Focus on the Family Broadcast

Forgiving the Past, Embracing the Future

Forgiving the Past, Embracing the Future

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.
Original Air Date: May 15, 2017


Deborah Pegues: I’m gonna decide to take this divine perspective, I’m gonna decide to let God, let justice be- Justice belongs to God. I’m not gonna try to avenge the wrong that was perpetrated against me. I’m gonna have the mindset that says, “God, what is it in this? How can I grow from this? What are the lessons learned?”

End of Preview

John Fuller: That 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 wanna talk about (laughs) that,” while some of you said, “Yeah, I had to learn that lesson last week, last year, a couple of months ago.” Um, 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.”

Um, 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, uh, 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 Go, 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. Uh, she is a certified behavioral consultant, a Bible teacher, and international speaker. Um, 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 wanna read it for our friends, the listeners, ’cause it, it is funny.

Deborah: Okay.

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.”

Deborah: (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Jim: Isn’t that so true?

Deborah: Yes, yes, yeah.

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

Deborah: Well, w- I’m not sure if we’re so much wired for grudges as much as we’re wired for justice. And when somebody offends us, we feel like justice has to be served.

Jim: Okay. That’s interesting, so we’re high justice.

Deborah: Yeah.

Jim: And that, that may be we’re wired for God because, uh, He’s high justice.

Deborah: Right. At least, I’m trying to make it sound good for everybody. (laughs)

Jim: Yeah.

John: (laughs)

Jim: Well, and He, and, but God is also… I- It is interesting. It’s always one of those dichotomies. God is a high justice God.

Deborah: Yes.

Jim: 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, eh, eh, paid back. I mean, y- you know? A, a debt has been created, and, and a lot of times the person can’t, the debt can’t be repaid.

Jim: Hmm.

Deborah: 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- 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 to, t- 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: Yeah. I, I like that word forgive because, because it has the word give in it, and forgiving is giving.

Jim: What, uh, right from the beginning, we’re gonna get into part of your story, but what is the benefit of forgiving?

Deborah: Yeah.

Jim: Wha- Uh, y- you know, y- uh, what’s this gonna cost me and what do I get out of it?

Deborah: Well, you’re gonna get more, because it’s gonna cost you a whole lot. And I like the Scripture that you started with, because, first of all, if we don’t forgive, God’s not gonna forgive us. So there are many benefits, and I, I like to classify them as, like, four benefits, four or five. There’s a spiritual benefit, because now we- we’re not hindering our forgiveness. Because if we don’t forgive, God’s not gonna forgive us. So that’s a great spiritual benefit, we won’t be disconnected from the Lord.

Jim: Right.

Deborah: Yeah. But just relationally is we, it won’t, you know, we’ll have good relationships now. We’ll be able to connect with people. I’m totally convinced that most people who hurt us, a lot of times they don’t know that they did, and we may be carrying that.

Jim: That’s true. I think you’re right. Yeah.

Deborah: So now, we can have a warm relationship, meaningful relationships. ‘Cause when it’s all said and done, it’s really relationships that really count.

Jim: That’s the bottom line, isn’t it?

Deborah: Yeah. But emotionally, it- it’s, it’s, there’s a big benefit there emotionally.

Jim: So let- 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.” (laughs) That’s exactly opposite your story, isn’t it?

Deborah: Exactly opposite.

Jim: What was your home like, and, 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.

Jim: Huh.

Deborah: 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 violence. There was lots of just chaos in the family. And I found that, us siblings, we, we inherited that. And I just didn’t like what I was feeling. Any time somebody did something to me, well, I am never gonna forget that.

Jim: How- How old were you… And you have seven kids in the, in your family.

Deborah: It, that’s right.

Jim: Um, how old were you when you began to say, “This doesn’t feel right”?

Deborah: Probably like maybe about 5th grade.

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: Yeah. You know, and it was just that I have always been a communicator.

Jim: So 10, 11.

