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Forgiving the Past, Embracing the Future

Air Date 05/15/2017

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In a discussion based on her book Forgive, Let Go and Live, best-selling author Deborah Smith Pegues explains what forgiveness is and isn't, and highlights the rewards of having a forgiving spirit. She offers practical suggestions for going through the process of forgiveness.

Episode Transcript



Mrs. Deborah Pegues: I'm gonna decide to take this divine perspective. I'm going to decide justice belongs to God. I'm not gonna try to avenge the wrong that was perpetrated against me. I'm gonna have the mind-set that says, "God, what is it in this? How can I grow from this? What are the lessons learned?"

End of Teaser

John Fuller: That's Deborah Pegues and you'll hear more from her today on "Focus on the Family." Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Hey, today we're gonna talk about forgiveness. Now some of you just went, "No, I don't want to talk about that. (Chuckling) While some of you said, "Yeah, I had to learn that lesson last week, last year, a couple of months ago."

Forgiveness is so important to us. Matthew 6:14 says, "If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." That's kind of interesting that the Lord is saying, "Hey, here's how it's done. Even if you've been a Christian for a long time, maybe especially if you've been a Christian for a long time, you may have forgotten these really easy, well, not so easy to do, but these important principles. And we're gonna talk today with a special guest who's written a book, Forgive, Let God and Live and I know you're gonna enjoy it.

John: Yeah and every time, Jim, that we come to the topic of forgiveness, our audience responds. It just seems, as you said, to be something really crucial for us to get ahold of and really hard to do. And as I said, Deborah Pegues is our guest. She is a certified behavioral consultant, a Bible teacher, an international speaker. She's written, I think 16 books she said, including the one you just mentioned, Forgive, Let Go and Live.


Jim: Deborah, welcome to "Focus on the Family."

Deborah: Thank you so much for having me.

Jim: Now we have a mutual friend, Fawn Weaver and you had her do a little endorsement and it's brief. I want to read it for our friends, the listeners, 'cause it is funny.

Deborah: Great.

Jim: She said, "This is a must-read for all those who have ever held a grudge." And then parenthetically she said, "Which is pretty much all of us." (Laughter) Isn't that so true.

Deborah: Yes.

Jim: I mean, why is the human heart wired that way? We're wired for grudges.

Deborah: Well, I'm not sure if we're so much wired for grudges as much as we're wired for justice.

Jim: Okay.

Deborah: And when somebody offends us, we feel like justice has to be served.

Jim: That's interesting. So, we're high justice.

Deborah: Yeah.

Jim: And that maybe we're wired for God, because He's high justice.

Deborah: Right, at least I'm trying to make it sound good for everybody.

Jim: Yeah. (Laughter) Well, but it is interesting. It's always one of those dichotomies. God is a high justice God. He's also a God of forgiveness.

Deborah: Absolutely, but we feel like when somebody hurts us or disadvantages us in any way, we feel like that person needs to be paid back. I mean, you know, a debt has been created and a lot of times, the debt can't be repaid. It may be a death involved or a loss of a reputation. Sometimes the hurt, the pain, the disadvantage, whatever, it can't be repaid and there we get stuck.

Jim: But if I knew nothing about forgiveness, how would you describe it to me? You're trying to teach me, somebody who knows nothing about forgiveness, what's the big picture?

Deborah: I'd say, forgiveness is just letting go of the desire to avenge a wrong. If something has happened to you, I'm gonna let go of the anger. I'm gonna let go of my desire for payback.

Jim: Ah.

Deborah: I'm gonna leave that to God.

Jim: Isn't that the heart of God?

Deborah: Yes, that is the heart of God.

Jim: It just feels right.

Deborah: Yes, I like that word "forgive," because it has the word "give" in it. And forgiving is giving.

Jim: You know, people are probably hearing you and they're going, wow, she sounds just like an upbeat person that came from a good home. She learned forgiveness in her home. Man (Chuckling), that's exactly opposite your story, isn't it?

