Forgive Others

In her book, The Liar’s Club, Mary Kerr tells the true story of a married couple who had a major argument over how much the wife had spent on sugar. Instead of resolving the simple dispute, both husband and wife held on to their grudge and refused to speak to each other for forty years. As if silence wasn’t enough to perpetuate their dispute, one day the husband took a saw and literally cut their frame house in half. They lived the rest of their lives in separate sides of the house.

Granted, this story is rather extreme, but it does illustrate the damaging effects of unforgiveness. In years of counseling, I’ve never known a couple to cut their house in two, but I have seen couples who remained emotionally separated from each other because of unresolved offenses.

Forgiving others brings freedom in three areas.
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1. The one who has been offended is set free from harmful emotions.
When offended, our natural response is to become angry, and initially, there’s nothing wrong with that; anger is an instinctual and appropriate response to hurt. But unresolved anger can soon escalate to bitterness, hatred and other toxic emotions.  

Notice who is adversely affected by these toxic emotions - the offended, not the offender. When we refuse to forgive others, it is often we who suffer the most. So we must forgive for our own well-being.

This is why we must forgive even if our offender doesn’t ask for forgiveness. Our offender may never ask forgiveness so we must choose to forgive, otherwise we will suffer twice: once at the offense and on a continual basis if we harbor anger or hurt.  

2. Relationships can be healed.
Philip Yancey, in his book What’s So Amazing About Grace, says, “Forgiveness offers a way out. It does not settle all questions of blame and fairness - often it pointedly evades those questions - but it does allow a relationship to start over, to begin anew.” 

In the early years of our marriage, Mary and I argued often, and sometimes the squabble would become so complex, we’d even forget what the initial issue was. In the heat of an argument, we would drag in issues from the past, present, and even the future. We returned insult for insult. We’d dig in our heels, choose our weapons carefully, and engage in mental and emotional battle.

But as we’ve matured and our love has deepened, things have changed. We still argue, but seldom does it get out of hand. Moments into the conflict we may say something like, “Sweetheart, I love you. Regardless of what happened to cause this dispute, our relationship is more important. Please forgive me for my part in this misunderstanding.” Are we naively ignoring the issues? No, we’re simply maintaining the integrity of our relationship.

Forgiveness is life-giving water poured upon a parched, dry relationship. Without it, relationships can spiral out of control until they are broken or impaired.

3. Forgiveness offers grace to the offender.
President Lincoln was once asked how he was going to treat the rebellious Southerners when they had finally been defeated. The questioner expected that Lincoln would take a dire vengeance, but he answered, “I will treat them as if they had never been away.”

When we forgive others we offer them grace and emotional release from feelings of guilt. 

It’s important to know that forgiveness is a choice; it’s a function of our wills, not our emotions.
We must choose to forgive because we will seldom feel like forgiving. I often illustrate this by holding a pen in my hand and then, as an act of my will, I drop the pen on the floor. Forgiveness is like that; we must drop the issue and the offense. Just let it go.

Forgiving will not always lead to forgetting. It may be hard if not impossible to forget the details and memories surrounding an offense but it will offer emotional relief. 

Written by Don McMinn, Ph.D. — April 13, 2015

This Too Shall Pass

An Eastern monarch asked his wise men to invent a phrase that would apply to all times and in all situations. After careful deliberation, they offered this statement: "And this too shall pass away." When Abraham Lincoln heard the story, he mused: "How much it expresses. How chastening in the hour of pride; how consoling in the depths of affliction.

Four Seasons
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When you’re going through tough times, don’t be overly discouraged because “This too shall pass away.” And when you’re going through times of prosperity, don’t be cocky and proud because “This too shall pass away.” Events are seldom as catastrophic or fortunate as we think. This truth can produce a welcomed state of emotional equilibrium. 

Another Eastern monarch, David - king of Israel, once said, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” He starts the phrase with a conjunction - “but.” It really doesn’t matter what comes before that phrase, it will always be true that God is in an exalted state and that His will cannot be thwarted. This, too, can produce a welcomed state of emotional equilibrium.

What are you currently fretting about? What are you dreading? What are you confused about? Take a moment to reflect on the grandness of God and His love for you. Know that this time will pass and that God’s will is unassailable. 

Written by Don McMinn, Ph.D. — September 04, 2014

Making Important Life Decisions

One of the advantages of engaging in the “One Anothers” is that it delivers us from isolationism and puts us into community. God never intended for us to process life, alone; he wants us to be engaged with others. Here are some thoughts about how community can help us make wise decisions (particularly #3).