Deborah: I always like to tell people what I’m thinking. (laughs)

Jim: Yeah. (laughs) You are a good communicator.

Deborah: Well, and-

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

Deborah: Yeah, and I just, I just kept thinking, “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 staying angry and reinforcing that.” (laughs)

Jim: (laughs) So, so where are you in the birth order? Were you-

Deborah: I’m second, and-

Jim: You’re number two.

Deborah: I’m number two, but I’m the only girl, so they worked me to no end.

Jim: Six boys and one girl.

Deborah: Six, yes, yes.

Jim: Wow.

Deborah: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: How’d you survive that?

Deborah: Well, I’ve, I’ve always tend to be an in, in charge person. That’s a way of saying bossy. (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Jim: I don’t see that at all.

Deborah: (laughs)

John: In, in charge person, that’s a nice euphemism.

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

Jim: That had to be a, of, 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. (laughs)

Jim: Oh, man. Isn’t that funny?

Deborah: I just felt it was my responsibility.

Jim: Huh.

Deborah: The heavier weight was just growing up among all that tension, because I, 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 because he had so many children to take care of.” And he was, he worked a day laborer’s job. He was a sawmill 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.

Jim: Hmm.

Deborah: So we never lacked the basics, but, uh, he just created tension in the environment ’cause he believed heavily in corporal punishment. (laughs)

Jim: Hmm. Now, you’ve been married 38 years.

Deborah: 38 years.

Jim: And I- I’m just curious about that family formation. I mean, you’re coming out of this kinda chaos.

Deborah: Oh, yes.

Jim: G- Were you… 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: We- 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, because in my family we do absolutely no forgiving.”

Jim: (laughs) Wow.

Deborah: Yeah, and-

Jim: So your, your solution to that was don’t do anything that would meet, it 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 something to me, I would never forget it. A-

Jim: Okay, you’ve got to have an incident where this, the rubber meet, met the road and you guys were like, “What?”

Deborah: Yeah, I just… Yeah. (laughs)

Jim: So what happened? I mean, did you have an argument?

Deborah: Well, he, you know, my husband’s so easygoing. No, what, what I, what we learned, and I had great mentors, is learn how to communicate, learn how to say, “When you do this, I, it makes me feel this way.”

Jim: Oh.

Deborah: And so that’s what we do. And, and we have lasted 38 years with a really harmonious re- marriage for the most part. I mean, really, I’d have to say 90% of our marriage has been harmonious. I am not kidding you. (laughs)

Jim: Well, way to lay the law down early.

Deborah: We’ve nev- We- Well, well, no, because we are both confronters.

Jim: Oh, is that right?

Deborah: We are both confronters.

Jim: Now, d- sometimes that can get into you a little bit of trouble I would think. (laughs)

Deborah: Nope, nope, no, because what we have decided is that, uh, and I wrote a book on confrontation, so I try to do what I, you know.

Jim: Yeah, (laughs) practice what…

Deborah: Okay, it doesn’t always work, but, (laughs) you know.

Jim: Yeah, I got you.

Deborah: Okay, it doesn’t always work. But, uh, whe- when there’s an issue, we’ll say, “Okay, uh, I-” You know, he has his say, I have my say. And then we believe in submission, I do, and so if there is ever a big conflict, you know, we, we let him make the final decision. And I had good mentors in this area, so I can’t take credit for this. I had very mature women who taught me how to have a good marriage, how to esteem a man, and how to go to God to be that little secret agent that kinda sics… Y- You know, I sic God on him. (laughs)

Jim: Right, right. (laughs) S- Quiet prayers, right?

Deborah: Yeah, there you go.

Jim: So and then, in fact, you had a mentor.

Deborah: Yes.

Jim: And you talk about this mentor in the book, uh, Juanita Smith I think, Dr. Juanita Smith.

Deborah: Yeah. Yes. Dr. Juanita Smith.

Jim: E- E- The power of a mentor, how old were you when Juanita came into your life and, you know-

Deborah: I was 30.

Jim: Okay.

