Forgiveness - Lesson 5

The Emotional Process of Hurtful Events (Part 2)

Once we have experienced pain, we have to get the intensity down and then come back and handler the event. Ron suggests a sample set of questions. (1) Tell the person what it was like for you. (2) Then ask the other person what the event was like for them. Remember, the behavior is the mesenger, not the message. The message is what you need to get to.

Ron Toews
Lesson 5
Watching Now
The Emotional Process of Hurtful Events (Part 2)

1. Get the Intensity Down

2. Then You Can Come Back and Handle the Related Event

3. Questions from the Audience

4. Strategies for Handling the Event

A. "This is what it was like for me."

B. "What was it like for you?"

5. Evaluate Your Relationship

6. Audience Question about Shame and Intimacy

All Lessons
Class Resources
  • Ron Toews introduces the topic forgiveness, commenting on why we need to talk about it, what happens when we choose not to forgive, and when we do choose to forgive. The themes are "Justice" (what I want for others when I am wronged) and "Mercy" (what I want from others when I do them wrong. The past cannot be changed, but our present and future are set in place by our choices. Forgiveness is not about being nice; it is about not letting the past control our present and future.

  • When we decide not to forgive, our future is pretty fixed. It will narrow our possibilities and will be followed by bitterness and destruction. Ron also discusses what forgiveness is not, and when forgiveness is not relevant.

  • The more intimate the relationship, the more risk that is involved, and the more likelihood that forgiveness is going to be part of the picture. A pivotal concept is that pain and anger are not the message, just the messenger. When our lives develop cracks, the light of God is able to shine in a heal us. Ron covers the powerful example of a tennis ball. It is relatively small, but when we bounce it around the room it takes up alot of space. Likewise, when we rumninate about the past, when we reherarse the hurts, they take up bigger and bigger areas of our lives, and the past was never meant to be in charge of our lives.

  • When we are hurt, the anger rises. This is okay; anger is just the messenger that there is danger, it is an internal emotion and not the outward behavior. But what we need to do is step away from the event, calm down, and then deal with the actual event and the real issues. Painful things want to distract us, but they aren’t suppose to be in charge of your life. Rather, we should not blast off but rather manage our emotions. We walk in the same direction, day after day, and eventually we will reach our destination.

  • Once we have experienced pain, we have to get the intensity down and then come back and handler the event. Ron suggests a sample set of questions. (1) Tell the person what it was like for you. (2) Then ask the other person what the event was like for them. Remember, the behavior is the mesenger, not the message. The message is what you need to get to.

  • There are different levels of relationship, and with each comes a different level of vulnerability and risk. How you deal with forgiveness depends on which level your relationship with the other person is. A key issue in forgiveness is the level of the person's relationship and how that affects how you pursue forgiveness.

  • The process of forgiving someone follows a specific format, depending on whether they repent or not. But regardless of what the other person does, you can still forgive. But it may not mean the restoration of the relationship.

  • Questions and answers about what forgivness looks like in specific situations. 

"One of the most life-changing events in my life was a seminar I attended on forgiveness at Oasis Retreats. All of us have experienced betrayal and have had to learn forgiveness. This conference was the single most important event in my life that helped me start to learn what forgiveness is, and isn't. "There are only two things we can do with the past. We can either forgive, or we can let our past hurts control us. There is no third option. Many of us work under the false impression that if we could have justice, that would make all things okay. But justice does not bring back the child killed by a drunk driver, restore the girl who was violated, or return the ministry ripped from our hands. Whatever be your story, we all need to continue learning how to forgive." - Bill Mounce, President of BiblicalTraining

This seminar is presented by Ron Toews, a Therapist and Life Transition Coach practicing in Vancouver Canada. He has served on the Oasis Retreats team for fifteen years, helping more than a thousand Christian leaders in life and ministry transitions. Ron has recently co-founded Brighter Life Solutions, an online community dedicated to helping parents build their child's character for success in our increasingly challenging world. If you are a parent wanting to set your kids up for success in life, click on the link below to get this free blueprint on forgiveness and parenting.

3 Forgiveness Mistakes Parents Make That Secretly Keep Kids Emotionally Distant, Trapped in False Guilt, and Afraid to Learn.

Be sure to download the Student Notes and the Chart (to the right).

Course: Forgiveness

Lecture 5: The Emotional Process of Hurtful Events – Part 2

Once we have experienced pain, we have to get the intensity down and then come back and handle the event. Ron suggests a sample set of questions. 1. Tell the person what is was like for you. 2. Then ask the other person what the event was like for them. Remember, the behavior is the messenger, not the message. The message is what you need to get to.