In our cars, we may spend 90% of our time going straight, but it’s the turns that determine where we end up. So be careful about the “turns” you make in life. Before you make a life-changing decision, do four things:

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1. Pray – If God is God and man is man, to live our life without prayer is very foolish. The Bible says, “If you lack wisdom, ask God.”   
2. Slow down and think carefully – Some people put more thought into what car to buy than in who they will marry or what job they will take. You can always trade your car in for another model; other decisions are more difficult to reverse. The Bible says, “Consider your ways.”
3. Ask others – All of us are smarter than one of us. Ask your friends for advice, or find someone who has already solved your problem or been where you’re thinking of going. The Bible says “There is wisdom with many counselors.”
4. Trust your gut instinct – Pilots are taught to pay careful attention to what are called “leemers” – the vague feeling that something isn’t right, even if it’s not clear why. Having a label for those feelings legitimizes them and makes pilots less likely to dismiss them. The Bible says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”

Written by Don McMinn, Ph.D. — July 08, 2014

Everyone Thinks of Changing the World

In Leo Tolstoy’s novel, The Death of Ivan Ilych, the protagonist, Ivan Ilych, is a smart, competent attorney who is dying from an unknown cause. 

Leo Tolstoy
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Tolstoy writes: “Ivan Ilych's physical sufferings were terrible, but worse than the physical sufferings were his mental sufferings which were his chief torture. His mental sufferings were due to the fact that at night, as he looked at Gerasim's sleepy, good-natured face with its prominent cheek-bones, the question suddenly occurred to him: ‘What if my whole life has been wrong?’ It occurred to him that what had appeared perfectly impossible before, namely that he had not spent his life as he should have done, might after all be true.” 

What a sobering question.

I doubt if many of us will get to the end of our lives and wonder, “What if my whole life has been wrong?” But all of us should embrace the fact that there are specific areas of our lives that are wrong and need to change. 
    What if you have lived a self-centered life?
    What if you have been harsh with family? 
    What if you have not lived authentically?

Know this: there are areas of your life in which you are wrong. If you think you are an exception to this statement, your pushback betrays your error.

If our wrongs have adversely affected other people, we must heed the words of the apostle James, “Confess your faults to each other” (James 5:16). 

How long has it been since you spoke these words: “I am wrong; please forgive me.”? For most of us, it’s been too long.

And, the good news is that we can change those areas in which we have been wrong. Tolstoy also famously wrote, "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."

But you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge, so step one is to think deeply and thoroughly about areas of your life that need to change and then deal with them one at a time, starting with the areas that demand a confession to others.

Written by Don McMinn, Ph.D. ( — June 09, 2014

Be Still...

Eugene Peterson shares these thoughts about The Poised Harpooner.
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"In Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, there is a turbulent scene in which a whaleboat scuds across a frothing ocean in pursuit of the great, white whale, Moby Dick. The sailors are laboring fiercely, every muscle taut, all attention and energy concentrated on the task. The cosmic conflict between good and evil is joined: chaotic sea and demonic sea monster versus the morally outraged man, Captain Ahab. In this boat, however, there is one man who does nothing. He doesn’t hold an oar; he doesn’t perspire; he doesn’t shout. He is languid in the crash and the cursing. This man is the harpooner, quiet and poised, waiting. And then this sentence: 'To insure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet out of idleness, and not out of toil.'”
In Psalm 46:10 we read, "Be still, and know that I am God.” Like the harpoonist in Melville's novel, we often find ourselves in turbulent waters - demands at work, traffic, house repairs, relationships turned sour, deadlines. When we're being tossed to and fro, before we act and before we speak, we need to be still before the Lord and remind ourselves that He is God. A few moments of repose can make the difference between a frantic, knee-jerk reaction and a calm, appropriate one.
Let's experiment: For the next seven days, for five minutes a day, be still and quiet before the Lord, and then in calm assurance, go "throw the dart."     