Deborah: I was 30-ish.

Jim: A- And what kind of questions would she ask you as a mentor?

Deborah: Yeah.

Jim: A lot of people don’t have a mentor relationship. They have lots of friends, but nothing permission given that you can ask me tough questions.

Deborah: She would observe, and she would say, “Never say ‘you should’ to a man.” She said, “Always say ‘have you considered.’” She was very easy in her approach, but very powerful.

Jim: That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it, John?

Deborah: Yeah.

John: I’m go-

Jim: I’m sitting there, and I already like it.

John: I’m gonna have to remember that phrase right there, have you considered?

Deborah: Yeah, she said that, yeah.

Jim: Have you considered? I like that.

Deborah: Yeah, have you considered, you know?

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: And always ask a question, n- never make an accusation.

Jim: Hmm.

Deborah: And th- these things worked. You know, and always esteem, she said, “You have to esteem a man.” She said, “God loves men. He made them first.” (laughs) And I’m thinking, “And I’m gonna tell them where to go if they need to be told.” (laughs)

Jim: (laughs) Oh, man. There-

Deborah: But I… Yeah.

Jim: There had to be a point though. I mean, y- you’re coming out of that background in your household, lots of contentious fighting, physical even, you said, with your dad, and your mom and dad chasing circular arguments and never coming to a conclusion, and the frustration you felt as a 10-year-old, uh, in that regard, there’s gotta be that point, maybe something in your marriage or something somewhere.

Deborah: Yes. Yeah.

Jim: Give us where y- that story where you didn’t do it.

Deborah: It was, it was the money. I didn’t wanna share the money.

Jim: Okay. Okay.

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

Jim: You didn’t wanna be her, in that money area.

Deborah: I didn’t wanna- Absolutely, did not wanna be my mother.

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: And also, I had a s- a s- a bad mentor who said, “Never pay more than your half of the bills. Never d- Never pay more than-”

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 $1 million and he makes $1, never pay more than your half.”

Jim: Hmm. (laughs)

Deborah: And then my husband’s job went on strike and I had to pay all the bills. (laughs)

Jim: And, and you were going, “Okay, what do we do with this?”

Deborah: I’m like, “Okay, what do we do with this?” But, you know, we, by then, we had already talked about the fact that we wanted to become one financially. We didn’t just want to become one intimately, we wanted become one financially. And my husband has 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 a, one of the top reason 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: But I’m coming back to you, Deborah.

Deborah: Yes.

Jim: I’m gonna push you again.

Deborah: Let’s do it.

Jim: You give me, eh, that story where your f- forgiveness or lack of being able to do it, ’cause you didn’t see it modeled in your home. Where, where did that pop up where you had to forgive somebody and, doggone it, 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, my father died and he left me in charge of the will.

John: Oh.

Deborah: And despite the fact that-

Jim: ‘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. (laughs)

Jim: Right. Well, it makes sense. But your six brothers were going, “Oh, no way!”

Deborah: Right. Yeah, and I wasn’t the oldest, so s- some of them felt that he should have left the oldest one in charge, and he didn’t. And, and before then, I was the darling of the family. I mean, they thought I was Jesus’ sister really. (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

Deborah: But listen, after that, I was the devil’s sister. It, I, I became totally, 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, 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 thinking, “Okay, you’re the one who’s em- who’s claiming to be the Christian. You have the power to do it.” But I didn’t wittido- really wanna do it. I wanted to stay alienated from them.

Jim: 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 who 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.” (laughs)

Deborah: Yes.

Jim: I love that statement. Um, 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 e- um, you know, delivers you from bitterness and so many other things.

John: Hmm.

Jim: Uh, Deborah, I wanna ask you. Um, you mention in your book what forgiveness is and what forgiveness isn’t.

Deborah: Yes.

Jim: So let’s go to the is.

Deborah: Yes.

Jim: What is, um, 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 treating, deciding to treat everybody like an enemy. What do I mean by that?

