Al Robertson: You know, if I’m able to forgive Lisa on a consistent daily basis for the little things, then we’re probably never gonna get to the big things. That’s what we’ve noticed. All those years before it held up and it, you know, it brewed and then it becomes this mistrust and all this. And you see it happen in relationships every day. But if I decide every day when I wake up I’m gonna embrace the new mercies that God has given me, then why wouldn’t I want to extend those to my spouse and to everybody I run into that day? So if I live that forgiveness at the small level, it’s gonna make it much easier when something really bad happens to you at the big level.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Al Robertson and his wife, Lisa, are with us today on Focus on the Family, and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Hey, John. Here’s good news. I think the major theme in Scripture is forgiveness.
Jim: It’s kind of the core of the core – right? – a creator who forgives his creation for rebelling against him.
Jim: And, uh, man, I am looking forward to talking in depth today about this topic of forgiveness. I think we all struggle with forgiving ourselves, forgiving others. It’s just something that doesn’t come naturally to us. It’s something that we have to, I think, tap into the heart of God for. Even unbelievers – I think forgiveness is clearly an attribute of God’s character, and the world may not even know they are tapping into that when they forgive someone. In fact, uh, in the New Testament, uh, the book of Ephesians 4:32, we’re told, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.” Sometimes, forgiveness doesn’t come easy, and we justify it. You know, “That person wronged me in so many ways.” But when you withhold that forgiveness, the only one who really suffers is you. And today, we want to help you better understand maybe some of that latent, unforgiveness that you have or that others may have toward you.
Jim: And, uh, it might be the day that we can set the record straight and give you the tools to do that.
John: Yeah. And Al and Lisa Robertson know those tools pretty well. They’ve both experienced a lot of pain in their lives and in their marriage, and they’ve come through to healing. And, uh, as they’re going to tell you, it’s a journey and it’s a process. And here at Focus, we want to be there for you. So, uh, please call us if, uh, you need – please call us if you need to talk to a counselor or get some resources.Al and Lisa are probably best known from, uh, the A&E TV series Duck Dynasty, and, uh, they’ve been with us here before. They’ve been a best of broadcast, uh, really resonating with our, uh, listeners about their struggles in marriage and how they found, uh, Christ’s hope in that. Uh, they have a new book. It’s called Desperate Forgiveness. And, uh, I should note that they have two adult daughters and six – I believe – grandchildren, right?
Jim: The heads are nodding. That’s a good guess.
Jim: Al and Lisa, welcome back to Focus.
Lisa Robertson: Thank you for having us.
Jim: Yeah, it’s always good to have you. This title, Desperate Forgiveness – that caught my attention right away because that – it’s powerful…
Lisa: Mmm hmm.
Jim: …As it should be. Why that title?
Al: Well, you know, it’s interesting. When we first talked to our, um, literary agents, they didn’t like desperate. You know, they – they loved the idea of forgiveness being in the title, but they thought that was too strong a word. And, you know, Lisa and I fought for it. We were like, “No, you don’t understand. That’s where we were.” You know, it was – it was the word that resonated the most with us. Therefore, we knew that it would also resonate with other people. And so we kind of had to fight for that one, you know…
Al: …To keep it in, because you know, when you’re early in a process of a book, you know, everybody’s got their ideas. But desperate was the place we found ourselves in. And then kind of the natural thing for us as we told our story for years, and our first book came out – is that we started hearing more and more desperate stories and meeting people in the book line that just were in tears. You know, I was like, “What can I do?” And so that was sort of the genesis and the idea. The book was how much desperation we were seeing and people not knowing what to do.
Jim: Well, it seems like that unforgiveness is one of the core illnesses of humanity – that we carry grudges. And we’re so shaped, even in our childhood years, with things that happened to us as, uh, our parents and family members do things that we don’t know how to cope with, right?
Jim: Al, starting with you, I mean, your family – we love your family. It’s all there on the screen to see. And I – I can imagine the pressure of that and some of the scripting requirement. You told me that Si is definitely who he is on TV (laughter). That’s pretty funny.
John: (Laughter) You can’t script that.
Jim: You can’t script that guy.
