confessed and repented, remember that it’s HIS forgiveness that you need, not your own.
Some Thoughts about Confrontation
You may feel the need to confront someone who has hurt or offended you. This matter deserves great care.
- Pray and ask God to help you discern whether confrontation is necessary.
- Discuss confrontation with your counselor, ministry leader, or a wise and trusted friend.
- Examine your intentions. Deep down, what is your real reason for confronting?
- Consider your approach. Decide whether you want to do it in person, by phone, or otherwise. Plan your words carefully.
- Prepare yourself for several possible outcomes. Confrontation may or may not bring the results you’re seeking.
- Take into account what you would like to see happen in this relationship in the future. Think about what boundaries you may want to set if you think they will be necessary.
- Ask others to pray. Even if you don’t deem it appropriate to share details with them, God knows your needs and can still hear and understand their prayers.
- Have a soft place to land if things don’t go as you hope. Rest in God’s arms through prayer, music, or journaling. Go to someone you trust for support.
- Do your best to let things go. Remember the ultimate goal is to forgive. If you decide to confront, and it doesn’t go well, be ready to move forward in spite of that.
- Evaluate the condition of your heart after you confront. Have you forgiven? Are you breaking free of the effects this person had on you?
- Remember that you don’t have to confront in order to forgive. If God leads you to do it, that’s one thing. But you don’t need to force it otherwise.
- Realize that confrontation isn’t meant as a way to win an argument, but it can bring reconciliation in a relationship. It can lead to a closer, healthier relationship with someone.
Be very careful about confronting. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t do it. Just be sure to immerse the matter in prayer, be sensitive to God’s leading, seek counsel, and have a safe place to go if things don’t unfold as you hope.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I desperately want to come into your presence; I need your comfort and your healing touch in the depths of my heart. Search my heart and reveal to me anything that would hinder your work there. I recognize holding onto offenses only hurts me, and you want better for me. Thank you for loving me enough to send your only Son to forgive every sin I ever have committed, and ever will commit. Please help me to remember this precious truth and to pattern my life after what you’ve done for me. I believe that as I forgive, you will bring about healing in my heart. Then I will be able to emerge from the effects of offenses and their resulting pain.
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.1
Must Fill My Mind with Him
A victim of another’s selfishness.
Feel beaten, battered, bruised and torn apart.
In awe of actions, words that cut, destroy,
and long to purge emotions in my heart.
I tried to offer grace and patience, love,
to help the other see the selfish sin.
It didn’t work and only hurt me more.
Feel righteous anger rising up within.
How can a person be so obstinate?
A table turning fury grips my soul.
I wonder how I’ll ever rise above.
I wonder when I’ll ever heal, feel whole.
Express myself through venting, tears, and prayer,
and yet remain upset at selfish one.
Don’t want to carry all this rage inside;
just want to leave it all behind, be done.
So how do I forgive, let go, move on?
It’s only through the one who holds my hand.
He understands my feelings and my needs.
I trust he has a loving, healing plan.
I fill my heart, my soul, my mind with him,
for he’s the only one with healing balm.
When resting in his love, I feel at peace;
enjoy the moments when I feel the calm.
Leave Sins at the Cross
- Draw a picture of a cross.
- Write one of the sins committed toward you on it.
- Pray and tell God you choose to forgive the person of this violation against you.
- Focus on Christ and his shed blood on the cross for everyone’s sins.
- Praise him for his sacrifice.
- Search for and meditate on verses about his forgiveness.
- Find songs about his forgiveness and take their meaning to heart.
- Try to concentrate more on Jesus and less on the sin.
- The next day, look at that cross and evaluate whether you’ve forgiven the person of that sin. If not, resist the temptation to hold it against yourself. Instead, pray and write in your journal about why you find it difficult to forgive. Talk to someone you trust about it, if necessary.
- Pray and tell God again that you choose to forgive this person of this specific wrong. Repeat every day until you can look at the cross and honestly know you’ve forgiven. Reach out for help and prayer support if you need it.
- Do this with as many sins as you need to until you’ve forgiven them all.
- Rejoice when you’ve forgiven. Enjoy the freedom you feel.
The remaining features for this lesson, as listed below, are printable. You may download the PDF file here.
Answer Key for Quiz
1Laurie Glass, Journey to Freedom from Eating Disorders, 2010.
All Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Find out about other lessons on the Recovery Course page.
Change Your Thoughts
Learn to Deal with Emotions
See Yourself through God’s Eyes Inside and Out
Address Your Relationship with Food
Invite God into Your Recovery
Let Go of Control
Face Your Fears
Experience Inner Healing
Let Go of Perfectionism
Let Go of Guilt
Let Go of Shame
Deal with Relapses