Jim: Yeah, that’s not… Yeah.

Deborah: Matthew 5:44.

Jim: What’s it say?

Deborah: Love your enemies.

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: Bless those who curse you. You have to decide to do that. These are all action verbs.

Jim: Hmm.

Deborah: Let me tell you something. You have to act your way to, to the feeling. And the, and the big issue here is that most people think that you need to feel that you’ve forgiven before you 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: And, Deborah, it can be hard for somebody, though, who has been wounded deeply, and they’re hearing you say that.

Deborah: Yes.

Jim: “That sounds right, Deborah, but you know what? You don’t know what happened to me. I was, 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? How do they g- g- First of all, how do they get their hands on the pain?

Deborah: This, 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 have 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, and it probably, quote, “shouldn’t have happened”, but in His divine providence, God knows.

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: And I, 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, I- Yes, I can relax knowing they’re somehow in there, so I’m gonna choose how I remember this.

Jim: Yeah. But in that context, the, 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? I- If He loves me, why would this happen to me, Deborah?”

Deborah: And what is… 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, uh, it’s a question of trust, because forgiveness is really all about decisions. So it’s the same reasons of decisions. I’m gonna decide to take this divine perspective. I’m going to decide to let God, let justice be, b- Justice belongs to God. I’m not gonna try to avenge the wrong that was perpetrated against me. I’m gonna have the mindset 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, it will.

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

Jim: Yeah. The, 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: Yes. 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.”

John: Mm-hmm.

Deborah: Yes. Let me tell you something, Jim.

Jim: And I… Yeah.

Deborah: You can’t forgive in your strength. And a lot of times when we’re struggling with this, ’cause we’re trying to be like the little engine who 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.” Any, and I also like to say this. God works in you to will and to do. He gives you the, the desire and the power. You see, a lot of us wanna, we say, “I wanna forgive, but I just can’t.” No, you can’t, so resign trying to in your own strength.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Deborah: You don’t need a New Year’s resolution and you can’t count to 10. You gotta say, “God, help me. You gotta spot me on this.”

Jim: Right. So that’s what forgiveness is.

Deborah: That’s what it is.

Jim: Now, what, uh, forgiveness isn’t.

Deborah: It’s not forgetting, first of all. P- 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: Ah.

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

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Deborah: See, that’s not it. So sometimes, you just don’t need to do that. 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. You may… No, don’t wait for the feeling, just start to do, obey God. Just 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 c- It means to eulogize, just like you would at a funeral. Speak well of that person. Don’t speak evil, because that’s a, really a form of retaliation.

Jim: Right.

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

Jim: Right. A- And when you look at our culture, though, Deborah, the 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 wanna 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, (laughs) let’s just say divided places, because we can’t even respect each other’s right to differ. You saw, you saw what this past election did to everybody.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Deborah: It’s just, it was just craziness. I respect everybody’s right to choose their candidate. You know, my c- maybe your candidate didn’t win. Maybe s- 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 just co- let’s come together, but you gotta want to.

Jim: And, and it- it’s interesting that even in Scripture there it says “they’ll know your mind because of the love they have or unity y- you have for one another.”

Deborah: Yes. Right.

Jim: I mean, and it’s pretty much where the world sees that we’re not His. (laughs)

Deborah: Right. Well, and those, those of us who call ourselves spiritual, we have to know that. We, we have to initiate that process of bringing unity.

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: I don’t care where it is. I, I can tell you this from my own perspective as in a, uh, growing up in a, a family, uh, growing up in a town where there was a lot of racism.

Jim: Right.

Deborah: Oh, my goodness. Uh, but I, I decided throughout my career I was gonna initiate the process. I was gonna make other people comfortable with me. I wasn’t gonna wait for them to come to me and assume that they were racist ’cause they didn’t come to me. I would come to them first, “Hey, where you guys going for lunch? May I join you?” (laughs) See, the Bi- there is a way that seems right, but the Bible has the way. He wants us to love each other, y- you know?