Deborah: Exactly opposite.

Jim: What was your home like and how much tension was there and how much unforgiveness?

Deborah: There was lots of unforgiveness.I always say, not jokingly, that I inherited a legacy of unforgiveness. My mom and my dad fought constantly and they were always fighting about something that happened in the past, making some accusation. "Well, you did this; you did that." They had these circular conversations, I call it. They never ended in anything positive or a resolution.

But there was pain there; there was violent. There was lots of just chaos in the family. And I found that us siblings, we inherited that. And I just didn't like what I was feeling. Anytime somebody did something to me, "No, I am never gonna forgive that."

Jim: How old were you? And you have seven kids in your family.

Deborah: That's right.

Jim: How old were you when you began to say, "This doesn't feel right?"

Deborah: Maybe about fifth grade.

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: Yeah, you know, because I've always been a communicator.

Jim: So, 10, 11.

Deborah: I always like to tell people what I'm thinkin'.

Jim: (Laughing) You are a good communicator.

Deborah: Well, yeah.

Jim: You're a speaker and that's part of it.

Deborah: And I just kept thinkin', there's gotta be a better way. When you have a discussion, it should result in something. There should be a purpose at the end of it, not just stayin' angry and reinforcing that.

Jim: Now are you 8-years-old, 10-years-old, sayin' this to your parents?

Deborah: Well, I never said that to my parents. I grew up in the South. You didn't talk back. (Laughing)

Jim: Right, just "Yes, sir" and "No, sir."

Deborah: Yes, sir, yeah, you saluted. (Laughing)

Jim: So where are in the birth order?

Deborah: I'm second.

Jim: You're No. 2.

Deborah: But I'm the only girl, so they worked me to no end.

Jim: Six boys and one girl.

Deborah: Six, yes.

Jim: Wow.

Deborah: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: How'd you survive that?

Deborah: Well, I've always tended to be an in-charge person. That's the way of saying "bossy." (Laughter)

Jim: I don't see that at all. (Laughter)

John: "In-charge person," that's a nice euphemism.

Deborah: Well, my mom was ill all the time, so I had to take charge at an early age. By the time I was 7, I was making dinner for the entire family.

Jim: Well, and again, you're the only girl, so you assume those responsibilities.

Deborah: Yeah, exactly, right.

Jim: That had to be a heavy weight. Did you have any bitterness about that?

Deborah: No, I didn't even think it was a heavy weight till somebody told me it was. (Laughing)

Jim: Oh, man, isn't that funny?

Deborah: I just felt it was my responsibility. The heavier weight was just growing up among all that tension, because we never knew what a day would bring. My dad would come home always in a bad mood. He was always in a bad mood and in retrospect, I'm thinking maybe he was always in a bad mood, 'cause he had so many children to take care of and he worked a day laborer's job. He was a saw mill person and they, you know, cut wood all the time and that was the job.

And I'm sure that was pretty painful for him and having that responsibility, because despite the fact that he was abusive, he was very responsible financially. So, we never lacked the basics, but he just created tension in the environment, 'cause he believed heavily in corporal punishment. (Laughing)

Jim: Now you've been married 38 years.

Deborah: Thirty-eight years.

Jim: And I'm just curious about that family formation. I mean, you're comin' out of this kind of chaos.

Deborah: Oh, yeah.

Jim: But you sound like such a person of resolution. You know, even as a young child, you thought why argue in a circular way to your parents. That's pretty smart.

Deborah: Well, but I had a chip on my shoulder.

Jim: Okay.

Deborah: And I told my husband when we married, I said, "Now listen, try not to do anything during this marriage that I have to forgive you for (Laughter), because in my family, we do absolutely no forgiving."

Jim: Was this on your wedding day or when did you [say that]?

Deborah: It was pretty close to our bein' married.

Jim: Okay, so a few days after, this is the law.

