From talk given by Fr. Denis Phaneuf

The Prodigal Son story can teach us a lot.  In particular, the elder son teaches us the 6 signs of unforgiveness in our lives.’’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ (Luke 15:28-30)

Unforgiveness always keeps score. 

  1. “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.” 
  2. If you’re keeping score or if you keep thinking about how another person offended you over and over, then you are like the elder son.  You need to repent.

Unforgiveness boasts of its own record. 

  1. “I never disobeyed your orders.”
  2. I don’t have any faults, but look at the faults of the younger brother.
  3. We look at other’s faults with magnifying glasses and look at our own with rose colored glasses. We don’t see our own faults.  It’s hard to see our own faults and if someone puts our faults out to us, we don’t like it.  We can get offended even and that’s why often people don’t tell us our faults.  They’re afraid of losing the friendship, stirring up anger, etc.
  4. We judge people for doing some of the very things we ourselves do and we don’t even see it. We need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to see ourselves and our sins and that’s the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God will come upon you and you will become My witnesses. The Spirit convicts sinners as a process of transformation.
  5. One of the works of the Holy Spirit is to be with the sinner. When He is in you, He will transform your soul and that’s what all this Christian struggling is about—getting a transformed soul so we can love the way God loves.

Unforgiveness always complains,

  1. “You never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
  2. We complain to God. It’s always a struggle to grow and love.  Brother is probably a workaholic.  The other one likes parties.
  3. He had a martyrdom complex. We complain to God.  “You didn’t give me this.  You didn’t give me that..
  1. Unforgiveness always divides
  2. This son of yours”  He didn’t say “my brother”
  3. Moses said, “These people are strong headed…
  4. ”Those of you who have kids at home. Then when dad gets home and you say, “You won’t believe what YOUR son did today”
  • Unforgiveness always accuses, exposes, and continues to bring up offenses of others. 
  1. “This son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes.”
  2. It brings it up again and again. It’s like a person that says, “I’ve finally forgiven my son because he really did a lot of bad stuff.  He did this and that, but I forgive him.  By that time the neighbor has an ear full and goes on to talk about him.
  3. God says to us, “Drop it. Let it go.  Don’t bring it up anymore.”
  • Unforgiveness expresses itself as anger and jealousy.
  1. Look at our lives and see if they are there.
  2. Why should you forgive? God tells us to do it so obedience to the Word of God is critical.
  3. Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived.
  4. 12:13 When it comes down to it, if we should fear God, revere and worship Him, and keep His commandments. Forgiving people is one of His commandments.
  5. Some may say it’s just too hard. But look at Deut. 30:11  “Never say it’s too hard.”
  6. We do say that it’s too hard. If you don’t forgive people, it’s like taking a glass of arsenic and then hoping that person dies.  That’s what bitterness and resentment does, negativity in the heart, can actually give you cancer.
  7. We can pray to get released of our hidden anger. We need to repent and forgive God.
  • Happiness comes from obedience. Obedience to God is the foundation to happiness.  Mary said, “Do whatever He tells you.”  How clear can you be?


  • If you don’t forgive, it’s a block. It is a hidden barrier and your prayers won’t be answered.
  • Unforgiveness is a weight in your spirit. It’s like every time we don’t forgive, it’s like a brick in your bag.  Give yourself a break.  When people offend you, don’t take it in.  We have to abandon ourselves like Joseph. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.” (Genesis 50:20).   God has the perfect plan for our lives.


  • Unforgiveness will block your personal relationship with God. We won’t enjoy the presence of God.  That’s why people don’t like to pray.  In the presence of the Lord, there’s joy.  We are afraid to be with the Lord because we are going to be convicted of our sins.  If we want to be in His presence, be ready to be convicted of sins.


  • Make a quality decision.  If you make a quality decision, you’ll have to suffer.  It goes against human nature to forgive.  We want revenge.  You’ll feel that pain for a bit and then you will feel the joy of the Lord.  There’s a difference between a quality decision and superficial one.  NO PAIN. NO GAIN. Be ready to make a quality decision.  Jesus made a quality decision in Garden and He suffered, but God raised Him up.
  • To make a quality decision, you’ll have to depend on God. Beg for the grace and live in context of prayer.  Prayer goes deeper.  Read the Bible and then have silence.  We need to ask the Lord for help.  The devil is out there hunting you like a roaring lion.  Don’t be self-confident thinking you can do it.  You need God to help you.
  • You have to understand your emotions. They will do something in this process of forgiveness.  You begin with a decision.  Emotions are like the elder son.  “I’m not going to the party.  I was obedient.”  He has All these emotions are rising up within him, very negative, when he should have been rejoicing for his brother.  Emotions get in the way.  Don’t let your emotions ruin your life.  Feelings are fickle and they change.  They’re like the caboose.  The engine is like the facts of the faith.  That engine pulls the cars.  At the end is the caboose that follows everything else.  Trains aren’t pulled by the caboose.  People let emotions lead their lives.  Control your emotions.  Don’t let them ruin your life.
  • In Luke 6:27, Jesus said, “I say to you who are listening, love your enemies.” We want to get even.  Treat them well and do good for them.  Did you make a quality decision?  Did you ask God to bless them?”  Say, “In the name of Jesus, I bless…..”  Act nobly towards them and stop negative thinking and resentment.
  • Do good for them. If inspiration from the Holy Spirit comes to you to do good for someone, then do it or you won’t experience freedom.  In Romans 12:21, Paul said, “We overcome evil with good.”  Our flesh always wants revenge.  This has to be beyond emotions.  It has to be a way of doing good.
  • Repent of any curses we’ve put on others. “G’ Damn you” is a curse and we are calling upon God to do it.  We’re supposed to say, “God bless you.”  Curses are negative and bring destruction.
  • Love covers a multitude of sins. When you love people and pray blessings on them and forgive them, then God will give you double for your trouble and it’ll cover a multitude of sins.

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