Al: Hard – hard guy to script.
Jim: (Laughter) That is pretty funny. But – but your dad, Phil – um, he came from some rough beginnings – and your mom, Miss Kay. So what was going on in your childhood – the 40,000-foot view that really, um, you know, moved you in a direction where forgiveness wasn’t the theme of the home?
Al: Well, I think, just to be honest with you, watching my mom, um, struggle so mightily for the first almost 10 years of my life because dad was such a – a bad person. And, uh, she – so she just had this daily, you know, situation where it was like, “Do I – how do I function today? How do I live?” And so I watched her, uh, extend that forgiveness to my dad on a regular basis. I mean, he was – he was unfaithful to her. Of course, he was – he drank and did drugs. And so all these things that he did – and yet she was willing to still love him and to still try. And, uh, she even had his family saying, “OK. You – you know, you just need to take the boys and go. He’s – Phil’s not going to change. He’s been this way from 18 till now.” He was almost 28 years old. And so she even had other people saying, you know, “Quit. Walk away.” But she just – she said she kept going back to her grandmother, saying, “One day, you’ll have to fight for your marriage.” And she didn’t understand that when she was a young girl. She thought it was, you know, you know, forever and great. And she didn’t realize that this was what her grandmother was talking about. So, you know, she wilted and she – she bent, but she didn’t break. And so I think from my perspective, I think watching that…
Al: …Really shaped me and instilled something strong in me. And of course, my mom and I are still super close now. And I didn’t really hold a grudge against my dad. Jase says that he did more, you know, because he remembers some of it. He was quite a bit younger than me.
Jim: You’re the firstborn.
Al: I’m the firstborn, so I remember the abuse and everything, but I never really – I never really – I still respected and loved him. You know, it was interesting. But I think I got that from mom…
Al: …Because her heart was so pure in it. You know, and still to this day, it’s so funny because now, you fast forward and they’re in their 70s, and mom is just, you know, spicy now.
Jim: Right (laughter).
Al: She just tells him whatever, you know.
Al: Oh, exactly.
Al: And – and – and dad’s almost, like, taken aback…
Al: …Because all those years, she was just so compliant. But she’s – she’s earned that, and he – he – they’ve – they’ve grown to that together…
Jim: When you look at that – that experience, her ability to withstand that withering period of time – that really is the beginning of forgiveness, isn’t it?
Al: It is.
Jim: I mean, that’s when forgiveness is starting, is when you can stand in there, knowing that this is tough but knowing there’s a better future potential. “I’m going to fight for that future.” That feels like the beginning of forgiveness.
Al: Well, especially – you’re right, especially when it – every day becomes a barrage of what happened yesterday. You know, it just continues on. And so if you don’t have that heart that’s willing to say, “I’m not going to – you know, tomorrow can be different, and we’re going to try to make some moves in the right direction.” If you’re just staying in that bad place, forgiveness can’t, you know, expand. It can’t go any further.
Jim: Yeah. And the other big thing in that story is that forgiveness doesn’t take the act, or need or require the act, of the person who’s offending.
Al: That’s right.
Jim: The forgiveness starts way before in your own heart…
Jim: …The offended.
Al: That’s right. Yeah. And – and that’s where you can then grow into something completely different, which is exactly what happened in my parents’ case, because when dad finally broke – he got to his desperate place – he then looked at his own life, and he just thought, “It would only be through the grace of God that I could be any” – I mean, he looked at those ten years of wreckage. And so when he embraced that from God, then all of a sudden, he became a man that he never thought he could be, because dad didn’t trust anybody. I mean, still to this day, he struggles with that.
Jim: It’s so – it’s so good. And man, my mind’s just running with the questions because I know there’s people listening where – they’re at some point of this…
Jim: …Maybe right at the beginning where your mom was.
Jim: And – and they can’t believe there’s any hope in their case. They – they’re wanting to believe this, but that equation where – when it starts in your own heart, and God will honor that mustard seed. That’s what Scripture talks about – being faithful even though the circumstances aren’t there. That’s the story of your family.