Deborah: Yeah, this is the law. We don't do any forgiving, you know.

Jim: Wow. So, your solution to that was, don't do anything that would necessitate me having to forgive you.

Deborah: Just don't do anything, right, because I knew that, that was gonna be a struggle. I knew, based on how I interacted with other people and even though I would smile if somebody did somethin' to me, I would never forget it.

Jim: There had to be a point though, I mean, you're comin' out of that background in your household, lots of contentious fighting, and your mom and dad chasin' circular arguments and never coming to a conclusion and the frustration you felt as a 10-year-old in that regard.

Deborah: Yes.

Jim: There's gotta be that point, maybe something in your marriage or something somewhere. Give us that story where you didn't do it.

Deborah: It was the money. I didn't want to share the money.

Jim: Okay.

Deborah: Because my dad was the one in control with the money and my mom had no education, so I was already uncomfortable.

Jim: You didn't want to be her in that money area.

Deborah: Absolutely did not want to be my mother.

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: And also I had a bad mentor who said, "Never pay more than your half of the bills. Never pay more than [half].

Jim: In the marriage?

Deborah: Yeah, in the marriage.

Jim: Wow.

Deborah: And she was a Christian woman. She said, "I don't care if you make a million dollars and he makes a dollar, never pay more than your half." And then my husband's job went on strike and I had to pay all the bills. (Laughter)

Jim: And you're going, okay, what do we do with this?

Deborah: Okay, what do we do with this? But you know, by then we had already talked about the fact that we wanted to become one financially. We just didn't want to become on intimately. We wanted to become one financially. And my husband had said, "Listen, we need to get to the point where everything that comes into the marriage belongs to the marriage."

Jim: Right.

Deborah: And that has worked for us, because we know that financial tension is one of the top reasons people divorce. But in our marriage, we have already decided. We don't need to split this 50-50. It's just one. We've become one financially. Whatever comes into the household belongs to the marriage.

Jim: Well, I think that's how Jean and I have always approached that. We never thought the other way, but today it's a little different in attitude. And I think what you're saying and what certainly my wife and I believe, it's right. It's all in, becoming one flesh.

Deborah: Well, and a lot of even ministers are teaching now to prorate it.

Jim: Oh, really!?

Deborah: If you make 30 percent of the money, you pay 30 percent. A very popular minister I know says if you make 30 percent of the money, you only pay 30 percent of the bills.

Jim: Oh, that's two lives.

Deborah: That is too crazy. That's all worldly.

Jim: Well, for all the young folks who are listening and you're newly married, don't do it that way.

Deborah: Don't do it that way.

Jim: That's only gonna cause conflict. But I'm comin' back to you, Deborah.

Deborah: Yes.

Jim: I'm gonna push you again.

Deborah: Let's do it.

Jim: You give me that story where your forgiveness or lack of being able to do, 'cause you didn't see it modeled in your home, where did that pop up where you had to forgive somebody and doggoneit, you weren't gonna do it?

Deborah: I think it happened in my family, not with my marriage, but with my siblings.

Jim: Okay.

Deborah: 'Cause my father died and he left me in charge of the will.

Jim: Oh, 'cause you were the responsible one.

Deborah: Because I'm the responsible one. I'm a CPA and I'm the one with the financial background. (Laughing)

Jim: Right, well, it makes sense, but your six brothers were going, oh, no way.

Deborah: And I wasn't the oldest, so some of them felt that he should've left the oldest one in charge. And he didn't and before then, I was the darling of the family. I mean, they thought I was Jesus' sister really. (Laughter)

But listen, after that, I was the devil's sister. I became totally alienated from the family.

Jim: Aw.

Deborah: They thought I didn't handle the money properly, even though I, you know, did everything according to the book. And it was just so hurting. It was so distressful to be on the outside like that.

