Speaker and author Jackie Kendall is an expert on forgiveness, having come from an abusive background and from a family deemed by a counselor as one of the top-ten most dysfunctional in America. Wanting to break the family cycle of drugs, alcohol and suicide (in this case, the results of unforgiveness), she developed a forgiving lifestyle and encourages others to do the same.
“There is an epidemic of unforgiveness, and it’s not just among nonbelievers – it’s among God’s children. We should be the greatest forgivers, since we’ve been forgiven of so much.”
She also believes many Christians live in defeat, not knowing what forgiveness truly is, confusing our responsibility with something only God can do – the chastening.
“Many people think that to forgive someone is to absolve them of the offense, when it is really up to us to let it go, and go to the Father. We can’t ‘let them off the hook,’ because they are on God’s ‘hook,’ not ours.”
Kendall also says a lot of Christians are not liberated because we are unrealistic about forgiveness. “Being offended means we have a pulse – anyone can offend us. Being offended is inevitable; staying offended is our choice to sin.”
She has even recently released a book about this liberation, titled Free Yourself to Love: The Liberating Power of Forgiveness.
One of the aspects of forgiveness she discusses in her book is how we tend to define ourselves by our victimization or offense committed against us. “If I were to limit myself to being defined as a victim of abuse, it would negatively impact every other area in my life. I had to forgive my offender. All six of my siblings were abused, and anesthetized themselves with drugs and alcohol. Two of them even committed suicide,” said Kendall. “Instead, I want to be defined by forgiveness and freedom.”
Breaking the Cycle of Unforgiveness
Kendall has been vigilant about not passing the seed of bitterness and unforgiveness down to her children or living it out in her marriage.
“We need to forgive so our kids don’t carry around our pain,” she said. “I’m also amazed at how many parents worry about their kids’ academic performance, whether they brush their teeth, or their eating habits, yet they allow them to fight with each other and go to bed angry.”
She, along with her husband and ministry partner, Ken, raised their children to resolve conflict and live a lifestyle of forgiveness.
“When our kids were growing up, sometimes they would go in their rooms mad at one another. After a time limit, they had to come back and resolve it…talk it through. We trained them to not go to bed angry, and we see that manifested in their adult lives in their relationships.”
The Kendalls also taught their children that some people would never ask for forgiveness. Their children were trained to pray blessings on people who hurt them but never expressed sorrow over the offense.
The concept of forgiveness has also been lifeblood to the Kendall’s 36-year marriage to one another. “My husband and I live what Ruth Graham said years ago – that a good marriage is comprised of two good forgivers. My background prepared me to be bitter, harsh and sarcastic. As I learned to forgive and let go, we have developed a great marriage and a good relationship with our grown children.”
Standing on Truth
Kendall stresses the importance of knowing, understanding and living God’s Word.
To be a good forgiver, she explains, “It is important to be so strong in your faith that it outruns your pain, leaving no room for bitterness. A lot of Christians can quote the Bible, but they don’t live it.”
A Christian counselor once pointed Kendall to 2 Corinthians 1:3-8. “This showed me that when God’s word becomes a source of comfort and heals me, I would have such confidence that I will tell other wounded people that it can heal them, too. My heart is so full of God’s Word, and it’s healing.”