Al: It is. When I present to – to audiences, I show a picture of the last night we filmed Duck Dynasty, which was about two years ago this – this month. And it’s a very regal – you know, all three generations are there, and there’s mom and dad in the middle. And the audience loves it because that’s – “You know, man, that’s the family we wanna be – three generations of faith.” And then I show a picture from 1972…
Jim: (Laughter) Right.
Al: …When mom was pregnant with Willie.
Al: And there – there I am, and there’s little bitty Jase, who’s about 3 years old. And – and I say, “This family could never even imagine that other family.” Become a family over 40 years.
Jim: Well, and that’s – that’s what we want to get into. I’m sure people are already leaning in, going, “Wow. This is where I’m at.” Lisa, it’s taken a few minutes to get there…
Jim: …Because again, this is such an incredible topic. Your family of origin – across town in Monroe (laughter), Louisiana, right?
Jim: You’re living a – a different world in some ways. Um, what was happening in your family at that 40,000-foot view? You were suffering from abuse that you kept silent.
Lisa: Right. Um, suffering and no one knew. Um, but yet, my family wanted the perfect family.
Jim: So to project that…
Lisa: That’s right.
Jim: …Perfect family.
Lisa: They wanted, um – whenever you looked at us, we were the all-American family, and – and they had it all together, and…
Lisa: …And it was totally not true. Um…
Lisa: My family was a family who, whenever we were all behaving and doing what we were supposed to, we were in church. And with three kids, that’s probably not very often.
Lisa: …Probably Christmas, Easter – you know, the major holidays. But, you know, if we were – if we were all behaving, then it was OK. But if not, we still had to project that perfect family out there.
Jim: Mm. So very conditional.
Lisa: That’s right. Um, not from my dad so much – my dad, um, is my hero. Uh, he was, um, my – my first love, you know. But he – I think he allowed my mom to be that way.
Lisa: Um, and I think all of that went back to her past also, you know, of that conditional love. She was always loved on condition, and it was…
Lisa: “If you do this, you’ll get our love.” “If you do this, you know, we’ll love you.” And so that’s kind of the way she was raised, and so that’s how she raised us…
Lisa: …Was that condition.
Jim: Lisa, let me ask you for the sake of that person – it – it could be a mom, it could be a daughter – and that abuse was traumatic sexual abuse that you suffered. And of course, we have that really well-detailed. You were gracious and open in that – that broadcast we did.
Lisa: Mmm hmm.
Jim: You can get that at our website. John, you’ll give details in just a minute. And you go into far more of the story. But – but in that context, it felt like, to me, that you learned that silence about the bad things was the better approach for the family, that you just kind of kept it in so that you could project – and aid your mother, particularly, in projecting that everything’s great, that – that we’re a totally solid, good family. How many people are suffering from that kind of environment right now – a teen girl, a mom who’s suffering because she’s in bondage to that? Describe that again and – and what a mom can do to begin a journey toward a healthy relationship.
Lisa: Well, Jim, we hear this all the time whenever we speak because I talk about that in the speeches that we do. And when we’re signing books, I mean, I have people walk up, and you know who they are because they’ve got tears in their eyes. And they’re like, “My life is your life. The same things happened to me.” And I always tell them that, “you don’t know how you’re gonna react later in life to things that happened to you as a child.” I learned that I could never be honest about anything. About who I was, about what happened to me..
Lisa: …Or anything.
Lisa: And so honesty was not the first thing that I went to. It was – whatever looked good is what I went to. So if I had to tell a lie for it to look good, that was OK too. But, you know, I tell people all the time, “You don’t have to live in that lie.” That’s a lie that Satan will throw at us and say, “Look; if you do not project the perfect family, people will not respect you. People will not like you. You’ll have no friends.” And that is the farthest thing from the truth…
Lisa: …That there could be, because people – people actually respect that you can come out and tell people what has happened to you. They respect honesty. And, you know, people like to be around people who are honest.
Jim: Right. It draws them upward, not downward.
Lisa: That’s exactly right. I don’t want to be around someone who’s negative all the time and bringing me down or someone who won’t tell me the truth, you know?
Lisa: And so from – probably from 35 on, and – and that was, you know, whenever I had the revelation in the backyard. From 35 on, I decided this is going to be my life. I am going to be a person who tells the truth.
