Freeing Ourselves Of Barnacles: Learning How To Forgive



He was a sailor.

He loved the ocean and the ships on which he sailed.

And despite the rough and temperamental seas, he always managed to arrive home safely.

He was my children’s hardworking and adventurous great-grandfather, Benjamin O.

Of all the threats to a ship, barnacles may be one of the most fascinating.

In his life history, Grandpa recorded the following around 1924,

“Had the ship’s barnacles scraped and bottom painted. I heard it cost $6,000 dollars.”




On her website, Dr. Jean Davidson shares a short and beautiful metaphor regarding barnacles.

I hope you’ll take the time to read it. You can find it HERE.


When I refuse to forgive or don’t offer complete forgiveness, my life becomes like a ship that is laden with barnacles—heavy and burdened.

All the negative emotions, swirling around within me, are keeping me stuck in the past, and are very subtly, almost imperceptibly, pulling me under, much like the barnacles on a ship. 

But, truth be told, it’s hard to give up old friends.

In a bizarre sort of way, the bad memories, the hard feelings, the heavy burdens, the “barnacles”, feel safe and comfortable.

They have been around for so long that they have become like old friends, constant and familiar companions.

I’ve had to ask myself:

Do I really have the desire to forgive, to step outside my comfort zone and rid my life of these negative emotions, these “barnacles”?

Can I forgive the one who caused me so much turmoil nearly a decade ago?

The one who makes me feel like I’ll never be good enough?

The one who intentionally hurt me at school, at work, at home, at church?


Learning how to forgive takes great effort, so I had to ask myself:


In all honesty, I do!

I want to obey the scriptural command to forgive one another, to be free of the past and fully able to focus on the present, to remove the barnacles that are holding me back, weighing me down, so that I can move forward, with a lighter step, towards a brighter future.


“…forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

I WANT to forgive, I just don’t know HOW to forgive.




The method I had always used to forgive others was not entirely effective.

This is what the method entailed:

Pray to have a forgiving heart, then just try to forget the offense—to let it go. 

I always give it my best shot, but, in all honesty, I feel like the burdens are still there, buried somewhere deep in my subconscious, affecting my attitude and behavior, whether I’m fully aware of it or not.

It is readily apparent to me that I haven’t truly obtained the level of forgiveness I desire.

The truth is, I feel a bit “forgiveness-challenged”.

So when a friend recently asked me to make a list of three people I need to forgive so that she and I could work through the forgiveness process together, I was a little skeptical, to say the least. 

“I’m not sure about this,” I said. “Forgiveness never seems to work for me.”

“Just trust me,” she replied, with a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face. “I have a process that really works.”

Still holding tight to my skepticism, I reluctantly wrote down three names.

“This is a three-step process,” she began.

First, imagine that the first person on your list is sitting directly in front of you, facing you. Pretend to look that person directly in the eye and say to them, “Will you please forgive me for the misconceptions I’ve had about you?”

“Wait a minute,” I cried out, my defenses going up. “You want me to say WHAT? This person INTENTIONALLY did things that caused…me…to…”



I stopped short, unable to continue defending myself. I knew what she was thinking, as she sat patiently looking at me with a sympathetic smile on her face. I knew what she was thinking, and I knew she was right—we don’t know each other’s stories, we don’t know why people make the choices they do, and we have no right to judge them.

With a sigh of resignation, I looked the invisible person in front of me squarely in the eyes and said, “Will you please forgive me for the misconceptions I’ve had about you?”

“Good,” my friend said. “Now it’s time for step two.”

“The second step is to forgive yourself. Say out loud, ‘I forgive myself for the misconceptions I’ve had about this person'”.

I followed her instructions, saying the words out loud, noting that my defenses were slowly dissolving. It actually felt really good to ask forgiveness of myself.

“The third and final step,” my friend continued, “is to ask Heavenly Father to forgive you for the misconceptions you’ve had about this person.”

After doing so, I felt, for the first time, that my forgiveness process was complete.


And it felt good.





Those are the emotions I felt after completing the forgiveness process.


First: Ask the (invisible) person to forgive you

Next: Forgive yourself

Finally: Ask Heavenly Father to forgive you

(Repeat as needed)



After this healing conversation with my friend, I felt like celebrating! 

“I’m no longer forgiveness-challenged,” I thought to myself. “I know how to forgive!”

Learning how to forgive has been life-changing for me, and I love the results it is producing.

To completely let go of the past, to not worry about the future, but to live fully in the present moment—that is my goal.

The act of forgiveness, hand in hand with the act of repentance, allows me to do just that — to live in peace in the present moment.

I am eternally grateful for the ‘fresh water’ of forgiveness, which removes the barnacles of past burdens from one’s life, allowing us to move confidently and smoothly forward, one precious day at a time, until we arrive safely Home.


This video describes a similar forgiveness process. Give it a watch and see what you think!


This post may contain affiliate links.


RECOMMENDED READING: Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt

Day 23 Challenge: Use the three steps mentioned in the post to genuinely forgive someone in your life. 


This is Day 23 of my Write 31 Days series for 2017: 31 Days to an Authentic Life.
For an index of all the posts in the series, please click HERE.


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