Written by Don McMinn, Ph.D. ( — May 19, 2014

Avoid the Hot Stove Effect

The hot-stove effectwas first proffered by humorist Mark Twain. He observed that, “We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it and stop there lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again and that is well but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.”
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Throughout life, we should not allow an early-failure or uncomfortable experience to dissuade us from “jumping on the stove” again. We must carefully study and analyze our experiences and put them into proper perspective. For instance, a new technology may be abandoned because our first experience with it was distasteful. Some divorcees feign the thought of marrying again because of the hurt they sustained in a former marriage. Before making a permanent decision, think carefully.
Throughout my career I have been a public speaker and teacher. Two events in my early years might have derailed that aspect of my career; one happened when I was a child and another when I was a teenager.
When I was eight years old I was asked (with no prior notice) to stand in front of my Sunday School class and pray aloud. I froze up; awkward silence ensued; kids giggled; I was embarrassed. The following week, one of my teachers took the time to meet with me; he spoke words of comfort and encouragement, helped me compose a written prayer, practiced with me in the same room where the nightmare took place, and arranged for me to speak the prayer the next Sunday. All went well and I fully recovered from the debacle.
In high school, I was vice president of my senior class. Once, when speaking before the student body, I had planned on using the phrase “hook, line, and sinker,” as in, “he was so naive that he swallowed it hook, line, and sinker” but it came out “sink, line and hooker.” Uh oh. My classmates were unmerciful. Unfortunately, no one helped me process what had happened but fortunately, I thought carefully about the incident and decided that though it was a bad experience, it need not be a life-changing one.  
A wonderful way to love others is to recognize when they may be susceptible to the hot-stove effect and take the initiative to talk them through the incident and help put it into perspective. I will be forever grateful for my Sunday School teacher (I cannot remember his name); he might have salvaged my future speaking career.  
Take the time to slowly think through your life to discover areas in which you may have overcompensated for a painful or confusing experience. Also, look for times when you can help others negotiate burned paws.

Written by Don McMinn, Ph.D. ( — May 13, 2014

How can we minister to Christ?

When we minister the One Anothers to other people, we are ministering to Christ.

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” (Hebrews 6:10).

Tony Campolo tells the true story of a Jewish boy who suffered under the Nazis in World War II. He was living in a small Polish village when he and all the other Jews of the vicinity were rounded up by Nazi SS troops and sentenced to death. This boy joined his neighbors in digging a shallow ditch for their graves and then faced the firing squad with his parents. Sprayed with machine-gun fire, bodies fell into the ditch, and the Nazis covered the crumpled bodies with dirt. But none of the bullets hit the little boy. He was splattered with the blood of his parents, and when they fell into the ditch, he pretended to be dead and fell on top of them. The grave was so shallow that the thin covering of dirt did not prevent air from getting through to him so that he could breathe.
Photo Credit: - Children in World War 2

Several hours later, when darkness fell, he clawed his way out of the grave. With blood and dirt caked to his little body, he made his way to the nearest house and begged for help. Recognizing him as one of the Jewish boys marked for death, he was turned away at house after house as people feared trouble from the SS troops. Then something inside seemed to guide him to say something that was very strange for a Jewish boy to say. When the next family responded to his timid knocking in the still of the night, they heard him cry, “Don’t you recognize me? I am the Jesus you say you love.” After a pause, the woman who stood in the doorway swept him into her arms and kissed him. From that day on, the members of that family cared for that boy as though he was one of their own.

When we love others, in a sense, we are loving Christ. And when we minister to others, we are somehow actually ministering to Christ (Matthew 25:31–40). This mystery is based on the fact that we are the body of Christ. To love one another is to love Christ, and to neglect or harm one another is to neglect or harm Christ (Acts 9:4).

Written by Don McMinn, Ph.D. ( — January 14, 2014

Keeping it Real

My wife, Mary, and I at the
Perot Science Museum in Dallas.
On the web site, we have a free Love IQ assessment tool. The 76 questions relate to the 19 One Anothers that are discussed in the book. You're asked to rate yourself on a scale from 1 ("I'm not very good at this particular One Another"), to 5 ("I'm very good at this One Another"). 

Complete the tool and you'll receive feedback on how well you do in each of the 19 areas. But note, this is a self-assessment tool. It reveals your opinion about yourself. 

One of the hardest things in life to do is to see ourselves as other people see us. So (gulp), I completed the assessment tool evaluating myself, and then asked my wife (Mary), daughter (Sarah), and co-worker (Francey) to complete the assessment tool evaluating me. Their responses were combined and then averaged. 

This exercise is not for the faint of heart...but I really wanted to know other people's opinion of how well I am loving people. Here are the results:

Self-Assessment Results 360° Results

In ten of the categories I overrated myself (ouch); in nine of the categories I underrated myself.

Two big surprises: I thought I was doing a decent job on Pray for One Another (I gave myself a 4.47) but others rated me a 3.0. I don't consider myself a patient person so I rated myself a 2.67 on Wait for One Another, but Mary, Sarah and Francey rated me at 3.5 (they just don't know...).

This experiment has prompted me to work harder to develop the areas in which I am weak. To become more Christ-like is a life-long quest, and I want to stay at it.