Lisa: I am going to be honest. You can determine that. You don’t have to wait that long. You can determine that, um, you know, right now today.
Lisa: You just – you just say, “Honesty is gonna be my first quality.”
Jim: Right. In fact, you give five ways for forgiveness that can start that journey, and we’ll post that at the Web site.
Jim: And, uh, John, why don’t you give those details now?
John: Sure. Yeah. We’ll have that list and, uh, the audio that Jim mentioned of previous conversations with Al and Lisa Robertson. They’re our guests today. Uh, stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or if you’d like, call us. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word family.
Jim: I mentioned that five ways of forgiveness, or five-way forgiveness. Describe the five ways.
Lisa: Well, I think first of all, it starts off with you and the forgiveness that you receive from God.
Jim: That can be hard for people.
Lisa: Oh, it’s – absolutely. It’s one of the hardest things, I believe, is to actually believe that there is someone out there who loves you enough to forgive all the rotten things that you’ve ever done in your life.
Lisa: I mean, that’s a hard thing to think about.
Al: And it’s back to that conditional thing we talked about a minute ago. It’s hard to imagine an unconditional God that says, “I love you that much.”
Jim: “I love you no matter what.”
Al: No matter what.
Lisa: That’s right.
Al: And so we feel so rotten. So to embrace that – to me, it’s one of the biggest faith issues people have, is that God’s that big.
Lisa: And I think the second one, um, comes from – you receive that forgiveness from the person that you’ve offended. Uh, in my case, it was Alan. And I had an affair 15 years into our marriage, and I was not honest about who I was the first 15 years that we were together. And so I had to ask him…
Lisa: …To please forgive me because if he didn’t forgive me, our relationship was not going to go forward. And I believe that’s – that’s No. 2. You have to ask for that forgiveness from the person that you have offended.
Jim: Yeah. Al, let me – before we move on to that ‘cause that – that’s a tender statement you’ve just made, and I want to capture that because, again, someone, maybe many people listening are in that spot where they have an unfaithful spouse. Al, um, you know, those are very difficult things to deal with, obviously. Lisa comes to you and says, “I need forgiveness.” Um, many people in the Christian world, that’s the – the e-ticket for, you know, us, old Disneyland people.
Al: That’s right.
Jim: That’s the get-out-of-jail-free card.
Jim: I’m gonna – I’m gonna leave this marriage because God says I can. This is one of maybe two things I can, uh, walk away from the marriage. But you didn’t.
Al: You know, I – and I had a lot of people advising me to, you know?
Jim: I’m sure.
Al: Just like people were telling my mom earlier, you know…
Al: “…You need to leave your dad.” There’s – I think, Jim, there’s two things that happened. And I’ve seen this in so many other couples after Lisa and I. It certainly happened with me. There’s kind of a two stage when it comes to this forgiveness. One is you’re able to say, “Well, yes, I can get past what you’ve done to me.” But then that second in a relationship, in a marriage – that second one of, can I now say, “I’m not going to allow this to hurt us going forward.”
Jim: Yeah, we have to go forward.
Al: That’s right. And so – and that’s total – that’s a whole ‘nother step. You know, that first step of just saying, “I have the capacity to do it.” You know, God’s forgiven me, so I can forgive somebody. But can I live that forgiveness?
Al: Or – ‘cause the first time she does something I don’t like, or she’s dishonest, I’m gonna wanna go back and drag all this stuff up and throw it at her.
Jim: Oh, yeah.
Al: And so that to me, that two-step process of forgiveness, was the key to us being able to make it in – in our marriage and our relationship. And – and to be honest with you – you asked why I was able to do it – I don’t know. I just was. I’ve run into people that didn’t and couldn’t. And – and I hate it for ‘em because I know the – the potential was there.
Al: But I just knew somewhere deep down that she – there was something more, that she could be something different than what she had been those first 15 years with the dishonesty.
Jim: You’re really – I mean, it takes my breath away – you’re really describing how God sees us.
Al: That’s right.
Jim: You know, that’s the – that’s the – the mere thing here. That’s – this is what God is trying to show us in this life, is that these are my attributes when you…
Jim: …Can forgive and take that next step.