Jim: Hmm.

Deborah: So I’m, I’m thinking, “We gotta be proactive. We gotta reach out. We gotta reach across the aisles. We got- Even in, within our families.” Listen, Bim, I, 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 efforts.”

Jim: Ah.

Deborah: So I’m the peacemaker. I s- actively seek to make the peace. So what does that mean? I called everybody to my house, I’ll, 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 and say “You guys do it.”

Deborah: I took on the responsibility. Yeah, and like, “If they don’t call me, I’m not calling them. Nope. Uh, nope.”

Jim: 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: Ooh, I love that. Man, this is good stuff. Uh, Deborah, you mention in the book 12 steps, uh, for forgiveness, that 12-step forgiveness strategy.

Deborah: Yes.

Jim: Uh, uh, uh, uh, point to some of those that are critical in the last, uh, couple of minutes here.

Deborah: Well, first of all, you realize that, uh, forgiveness is not optional. So we don’t, we don’t have the option of saying, “I’m not gonna do it.”

Jim: But we treat it like it is.

Deborah: We treat it like it’s optional, but we also learn to humanize the offenders. St- Step back and see what- what’s in that person’s background that perhaps drove that person to be like that.

Jim: Mm.

Deborah: You know, we seek first to understand.

Jim: Right.

Deborah: That’s so important. And we, we, you, you, you keep trying to have a divine perspective.

Jim: Keep on. Let’s go on to the next one.

Deborah: What would… You know, it sounds trite, but what would Jesus do?

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: You know, what, 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 decide 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. Whew, now we’re talking, because this is like the Pharisee thing, right?

Deborah: Yes. Now… Right, right. ‘Cause we have to be a channel of forgiveness, and we forget that. God has forgiven us; we need to go and, uh, send that out. We don’t have to be a reservoir of forgiveness, where God forgives us and we just keep it to ourselves, but when we offend, we don’t, we don’t send it out.

Jim: But right there, what a great way to arrest that emotion when you’re offended, to, if your first thought can be how many times has God, uh, 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. Yes.

Jim: And what e- e- Talk about, though, the difference between embracing that kind of forgiveness without condoning the behavior, ’cause you can, you need to separate those two things.

Deborah: Yes, and that’s one of the myths. We think that if we, 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.”

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Deborah: 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 taking 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. (laughs)

Jim: Right. In fact, I’m not giving you any food.

Deborah: Yeah, right, right. (laughs)

Jim: You’re gonna starve.

Deborah: But the B- 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.”

Jim: Hmm.

Deborah: 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, less work towards looking for that.

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: Don’t get stuck in “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’m, 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 Ms. Blah, blah, blah have pe- have tied for the A in the class, and you’re gonna have to be reexamined to see which one of you would 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, (laughs) because I decided at that point, nobody’s ever gonna make more than I make on a grammar test. (laughs)

Jim: Right. Yeah.

Deborah: But God was setting me up. And I’d like for th- your audience to think that, no matter what has happened, God was positioning me, He was strengthening me for something even greater, and I wanna work towards that.

Jim: Yes.

Deborah: I don’t wanna get stuck in the pain of that offense.

Jim: Well, it, e- I mean, now, whew, that i- you’re opening up such a, an area where suffering actually can lead to you becoming a better person, and, and yet you have to climb out of that pit of suffering.

Deborah: Absolutely. You have to, and that’s why the psalmist says “it’s been good for me that I’ve been afflicted,” meaning troubled, “that I might learn his statutes.” What have you learned about God in that process? I learned about the grace of God du- 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: And when you get in this 12-step forgiveness strategy, which you include in the book Forgive, Let Go, and Live, uh, y- you say it there, refuse to be stuck in your story.

Deborah: Don’t be stuck.

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

Deborah: Yes, yes. And, and you know what else I’d 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. Um, the person that you have done the right thing as, as the believer, and maybe the other person, and it, and it m- may be a believer, it may not be, but they offended you.

Deborah: Yes.