- Don    

p.s. By the way, you can recreate this experiment. Simply recruit three or four people who will take the time to complete the tool with you in mind, ask someone to compile the results (that way the individual responses become anonymous), and then compare the results with your own scores. The online tool is free and you can use it an unlimited number of times.

Written by Don McMinn, Ph.D. ( — September 27, 2013

Looking in the Mirror

We’ve developed a great new tool that will help assess your “Love IQ”.  The assessment tool will ask you to respond to 76 questions and then will rate you on a scale from 1-5 on the 20 One Anothers. The tool is free and will only take about 10 minutes to complete. Go to:

I took the Love IQ assessment myself and want to share the results with you. Even though I am the author of “Love One Another,” I am by no means perfect (just ask anyone that knows me). And, learning the One Anothers is a constant and life-long pursuit. I’ve been working on them for over 60 years now and I will continue to work on them. I want to encourage you to take this online assessment. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers, just be honest with yourself. 

Here are my results, from strongest to weakest:

Relative to the low end:
  • I have to constantly work on my impatience (Wait For One Another). That score was not a surprise.
  • In terms of ‘pray for,’ I realize that I lack consistency in my prayer life.
  • Relative to serving others, I had to admit that though I do serve others, how much is driven by the fact that that’s part of my job – as a minister, I get paid to do it. But then I think about how I use my discretionary time. Usually my free discretionary time is spent on myself. On Saturday mornings, you will probably find me at Barnes & Noble instead of a food pantry.
  • Relative to my low score on Admonish One Another, I realize that I have a difficult time confronting others. On the one hand, it’s just a natural expression of my personality – I’m more of a diplomat than a "confronter" – but then I must understand that at times, the best way to love someone is to admonish him or her.
On the high end:
  • I’ve always been very quick to forgive and I don’t carry grudges. This is mentally and emotionally very liberating, of course. I saw it in my mother’s life and this greatly influenced me.
  • Relative to honoring others, I really enjoy identifying what others are good at and giving them a platform to succeed.
  • Regarding being devoted to one another, once you are my friend, you are my friend for life. Likewise, I’m very devoted to my wife and two daughters. I often tell my wife, Mary, “If you ever leave me, I’m going with you!”

The online tool is a self-assessment tool. It will reveal your opinion of your love-skills. The same tool can also be used to determine what other people think of your ability to love. Simply ask several people who know you well, to go online and answer the 76 questions with you in mind. This is only for the brave of heart.

I’ve asked my staff to contact four people who know me well (my wife, Mary; my assistant, Jean; one of my daughters and one of my friends) and ask them to take the tool – analyzing me, not themselves. They will combine all the scores (to maintain anonymity in the responses) and then post the cumulative scores in all 20 areas. Then we’ll be able to compare what I think of my “Love IQ” with what those who are closest to me think. 

Written by Don McMinn, Ph.D. ( — August 20, 2013

Anger (True or False)

Which of these statements about anger are true, and which are false?
1. I should never allow myself to be angry.
2. Anger can become sin.
3. I often get angry, and that's okay.
4. The more godly I become, the less often I'll get angry.
5. Redheads have a predisposition toward anger.
6. When I'm angry, it's okay to spew on just anyone.

Here are my thoughts:

1.  I should never allow myself to be angry.
False. It's impossible to never get angry; it's actually counterproductive to suppress your anger. Anger is not sin, it's a natural reaction to being hurt or offended. 

2. Anger can become sin.

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True. Ephesians 4:26 says, "In your anger do not sin" so although anger is not initially sinful, it can become sin if it is not properly expressed and dealt with.

3. I often get angry, and that's okay.

False. James 1:19 says "Everyone should be...slow to become angry"; 1 Corinthians 13:5 says, "Love is not easily angered." Although it is acceptable to get angry, it should not be the norm.

4. The more godly I become, the less often I'll get angry.

Could be true, could be false. The more we allow God to perfect gentleness and patience in our lives, the less we'll be upset about petty matters, but spiritual maturity will not shield us from being hurt and getting angry.

5. Redheads have a predisposition toward anger.

Let's not even go there.

6. When I'm angry, it's okay to spew on just anyone.

False. Ephesians 4:15 says, "Speak the truth in love." When we're angry, it's important that we don't spew on whoever happens to be near us at the moment. Actually, don't spew on anyone. In a quite and calm manner, express to the one who hurt you, why you are upset.
The ultimate antidote for anger is to forgive those who have offended you. (For more on this thought, see the chapter on Forgive One Another in Love One Another.

Written by Don McMinn, Ph.D. ( — June 29, 2013

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