1. Get the Intensity Down

So managing that emotion is part of what is going on physiologically and part of what’s going on cogitatively. What am I thinking here; what does this look like? And, being able to be in relationship to the people who are close to you and be able to say, this is what’s going on with me. So, using words to say what’s happening as compared to acting out the behavior. And that might mean, I am so upset about this, I got to take a break. I don’t mean this to be problem solving and fixing everything. I simply mean, getting the intensity down. How do I do that; back to the physiological; I am going to change my breathing and get my tension level down; I am going to talk to myself differently and what we say to ourselves make a different. Because, what we say in our minds, our body thinks that we have been there. So to be talking to ourselves in a way that says that I’m having a difficult time with this. When this happens, to be able to say this to those that we relate to, it is appropriate and necessary. I’m having a difficult time with this. So what you do, you get the intensity down and part of that is also increasing your time frame. There are microseconds at first but the intensity doesn’t just go straight down. When need to allow ourselves time to get it down there. I need to settle myself; going for a walk is good; doing something that can occupy your mind is good. But this is not problem solving; you are not spending that time to fix it. You are spending that time to get your intensity down. You know that it is really difficult and you are having a hard time handling it. You can say things like, this is part of life; this is part of family. Difficult stuff happens and I don’t have any answers as compared to simply blasting off at someone. By doing this, you increase the likelihood of not handling it, because now, the focus is on this behavior. So I did this behavior. I am responsible for my behavior, but that is not what the issue is. You need to get the intensity down and then go back to the event.

2. Then You Can Handle the Event

If you get the intensity down and then you can experience relief knowing that you didn’t verbally blast someone. Everything isn’t okay yet. If we simply keep going, then all that initial emotion after the event is still there. This emotional jug, the hurt and feelings that are still there in this emotional jug and that builds and keeps building. And you wonder why you have to fight with it all the time. Because it builds and we are not going back which is the next piece. This is going back and dealing with the hurt and related event. The event happens, you feel what you feel, anxious and you are angry; I get settled down or I don’t and I wait until the next time and the contents of the jug increases more and more and we get stuck in a cycle. So, coming back and dealing with the related event is a pretty critical piece.

3. Questions from the Audience

Do these parts fit with how you know it? Do people want to ever get back to handling the event? Is the behavior stuff part of the question? If it is not safe, because behavior can go there; that is one kind of piece and secondly, what about being safe? This is one range of responses. Another way to think about it; it’s not good behavior, it doesn’t help us, whatever that relationship is. I think part of the challenge is not being passive around that relationship. If it is a safety issue; well, that’s another thing. It is probably beneficial to be confronted but none of us love confrontation. But to be in a relationship is in a setting whether it is at work or home or with friends when there is no actual event happening; I think it needs to be addressed. That doesn’t mean that you have to; this is about what I’m experiencing; this is the way it has impacted me. You don’t want to have these experiences with another person and that is where you are at. Sometimes people have been in this cycle for so long, that this has become their norm. What kind of environment might this be in? It could be work or family or husband and wife situation. If emotions are up and behavior is threatened, you are not able to do certain things.

So what are some responses? Usually, we run. And if safety is part of it, yes; you want to run and go to a place where it is safe. From my perspective, a significant piece for change has to do with how I can position myself in this thing. I’m not talking about being passive here. But what do I do with that when it shows up? I think this includes a confrontation! If you can’t do that by yourself whether it is in a workplace or within context of the family, you need to include somebody to help you. This is not an attack, this is a descriptor. In other words, using simple words to describe this is how I am experiencing this. Whether the person chooses to change or not; I think it is a big shift because our feeling is: you made me feel this way. You made me do that! And, as contrasted to; when you do this, this is what goes on for me! Oh, you are just being too sensitive; I know. Everybody in your family is like that; all men are like that; all women are like that. These comments don’t get it done. So I’m going to time my response there and tie it back to this next piece.

4. Strategies for Handling the Event

A. "This is what it was like for me."

So getting the intensity down and then coming back and dealing with the event and the emotional impact. So the first part is managing my emotions. The second part is then coming back. In practical terms; I left for twenty minutes because I was so upset and I didn’t think that I could manage my behavior. What do I do when I come back? I come back and I work at creating a setting where there can be some conversation. Some people write these things down. So whether it is writing or speaking, whether it involves two people but it needs to be talked about. I just don’t know any other way. It needs to be expressed and here are the themes in that interaction. If you have better words to describe this, then use those words. When you come back or the other person comes back; whoever is experiencing the upset, the initial peace. When they come back or when you can get to the conversation, you need to address two things: one is the event or events, when it happened or didn’t happen; whatever it is. This is what went on for me! And that is where the emotional part is. This is not about what happened during the other times or an opportunity to gunny sack someone. That means to store up complaints and bring them out against someone. This isn’t useful. So, you come back and saying what went on with you. This was what I experienced. This is fairly simple but it might be easier for both of us to go outside and lift up the front of the car. It’s really hard. This isn’t attacking; this isn’t demeaning; this isn’t calling somebody names. This is saying what goes on with me. This is so difficult but it is a significant piece.