Lisa: And he had a great…
Jim: I do it every day with you (laughter).
Lisa: And he had a great example, you know, in his mom.
Lisa: And so he lived it, you know, the first 10 years of his life. That’s what he lived…
Jim: Yeah. What a great statement.
Lisa: …Was watching his mom.
Al: And she’s one of my heroes now because she became something different. I mean, that was powerful. Not – not a lot of people can do that.
Jim: Well, I think – what we see – you know, we do marriage counseling through Hope Restored, a great program here at Focus. But the intimacy level – and I’m talking about emotional intimacy. Physical intimacy is kind of the byproduct of that. But spiritual intimacy, emotional intimacy is far deeper in these couples that go through great trauma…
Lisa: Mmm hmmm.
Jim: …Like affairs and things.
Jim: When they come back together, and it’s healthy, there’s something unique. Have you experienced that? The closeness…
Lisa: Oh, yeah.
Jim: …That you have for each other.
Al: No doubt.
Lisa: I’m tellin’ you…
Jim: It’s like you’re fully known, and you’re still loved.
Lisa: That’s right. Look. I’m – I’m tellin’ you, I never thought anywhere along my journey of life that I could be as peaceful, as forgiven, as just calm – my life is just – it’s calm. There’s no chaos. And I believe that’s because Alan knows everything about me. I have no secrets. I do not have pass codes that he does not know. He knows everything about me. And I believe that’s very important because the way I react to things – if he doesn’t know what’s happened to me in my past life, you know, he’s not gonna understand why I do the things that I do. But as now, he knows exactly why I react to things because I’m an open book with him.
Lisa: And he with me. Um, I know things about him that no one else knows. And to me, that’s where that intimacy comes from, that emotional intimacy. And that is knowing another person like no one else does. And I believe that can be, attained in any relationship…
Lisa: …As long as you’re open and honest with one another.
Al: And, you know, as an encouragement to the listeners, I would say this ‘cause some of the people may be just a year or two removed. And it still seems so raw and hurtful, and – and I get that. It took Lisa and I several years to live this. But somewhere along the way, we both looked at each other and said, “We wouldn’t change anything that’s happened.” Even all the bad stuff – everything.
Jim: ‘Cause it was so much better.
Al: Because it’s so much better.
Al: And so, you know, for some couple out that’s just hangin’ on, saying, “You know, man, I – I’m not sure,” I’m tellin’ you, it can be so great that you would actually look back and say, “We would do it all again to get here.”
Jim: Yeah. Well, listen. Let me finish the other three ‘cause I have a couple more questions before we end today.
Lisa: OK (laughter).
Jim: But we will post these. Forgiveness from God, you mentioned. Forgiveness from the one who was offended, uh, forgiveness from the family of God…
Jim: …Meaning your church. And there’s a lot to that. Uh, next, forgiveness extended to the one who offended her, your abuser.
Lisa: Mmm hmm.
Jim: We gotta pause there for a moment. We can’t blow by that one. How can you honestly do that?
Lisa: Well, I really think that mine began – the forgiveness began whenever I realized how sinful I was. Whenever Alan and I were talking that night, 15 years into our marriage. And – and I told him all the things that I had been doin’ and things that had gone on in my life. Whenever I looked at that person, I didn’t recognize him.
Lisa: I did not know who they were. And, you know, I was just sitting there, thinkin’, that was me? I’ve done all that?
Lisa: And so I think that that is when God started working in my life on that forgiveness because He said, “You know what? You’re not a poster child here. Uh, you’ve got some sin in your life, too.” And I think whenever you try to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes, and you say, “OK, now I know why somebody did what they did” – whenever you try to understand their past, you know, the things that happened to them, then I think you can then say, “I can forgive them.”
Jim: Lisa, I need to ask this because I’m sure some women is – particularly when it comes to that kind of abuse, it’s easy to begin to justify all of your ills, your own bad decision-making because of that person that did this to me.
Jim: It’s still their fault.
Lisa: Mmm hmmm.
Jim: The fact that I make bad choices at 25, 35 – how do you restrain yourself and look inward rather than continue to point the finger?
