(An article for the April 1991 Deep Cove Crier) "Now, Susie," said her placating mother "your brother Jimmy says he's sorry that he broke our doll, so I hope you'll forgive him." "All right," said Susie reluctantly, "but I'd feel more like forgiving him, mother, if I could swat him first!" Forgiveness is something that we all value in out families, and work hard to teach our children. But sometimes the message of forgiveness seems to land on deaf ears. Why is it often so hard for our children to forgive each other? Why is it often so hard for spouses to truly forgive each other?
The Impossibility of Forgiveness
Genuine forgiveness, rather than mere excusing someone, is the hardest action in the whole world (especially when we've been hurt deeply). We are all fairly good at excusing minor annoyances by saying "no problem" or "that's okay". But when we are hurt unfairly and deeply by someone we love, forgiveness often seems totally impossible. Many divorces occur through a long series of minor and major hurts that never had forgiveness applied to each hurt. If we don't forgive that initial smaller hurt, then each subsequent hurt accumulates until a root of bitterness grows up in our hearts. At that point, our heart grows cold and numb, and we often doubt whether we ever really loved our spouses. But the real issue is not lack of love. It is lack of forgiveness.
The Unfairness of Forgiveness
Why is it so hard to forgive? Often it feels so unfair to forgive. After all, they've hurt us deeply, perhaps again and again. Maybe they seem to be getting away with it. Maybe they seem to have rebuilt their life while you are still reeling. Perhaps you feel that to forgive them would be letting them get away with it. To be honest we often don't want to forgive. We want to get even. We may secretly even want revenge. Even "nice people", when deeply hurt, find them-selves wanting "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."
Doing the Impossible
The world's most famous human being said in the world's most famous prayer "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." He said that instead of getting an "eye for an eye we are to love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us (Matthew 5:43). His advice, of course, is humanly impossible. How can we bless the very people we want to curse? Jesus once said "with man this is impossible, but not with God. All things are possible with God." Alcoholics Anonymous states that change can only occur when we admit our powerlessness over our addictions. Many of us are weak so cry out to the Father and confess how bad you are at forgiving -Ask Him to make you willing to be willing to forgive. Confess your addiction to bitterness and your need for a Higher Power to help you forgive. And remember this: the only person really hurt by your lack of forgiveness is you.
Rev. Ed Hird Rector,
St. Simon's Anglican Church
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St. Simon's Anglican Church
North Vancouver, B.C.