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: And I decided though, that I was gonna forgive, because I'm thinkin', okay, you're the one who's claiming to be the Christian. You have the power to do it. But I didn't really want to do it. I wanted to stay alienated from them.

Jim: And your siblings, where were they spiritually? Some believers, some not?

Deborah: Nobody consistently going to church or believing God or standing on the Word.

Jim: Okay.

Deborah: And I'm thinking, "You're a Bible teacher. You have the know-how. You have the Spirit of God. Why expect people who don't have that kind of a background?"

John: Deborah, what did you have to forgive them of?

Deborah: False accusations, that I took the money. That was the big one.

John: Okay.

Deborah: Or just not handling it properly and telling all their friends, ruining my reputation. One went on Facebook and said some things. And you know, when you're a Bible teacher and you're traveling, you don't want people thinking that about you and you certainly don't want it on social media. (Laughing)

John: So, these aren't little things,

Deborah: No, they were [big].

John: These are pretty big things.

Deborah: Yeah, [they were] big things to cause people to look at you like, "Oh, really, you say you're a Christian and you did that? You know. But one thing I've always done is stood on the Word of God. Let me tell you, that has brought me through.

Jim: Well, that's it.

Deborah: It has brought me through, yes.

Jim: That's it, isn't it? You know, you're listening to "Focus on the Family." We're talking today with Deborah

Pegues and her book, Forgive, Let Go and Live. And again, I'm gonna reference this for folks that have just joined us, didn't hear the top. Our mutual good friend, Fawn Weaver, the endorsement said, "This is a must read for all those who have ever held a grudge." And then in brackets, "That's pretty much all of us." (Chuckling) I love that statement.

If you're struggling with that, contact us here at Focus on the Family. This is probably one of the core lessons you need to learn as a believer in Jesus, because it's what delivers you from bitterness and so many other things. Deborah, I want to ask you, you mention in your book what forgiveness is.

Deborah: Yes.

Jim: So, let's go to the "is." What is forgiveness? Give us the three or four things you highlight.

Deborah: I say, forgiveness first of all is releasing the desire to avenge a wrong. It's leaving justice to Jesus. And it's deciding to treat everybody like an enemy. What do I mean by that?

Jim: Yeah, that's not [intuitive].

Deborah: Matthew 5:44 [says], "Love your enemy. Bless those who curse you." You have to decide to do that. These are action verbs. "Do good to those who hate you and pray for those who spitefully use you." Let me tell you something. You have to act your way to the feeling. And the big issue here is, that most people think that you need to feel that you've forgive before you've forgiven.

You may still be in pain over the hurt, but if you just decide I'm gonna do this; I'm gonna act "as if," and I'm gonna do these things, because emotions follow behavior.

Jim: Yeah, that's true. Deborah, it can be hard for somebody though who has been wounded deeply and they're hearing you say that. That sounds right, Deborah, but you know what? You don't know what happened to me. I was really wounded. I was betrayed by my spouse.

Deborah: Yes.

Jim: Put that context on it. How does a person really move through the phases of forgiveness? First of all, how do they get their hands on the pain?

Deborah: First of all, you understand that everything that has happened in your life—this is a hard one—God saw it before it happened. He saw it before it happened and He saw it while it was happening. And He could've stopped it. That has been a big pill to swallow.

God saw that. He could've stopped it. So, it must gonna be something that's gonna work together for my good ultimately. Either I'm gonna grow. Something good is gonna happen. If you don't take a divine perspective towards that kind of pain, you're gonna get stuck in it. You're gonna say, "It shouldn't have happened."

Jim: Right.

Deborah: And it probably "shouldn't have happened," but in His divine providence, God knows.

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: and that's always been my thing. "All the days ordained for me were already written in His book." Not the good days, the bad days, too.

Jim: Yeah, so, you can relax.

Deborah: And so, yes, I can relax. So, I'm gonna choose how I remember this.

