How to Move From Bitterness to Forgiveness

By Interview by Joy Allmond   •   October 5, 2009

BGEA: Based on your knowledge and experience, why are you so passionate about this topic?

So many people can’t make progress until they deal with the bitterness of unforgiveness in their lives. Families and marriages are in trouble today, largely in part to that issue. I have also written a book titled, When You’ve Been Wronged: Moving From Bitterness to Forgiveness.

BGEA: How does a lack forgiveness affect today’s marriages and families?

Lutzer: I believe very strongly that many marriages are in trouble today. There are some people who say they forgive. Someone once said regarding a couple, “they buried the hatchet, but the grave was shallow and well-marked, and I might add, a path that led the way.”

A lot of the seminar will be geared toward families and bitterness. I am going to use the illustration of Jacob and family. Favoritism in families produces bitterness. In the case of Joseph, his brothers were livid because their dad clearly favored Joseph. God worked in such a way to eventually bring recon to that family, even though it took many years.

Also, young people leave the Christian faith because someone has wronged them and they think they are unable to forgive. As a result they cannot walk with God, as far as they are concerned.

BGEA: Will you describe the importance of modeling forgiveness for our children?

Lutzer: One of the most import things to know is that what you don’t forgive, you pass on. For example, let’s say we have a single mother. Her ex-husband is not involved with their children, and maybe not paying child support. If she has bitterness, she will pass it on to her children. She will also pass the bitterness on by being over-corrective of her children. Because she has been hurt to this degree, and still harbors bitterness, she will likely feel no guilt about hurting others. It will consume her and it will go to one generation to another. One of our greatest problems is that when we’ve been sinned against, we tend to sin against others.

BGEA: What happens when the person you chose to forgive will not reconcile with you?

Lutzer: Some people cannot be reconciled with because they think they are right. Or, they might use your desire for forgiveness to control you. Some people are just irrational. Reconciliation takes thee element: forgiveness, trust and respect. If you don’t have all three of those, you will not have full reconciliation.

There are also people who believe that we cannot forgive someone if they don’t ask for it. Forgiveness doesn’t always assume reconciliation. The father who molested a daughter might already be dead, but she has to spill out all hurt to God. Her bitterness is not hurting her dead father, but it is hurting her. You see, forgiveness is something we also do for ourselves, not just for the good of others.

BGEA: What do you say to those who don’t “feel” like forgiving?

Lutzer: If you are going to wait until you want to forgive, you never will. Forgiveness is so critical, even if you have to force yourself to. Without it, you will just continue to be the one who is hurt. Some people see their whole lives as being victims, and some see their whole lives through the wounds they have. Some people don’t want to be healed, because their “wound” is their calling card – their identity as a person.

BGEA: What truths do you want to impress upon the hearts of those who attend your seminar?

Lutzer: When the seminar is over, I am expecting that many people will find it transforming, even those who believe they have forgiven will discover that bitterness often exists within us that we are unwilling to admit. If everyone can leave the Cove knowing we have been fully forgiven by God and that they have forgiven others, it will be worthwhile.


Erwin Lutzer is senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a radio teacher heard on more than 700 outlets around the world, and award-winning author, and an international speaker.

To learn more or to register for this event, visit the Cove’s Web site.

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