Jim: 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. W- What do you do with that?

Deborah: You-

Jim: I know the Scripture keeps saying f-

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 a doormat.

Deborah: You don’t have to be a doormat. That’s, that’s not godly. (laughs) That’s not godly.

Jim: Yeah.

Deborah: That’s not wisdom.

Jim: That’s important to hear, because a lot of people will interpret that as spirituel.

Deborah: Yeah. Right. 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, uh, ignores you, they don’t care about your goals, your feelings, or any of those things, then 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: Mm.

Deborah: Yeah.

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

Deborah: Yeah. Oh. Absolutely. Yeah, you, you… Listen, it’s like, I call it the Easy-Off principle. I have, when I- I’m a, I’m a former maid, and I had someone cleaning 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.” (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Deborah: You know?

Jim: Here’s a tip.

Deborah: Okay, here’s a tip, all right? You just, you don’t use, uh, 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 making us feel bad, and we just stand there and inhale that toxicity. We don’t have to do that.

Jim: All right, e- we’re, uh, we’re riding in there at the end here. Wher- e- e- if… Make the pitch. You are the spokesman for God, right? And you’re knocking 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. The person opens the door. What do you say to them?

Deborah: I’d say, “God sees your pain today. He wants you to have peace. Jesus died on the Cross so that you could have the peace. And He said, ‘Let the peace rule in your heart.’ 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. And then you can have a quality relationship and you can enjoy the peace of God.”

Jim: Hmm. Deborah Pegues, I wanna be your neighbor. (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Deborah: (laughs)

Jim: I would love that. You just, I think you walk around blessing people. (laughs)

Deborah: Me too.

John: Hmm.

Deborah: (laughs) I try.

Jim: I so appreciate, uh, what you’ve done and, really, that resiliency that you have demonstrated. 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. Thank you.

Jim: Um, 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.

John: Well, it’s so refreshing to have some truth boldly spoken about unforgiveness and bitterness in your life, and that’s just what Deborah Pegues has done on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. Once again, her book, Forgive, Let Go, and Live, is full of stories about, uh, people learning how to forgive as well as tools to help you along the way toward forgiveness. We’d love to send a copy of that book to you as our way of saying thanks for your generous donation of any amount to the ministry of Focus on the Family today. We’re listener supported. Join the team, uh, by calling 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459, or just stop by On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

Forgive, Let Go, and Live

Receive Deborah Pegues' book Forgive, Let Go, and Live plus an audio download of the broadcast "Forgiving the Past, Embracing the Future" for your donation of any amount!

Recent Episodes

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Gaining a New Perspective on Life

Who is in control of your life? British evangelist J.John challenges believers to live up to our tremendous God-given potential by letting Jesus into the driver’s seat of our lives. With humorous stories of his many years in ministry, J.John explains that the essence of Christianity is to know Christ, and make Him known to others.

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Examining Your Part in a Difficult Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

Former Major League Baseball player Darryl Strawberry and his wife, Tracy, talk candidly about the past troubles they experienced in their personal lives and in their marriage, and offer hope to struggling couples as they describe how God brought them restoration and redemption. (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Examining Your Part in a Difficult Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Former Major League Baseball player Darryl Strawberry and his wife, Tracy, talk candidly about the past troubles they experienced in their personal lives and in their marriage, and offer hope to struggling couples as they describe how God brought them restoration and redemption. (Part 1 of 2)

You May Also Like

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

A Legacy of Music and Trusting the Lord

Larnelle Harris shares stories about how God redeemed the dysfunctional past of his parents, the many African-American teachers who sacrificed their time and energy to give young men like himself a better future, and how his faithfulness to godly principles gave him greater opportunities and career success than anything else.

Focus on the Family Broadcast logo

Accepting Your Imperfect Life

Amy Carroll shares how her perfectionism led to her being discontent in her marriage for over a decade, how she learned to find value in who Christ is, not in what she does, and practical ways everyone can accept the messiness of marriage and of life.