Jim: Yeah, but in that context, the tough thing and where the, I think the help is, is that a person that is struggling to get that perspective, they could say, "Well, if God is a good God, why would this pain happen to me? If He loves me, why would this happen to me, Deborah?"

Deborah: And why do you have to understand it? Let me tell you. When you walk by faith, at some point, you gotta start abandoning the "why" and just say, "It did and that I'm gonna trust God." It's a question of trust, because forgiveness is really all about decisions.

And so, raises those decisions, I'm gonna decide to take this divine perspective. I'm going to decide to let God, justice belongs to God. I'm not gonna try to avenge the wrong that was perpetrated against me. I'm gonna have the mind-set that says, "God, what is it in this? How can I grow from this? What are the lessons learned?" Let me tell you, that'll get you to another place.

Jim: It will.

Deborah: What are the lessons learned? And focus on that.

Jim: Yeah, the thing that I'm trying to tap for that listener who is living in that place of bitterness or vengeance, is letting that go.

Deborah: Letting it go.

Jim: And there may be thousands of people listening right now, Deborah, who are saying, "Yeah, help me." And this has been brewing inside of me for years, what my brother did to me, what my sister did to me, what my parents did to me, what my spouse did to me."

Deborah: Yes. Let me tell you something, Jim. You can't forgive in your own strength. And a lot of times when we're struggling with this stuff, we're trying to be like The Little Engine Who Could [The Little Engine That Could]. I think I can; I think I can. You know, I really want to, but I just can't. No, it requires supernatural intervention. It takes God. It's almost like when you work out with a trainer and they come and lift the load. You just gotta decide. Say, "God help me. I want to."

And I always like to say this. God works in you to will and to do. He gives you the desire and the power. You see, a lot of us, we say, "I want to forgive, but I just can't." No, you can't. So, resign trying to in your own strength.

Jim: Hm.

Deborah: You don't need a New Year's resolution. You can't count to 10. You gotta say, "God, help me."

Jim: Right.

Deborah: "You gotta spot me on this."

Jim: So, that's what forgiveness is. Now what forgiveness isn't.

Deborah: It's not forgetting first of all. People say, "Forgive and forget." That is not in the Bible. You can't obliterate something from your memory. Only God can do that. So, you need to remember. You need to remember so that you can get the lessons learned. You can remember so that you can know what not to do next time you're in that kind of a situation.

Jim: Uh.

Deborah: You need to remember. But here's one of the myths that we need to understand. You don't have to be reconciled. And so, a lot of times people will say, "I don't want to forgive 'cause I never want to have anything to do with that person." That person may be so toxic you don't need to have anything to do with that person.

Jim: Hm.

Deborah: See, so sometimes you just don't need to do that.

Jim: Uh-hm.

Deborah: Okay, so it's not being reconciled. And it's not an emotion. Don't wait for the feeling. You know, when I feel better, then I'm gonna know I've forgiven. No, don't wait for the feeling. Just start to obey God. Start to do what you know to do. Love them.

What does that mean? Wish their highest good. Bless them. That means to speak well. It means to eulogize just like you would at a funeral. Speak well of that person. Don't speak evil, because that's a form of retaliation.

Jim: Right.

Deborah: So, you give up this whole concept of trying to retaliate. I'm not gonna return the punishment.

Jim: Right. And when you look at our culture though, Deborah, one of the things that I am concerned about is, we do very little to build this kind of spiritual maturity into us. We're actually working against it. We want to dislike this group or that group and we're so group-oriented in the culture generally.

Deborah: Absolutely.

Jim: The church should be different.

Deborah: But the church is one of the most (Chuckling), let's just say divided places, because we can't even respect each other's right to differ. You saw what this past election did to everybody.

Jim: Hm.

Deborah: It was just craziness. I respect everybody's right to choose their candidate. You know, maybe your candidate didn't win. Maybe there's somebody out there, you're still bitter about that. What does God say to do? To pray for those who are in charge, you know, and let's come together, but you gotta want to.

