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"Stop, Drop & Roll:
Forgiveness or Poison?"
          I remember my grandmother telling me a story about a young woman who burned to death because she was unwilling to humble herself, turn from pride and receive help. A rescuer saw her dress on fire and shouted to stop, drop & roll. She just kept running in circles, however, and the flames began to engulf her. The rescuer attempted to rip the flaming dress from her but the young woman resisted, not wanting to be embarrassed by being disrobed.

          What do you do when you are full of rage, bitterness and resentment? What do you do when you feel betrayed by God, others, life, and even yourself? Within the context of my experience with bipolar manic and depressive episodes, and full-blown psychotic episodes, I experienced in mind and emotion what seemed to be outrageous betrayals, assaults and abandonment by others. The pain was real. During a psychotic episode the brain is flooded with a neurotransmitter (bio-chemical) known as dopamine creating an effect not unlike Cocaine or LSD induced state. It produces a distortion of perception, delusional thinking and hallucinations that alter one's experience of reality. My experience with anger and rage and their consequential set-up for bitterness and resentment became very intense.

          As a Christian I found myself facing the challenge to forgive. I came to understand my medical treatment need for managing the bio-chemical imbalance; however, I also knew that I had to forgive or I would become permanently poisoned! This was also blocking my ability to fully realize God's love and forgiveness for me. What to do?

          One day I read in the Scriptures: "For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that it is granted to you, and you will get it. An whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against any one, forgive him and let it drop in order that your Father who is in heaven may also forgive you your own failings and let them drop" (Mark 11:24-25 AMP).

          I knew that I wanted freedom from the self-consuming effects of my anger, rage and deep down bitterness and resentment. Here was a promise telling me that if I asked in faith-believing prayer that my wish could be granted. I noted, however, the contingency. I would have to begin to humble myself and by an act of my will forgive my offenders, real or imagined. This passage became my stop, drop & roll way of dealing with my anger and rage. Simultaneously this was my proactive way of cooperating with the "Therapist of Heaven" who alone could heal my aggrieved spirit and wounded soul.

          Whenever I would stop to pray about this matter, as an act of my will, I would choose to forgive. By this act I would drop off some more of my anger and rage and experience a "cooling-down" that brought an increased capacity for seeing things from a truer and healthier perspective. Then, by an act of my will, I would roll off on to Jesus responsibility for the deep inner healing and deliverance work that I concluded He alone could (and over time would) do.

          Forgiveness is not the denial of a felt offense. It is not the pretense that no offense has taken place, when in fact that is the case. Practicing stop, drop & roll was not for me avoidance but rather a proactive means by which to come to terms with my need to humble myself, seek help, and realize an increase of hope for a healthier future.

          I'm no longer burning up with rage and anger. Bitterness and resentment are gone. Jesus said that we need to love others as we love ourselves. It was essential to first, as an act of my will and obedience to Christ, forgive others as an act of loving myself. I had to do this to help and heal myself. In time it promoted appropriate relationships with others.

Tim Reside is the President of Bright Tomorrows. Tim has completed 108 credit hours of study in Practical Theology, inclusive of 36 hours at the doctoral level, and holds an M.A. in Practical Theology. Tim has been successfully coping with and overcoming bipolar illness since 1979.

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