B. "What was it like for you?"

Now, if you are on the other end of that; there is, of course, another side to this. What if somebody is talking to me? What do I do with that? Here are some ways to sabotage it. So you tell me what you are feeling when I say, whatever, and I go, are you kidding? No way! Not a chance! People in your family do that but I don’t do that. You did the same thing two weeks ago! So, what is the deal, you do it and I do it; get off my back. This is all about defense. I have experienced the idea that a good defense is a good offense. So the critique comes, the confrontation comes with the use of generalizations using offensive language to sabotage everything. You blame the other person; you find excuses and it goes on. So, when the confrontation comes, here are some ideas. This is not about agreeing; this is about understanding. When I am being confronted, I don’t want to do any of this. This is not a natural response in any way, however, it is an intentional response and frequent one. It is part of growing up and I need to keep working at it. So, what do I do when the confrontation comes? Just tell me about it. Are you out of your mind! The person is criticizing me and I say, ‘tell me about it!’ I am talking about how you position yourself. So, a person comes with this; what was that like for you? You find out what it is the other person is thinking. If I don’t do that, if you don’t do that, you are not going anywhere in sorting the problem out. This is foundational, but very difficult. I don’t want to do it and I don’t know of anybody else who wants to do it. But, it is part of the piece in sorting the problem out. On one hand, the confrontation is really difficult in terms of I’m upset about this. I feel anxious and alone and I feel put down and minimized. Whatever it is, this is what is going on. And on the other end; tell me about it; what was that like for you? How am I positioning myself when the confrontation comes?

It is easy to say the words, but it isn’t easy stuff. And frankly, it is easy for me to say them to you as I stand here; it is really hard for me to do it! So, in that sense, I don’t think we are talking about complexity. But, how you position yourself is relatively simple but how you manage yourself is really hard. I don’t know of any other way. So getting involved with major conflict scenarios and those kinds of things; it is not the solution but the foundation is having someone who knows what is going on and see if you actually get people to understand that. Yet, it is so important; people pay huge amounts of money for that to happen because they are stuck. This provides a base and if you don’t work in this way, how do you ever get change? There are things that sit underneath like emotion, events, history and who knows what; and what do we want, a change of behavior. As a parent, I had to walk along side of people whose primarily focus was behavioral change. I am interested in behavior also, but often the behavior is the messenger. So what is the message? The message is changing the behavior, but this is not what this is about. As we identify this stuff and work with it; we get the opportunity to move forward. And then somehow, the behavior changes and many of you have roles where people need to change the behavior. The issue is, the environment that I am in, does it have interest in anything other than the behavior? For the employer, they are paying money for your behavior. Many employers pay someone to help manage what is going on underneath so that they can get the behavior they need. But it is not simply a behavior change, because that is not how it works. So, saying the things that is going on underneath is fairly core to the situation. So you do this to say that this is what is happening to me. There are some big challenges with this. You don’t simply take a positioning of yourself or learn the skill ad utilize the skill sort of willy-nilly.

5. Evaluate Your Relationship

You really need to have an idea of where you are in this relationship, in this interaction before you sort out what is it that I can convey. So this piece is what I call the level of relationship. A person in the audience comments: what I found when my wife started to share with me about my behavior and how it affects her; I go into a cycle of shame. A friend gave me some good advice, rather than shaming yourself, just listen to your wife and take a step outside yourself in order to understand her and try to feel what she is feeling rather than beating yourself up in the midst of her talking to you. So you need to focus on what going on with her rather than what is going on with you. And that is very difficult to do! And what you get out of that is intimacy. Because the person knows what is going on with the other person. That is a key factor in whatever the level of the relationship is. That is the thing that drives it. We enjoy the same things; but that is not the core stuff. When you know how to do the intimacy together, that is really good. So, it is not only me getting upset or alone or discounted; that is one piece of what is going on. The other side of it, when this goes well I’m a real pain! I’m all over what made it go well. So what did you do to make it go well, and the other side of that is happening but people aren’t saying it. And that affirmation is also a confrontation. And that is also part of the intimacy.

6. Question about Shame and Intimacy

You learn what is going on with the other person. And from my perspective, those kinds of things; that process is the core for healthy thirty, forty, fifty year marriages because you are always learning what is happening with the other person. It never stops. Each of us has a difficult view of the world around us. What one person sees can and is usually very different than what you see. Learning about the other person is the intimacy part of us. So, whether this is upsetting for me or this is what I enjoy, it is about the event and emotion. And that is what we continually learn to breath into our lives with people around us. Also, hearing it is not agreeing on it. It is not about trying to have the same experience; it’s about learning the experience of the other person. But it isn’t going to be the same experience as the other person.