Jim: Well, and you've opened that up and you know, you look at our country right now in that regard, I mean again, it's a lot of division, mistrust, misunderstanding every direction. And how does that get resolved? I think you're point the way. It's attitude.

Deborah: It's attitude and a decision to do things God's way. See, there is a way that seems right, but the Bible has "the Way." He wants us to love each other, you know. So, I'm thinkin', we gotta be proactive. We gotta reach out. We gotta reach across the aisles, even within our families. Listen, when my family fell apart and I'm telling you it was bad--people were cursing each other out--and I decided that I'm gonna be the peacemaker, 'cause blessed are the peacemakers. So, I decided in my family, I'm gonna be the one who initiates the peace effort.

Jim: Ah.

Deborah: So, I'm the peacemaker. I actively seek to make the peace. So, what does that mean? I called everybody to my house. I'll host the party. I'll host the dinner, because that was important to me.

Jim: You took on the responsibility, rather than push it away.

Deborah: I took on the responsibility. Yeah, now if they don't call me, I'm not callin' them. Nope and nope.

Jim: You guys do it, yeah.

Deborah: You know, we gotta do it God's way. That's why the Bible is so critical, so critical to the quality of our lives.

Jim: Boy, I love that. Man, this is good stuff. Deborah, you mentioned in the book, 12 steps for forgiveness, that 12-step forgiveness strategy. Point to some of those that are critical in the last couple of minutes here.

Deborah: Well, first of all, you realize that forgiveness is not optional. So, we don't have the option of sayin'. "I'm not gonna do it."

Jim: But we treat it like it is.

Deborah: We treat it like it's optional. We need to be like the Amish people who know and understand beyond a doubt that if you don't forgive, you won't be forgiven. So, when we had that shooting, I mean, they were at the shooter's house that same day embracin' their families, 'cause they believe if they don't forgive, God won't forgive them.

But we also learn to humanize the offenders. Step back and see, what's in that person's background that perhaps drove that person to be like that?

Jim: Hm.

Deborah: You know, we seek first to understand.

Jim: Right.

Deborah: That's so important.

Jim: Keep on; let's go on to the next one.

Deborah: You keep tryin' to have a divine perspective. You know, it sounds trite, but what would Jesus do?

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: You know, what would He do?

Jim: That is the right question.

Deborah: Would He look beyond that and seek first to understand that person's actions? And then you don't rehearse it. Stop rehearsing it.

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: You just have to move forward.

Jim: Well, in fact, and the second one that you mentioned in the 12-step forgiveness strategy, which caught my eye, make a list of at least five sins God has forgiven you for.

Deborah: Yes.

Jim: Ooh, now we're talkin', because this is like the Pharisee thing, right?

Deborah: Right, right, 'cause we have to be a channel of forgiveness and we forget that. God has forgiven us. We need to go in and send that out. We don't need to be a reservoir of forgiveness, when God forgives us and we just keep it to ourselves. But when we offend, we don't send it out.

Jim: But right there, what a great way to arrest that emotion. When you're offended, if your first thought can be, how many times has God forgiven you for something?

Deborah: Yes, right.

Jim: If that thought is triggered in your mind right away, you then can respond with gentleness, with understanding.

Deborah: Absolutely, yes.

Jim: Talk about though the difference between embracing that kind of forgiveness without condoning the behavior, 'cause you need to separate those two things.

Deborah: Yes and that's one of the myths. We think that if we forgive somebody, that means that it's okay. We're condoning that behavior. I like what Joseph said when his brothers came to him. And you know the story, how he was sold into slavery and they came and they knew they were mean to him and they said, "Forgive us; we're sorry." And he said, "Listen, you meant it for bad, but God meant it for good."

Jim: Right.