Lisa: Well, I think you gotta realize there are reasons why we do the things that we do. But we cannot use those reasons as an excuse.
Jim: Mmm hmmm.
Lisa: Whenever we become a Christian, it’s our responsibility then to live like Christ. We cannot go back then on what’s happened in the past and say, “Well, you know what? I have a reason. I – I have an excuse. I can – I can live this way because of what happened to me.” But no, you’re a new creation in Christ.
Lisa: And – and all of that’s gone. The past is gone. We can’t change it, but we can move forward from it.
Jim: And what you’re kind of describing there, as we wrap up today, is generational sin. It sounds like a, you know, biblical term. It’s something that happened way back then. But it still happens today. These are sins that are passed on. Oftentimes, uh, physical abuse, sexual abuse falls into that category. Someone who has been abused usually is a – an abuser.
Lisa: That’s right.
Jim: That would be an example of generational sin.
Jim: Is that what you’re kind of aiming at?
Lisa: That’s exactly right. Yes. My mother, um, whenever I told her about the abuse, told me that she had been abused. And I have heard from some people in her family that they had been too. I know that the person who abused me was abused. And so at that point, whenever I get into that person’s shoes, whenever I put myself in their life, then I can say, “I understand.” Not that – I’m not giving them an excuse for it, but we have to understand why people do what they do. And I think understanding their past, um, helps us to do that.
Lisa: And generational curses – it is something that if you do not put your foot down and say, “This will not continue past me…”
Lisa: “…It will not go into my children or my grandchildren”- if you do not do that, then we continue to live out that curse in each generation.
Jim: And it – it’s a whole variety of things. It’s attitudes…
Lisa: Oh, it is.
Jim: …And perceptions and the way you teach your kids and your parenting that bring about these kinds of things. And it’s not just something…
Al: That’s why another – another reason why she’s my hero…
Al: …Because now my daughters and my grandkids are not living under that curse.
Al: Because their mam – their mom – made a decision. It’s going to end with me.
Al: And it has.
Jim: Now, that’s amazing.
John: Mmm hmmm.
Jim: Whew. Al and Lisa, this has flown by, like it always does with you two.
Jim: I mean, wham, we’re just here, right?
Jim: And, uh, it’s the way it is. Uh, what a great book, Desperate Forgiveness. And, uh, I’m sure many of you are saying, “This is me. This is my life. This is what I’ve been living.” There is so much help and practical help, particularly in this book. And we’re gonna come back next time, if you’re willing.
Al: We are.
Jim: And let’s talk about that practical help in moving toward forgiveness. We certainly have the five ways of forgiveness, the five-way forgiveness approach. And we’ll post that. And, uh, come back next time with even more great help. If you can, uh, help us financially, maybe become a monthly partner. That’s what Jean and I do. Uh, John?
John: We do the same.
Jim: You do the same?
John: Mmm hmmm.
Jim: It just helps us with budgeting. And if you can become a monthly partner to “Focus on the Family” to bring great help to hurting souls, which is what we’re trying to do each and every day with marriage and parenting and even saving the life of a child – all of that, uh, goes right back into ministry – if you can help us monthly, uh, we’ll send you a copy of, uh, Al and Lisa’s great book, Desperate Forgiveness: How Mercy Sets You Free as our way of saying thank you. And if you can’t do that right now, it’s understandable – maybe a one-time gift of any amount. If you can’t afford it at all, that’s OK. We’ll get the book into your hands because forgiveness is free to all (laughter).
Al: That’s right.
Jim: And the tools of that should be free to all. But, uh, we just like the idea of stepping up and helping us do ministry together. And in kind, we’ll send you the book to say thank you. So, um, be that supporter. Let’s work together to make, uh, God better known in a world of pain.
John: And if, uh, you need to talk to one of our counselors, we have a great team of caring Christian counselors. They can help you start the road to forgiveness and, uh, to healing. Maybe you resonated with what Lisa was sharing. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. You can donate and schedule a time to talk to one of our counselors – again, 800-232-6459. Or online, you’ll find all the resources we’ve mentioned and more at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. 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 next time as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.