Deborah: "Oh, yeah, you meant evil against me," he said, "but fear not. I'm not takin' God's place. Am I in the place of God?" I can tell you, I have taken God's place many times. When people offend me, I'm gonna take God's place. What does that mean? I'm gonna avenge the wrong. You shouldn't have done that. (Laughter)

Jim: Right, in fact, I'm not givin' you any food. You're gonna starve.

Deborah: Yeah, right. (Laughing) But the Bible says, "He spake kindly to them." And that's important that we read these stories, follow that model to say, listen, yeah, you may have meant evil, but God meant it for good. And if we can just get that one truth, that no matter what has happened, ultimately there's some good that can come out of it. Let's work towards lookin' for that.

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: Don't get stuck in a "it shouldn't have happened." What good can come from this? I am much better off because of racism. I am.

Jim: Wow.

Deborah: I think I'm a writer today because a teacher discriminated against me in my grammar class, in my English class.

Jim: What happened?

Deborah: In college, he called me in and he said, "You and Miss blah, blah, blah, have tied for the A in the class. And you're gonna have to re-examined to see which one of you will get the A." I never saw my score. I got the B. I didn't know that 30 years later, I'd be a writer, because I decided at that point, nobody's ever gonna make more than I make on a grammar test.

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: But God was setting me up and I'd like for your audience to think that. No matter what has happened, God was positioning me. He was strengthening me for something even greater and I want to work towards that.

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: I don't want to get stuck in the pain of that offense.

Jim: Well, I mean, now, whew! You're opening up such an area where suffering actually can lead to you becoming a better person.

Deborah: Absolutely.

Jim: And yet, you have to climb out of that pit of suffering.

Deborah: You have to. That's why the Psalmist says, "It's been good for me that I've been afflicted and in trouble, that I might learn His statutes." What have you learned about God in that process? I learned about the grace of God through the process of being alienated from my family. I learned that if you actively take a role that you can influence other people's lives, 'cause others looked on. My nieces looked on and saw how I was responding and they said, "We can't believe you responded like that." And now they are forgiving people.

Jim: So, it's encouraging them.

Deborah: Absolutely.

Jim: I mean, again in this 12-step forgiveness strategy, which you include in the book, Forgive, Let Go and Live, you say it there, "Refuse to be stuck in your story."

Deborah: Yes, stuck.

Jim: That's kinda what you're saying, that pit.

Deborah: Yes, yes and you know what else I like to say, is always say that you've forgiven. Say that out loud. I believe faith comes by hearing. Say, "I release that." So, the minute something happens to you, just say it. Say, "I release that person."

Jim: Let me ask you this. The person that you have done the right thing as the believer and maybe, you know, the person that may be a believer and may not be. But they offended you. You attempted to correct it. You extended forgiveness. You've done all the right things, but they keep wounding you. They keep doing it. It's now the eighth, ninth time and they're not hearing you. They're not listening to you. What do you do with that? I know the Scripture keeps saying [forgive].

Deborah: No, but you disconnect from that relationship. There is no Scripture that says you must be reconciled to a person who is toxic to you like that.

Jim: So, you don't have to be doormat.

Deborah: You don't have to be a doormat. That's not godly. (Chuckling) That's not godly. That's not wisdom.

Jim: Yeah, that's important to hear, because a lot of people will interpret that as spiritual.

Deborah: Right, well, in the book I give 10 ways to know that it's time to disconnect from a relationship and it's just what you just said. If the person constantly hurts you, ignores you, they don't care about your goals, your feelings or any of those things, you don't need to be around that person. That doesn't mean you hate them. You just don't need to be in fellowship with that person.

Jim: And it's kind of scriptural again where you shake off the dust on your feet and keep on movin'.

Deborah: Absolutely, yeah, you listen. It's like I call it the "EASY-OFF principle." I'm a former maid and I had someone cleanin' my stove and I said, "Now you need EASY-OFF on this." And she said, "No, the fumes." I said, "Listen, this is not how you use EASY-OFF. You spray it and you run away from it." (Laughter) You know.

Jim: You have a tip.

Deborah: You know, okay, here's a tip, all right. You don't stand there and inhale it. And some of us, we have toxic family members that we are always around them and they're always being toxic to us and makin' us feel bad and we just stand there and inhale that toxicity. We don't have to do that.

Jim: All right, we're ridin' in there at the end here. Make the pitch. You're the spokesman for God, right? And you're knockin' on the door and you're in front of the home of somebody who has terrible bitterness, terrible attitude toward their neighbor, whatever it might be. They have not been able to forgive and you're comin' down from heaven, knockin' on the door. The person opens the door. What do you say to them?

Deborah: I say, "God sees your pain today. He wants you to have peace. Jesus died on the cross so that you could have this peace. He said, 'Let the peace rule in your hearts.' That peace won't rule in your heart until you release this person from the past. So you need to begin to say, 'I release everybody.' Release that person; make a decision today and God will help you to do it, because it is God who gives you the desire and the power to release everybody who's ever hurt you."

Jim: Hm.

Deborah: "And then you can have a quality relationship and you can enjoy the peace of God."

Jim: Deborah Pegues, I want to be your neighbor. (Laughter) I would love that.

Deborah: Me, too.

Jim: I think you walk around blessin' people. (Laughter)

Deborah: I try.

Jim: I so appreciate what you've done and really that resiliency that you have demonstrated.

Deborah: Thank you.

Jim: You are a child of God created in His image and it just bursts out of you in every way and I love that.

Deborah: Thank you.

Jim: No one's gonna keep you down, 'cause God wants you up.

Deborah: That's right and that kind of peace and being up and joyful is available to all of us. We just have to allow Him to work it through us.

Jim: Amen.

Deborah: Amen.

Jim: Well, Deborah's book, Forgive, Let God and Live is full of stories of people learning how to forgive and lots of tools, as she said. She's got a number of lists of things that you can put into place right away. Get the book from us here at Focus on the Family when you call 800-A-FAMILY or stop by our online store. That's at

Jim: You know, it's so refreshing to have truth just boldly spoken and that's what we did today. I think Deborah, she brought the bat and (Chuckling) she knocked it out of the park and really spoke straight truth to us about that area of unforgiveness or bitterness that you have and what to do with it.

And I want to make sure that everybody knows, you can come and get this resource just for a gift of any amount. I don't care. We'll put it in your hands because if you want to honor the Lord as a believer particularly, this is an area of your life that you gotta get on top of and think about a culture, just think here in the United States and in Canada, for our friends in Canada, think if we had a nation full of Christians who were living it. It would be different and we would be making an incredible difference. And when we're not, you have to ask yourself the question, what are we missing? And this is a great place to start, especially in your own heart. Deborah, thanks again for being with us.

Deborah: Oh, it's been my joy to be here and I pray that this message will resonate with people around the world.


John: Go ahead and get the CD or download and Deborah's book at our website. And once again, that's And when you get in touch, please make a generous donation to this ministry. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, and coming up next time, Jill Savage describes some common imperfections that can put a strain on your marriage.


Mrs. Jill Savage: And so, we both realized as we looked at like conflict resolution, okay, we were at opposite ends of the spectrum. Okay, but what's healthy. It's somewhere in the middle.

End of Excerpt

John: Join us again next time, as we once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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Deborah Pegues

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Deborah Smith Pegues is a best-selling author of 16 books including the award-winning Taming Your Tongue, which has sold more than a million copies. She is an international speaker and interpersonal communications strategist whose trademark teaching is on how foundational beliefs dictate behavior in every aspect of life. Deborah is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and former vice president for MCA/Universal Studios, Inc. As founder and CEO of The Pegues Group, Inc., she has consulted with mega-churches, high profile personalities and entrepreneurs on financial and relational issues. Deborah and her husband, Darnell, reside in Los Angeles. Learn more about Deborah by visiting her website,