That morning Josephine forgot to replace her husband’s favourite empty shower gel. Paul picked on and exaggerated about his wife’s oversight, “I have been bathing without soap for a whole week.” Because of it they fought bitterly so bitterly that for the next seven months both slept in separate rooms and ate their meals in total silence.
In marriage, often than not, two very strong persons live together, who perpetually get on each other’s nerves. Both let a bottle of shower gel ruin their relationship because both plainly refuse to stop hurting and putting each other down. All it takes is just one of them, either one of them, to bite the bullet and admit, “This rut must stop. I’m sorry. Forgive me.”
Of course, forgiveness does not settle all the scores and blames. Forgiveness offers the warring couple not an escape route, but a genuine way out of their mess.
ALL IN NEED OF FORGIVENESS
All of us need forgiveness because we are all wounded people. We are all a burden to ourselves and to those with whom we interact. There is no getting round it. Refusal to forgive imprisons us and blocks all hope for change. We need forgiveness. Nothing else works.
Forgiveness opens us up to our blindness in our zest to secure our own private rights. We simply fail miserably to see the reality of our situation, as the experience of this woman illustrates:
A woman goes into a Starbucks Coffee outlet for a quick lunch. She buys a small cup of coffee, medium-sized bowl of soup and a chicken sandwich. Then she picks the cosiest table and carefully arranges her meal, and her handbag. Then she realises that she has forgotten the fork, knife and spoon. Quickly she goes to the counter for them, only to return and find a total stranger – a man – spooning her soup and drinking her coffee.
Shocked and angry that a stranger is having her meal, she is determined to fight for her rights. She resolutely strides to the opposite side of the table and starts eating from her bowl of soup. One would expect the stranger to apologise and disappear in no time. Far from it. This stranger continues eating and his smile is his weapon. The strongest provocation comes when he offers her half of the sandwich.
At the end of this awkwardly shared meal, he even extends his hand to her. By now she has calmed down enough to accept his handshake as he stands up to leave. She reaches for her handbag. It is gone! She tells herself that she knew from the beginning that he was a thief; he stole her meal, and now he had stolen her handbag too. She dashes to the door, but he has disappeared with her purse, driver’s license, credit cards and all the important documents in her handbag.
As she scans the room helplessly, she discovers, at the next table, her bowl of soup, small cup of coffee, sandwich and her handbag. During all that time it had never occurred to her that it might be possible that she, and not he, was mistaken. [Peter Van Breemen, SJ]
FORGIVENESS: STARTS WITH …
Tension Suspicion Hurt
Abuse Anger Humiliation
Conflict Indifference Hatred
Disappointment Betrayal Revenge
Frustration Bitterness Helplessness
Desperation Despair Hopelessness
Although we know very well that we need to receive and give forgiveness, we are so reluctant because
- the offence against us is so dire that we cannot forgive
- we believe that it benefits only those who have offended us
- the one who hurt us may not be sorry for what he/she has done to us, or may not even realise how much he/she has hurt us
- we cannot forget – it’s impossible to forgive
- we are victims and we are always the losers.
It is here that we need a thorough change of our mind-set, to clarify our basic beliefs towards forgiveness. God wants us to forgive, because it is:
- most importantly, for our own good – it is God’s gift to us
- detoxifying us from our deep-rooted hurt and bitterness
- liberating us from destructive emotions and behaviours
- empowering us to restore to wholeness
- the spark-plug that kickstarts a reconnection
- an affirmation that as a person we all need others
- ideal for health and healthy living.
To give and receive forgiveness is a profound human need. It sets us free from our broken past and enables us to empathise with the pain and suffering of the partner who hurt us. Revenge or getting even, on the contrary, holds us back as a hostage or prisoner.
All, without exception, can start anew because Christ has done everything to make it possible for us to give and receive forgiveness.
“Never have grudges against others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names, or allow any sort of spitefulness. Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.” [Eph 4:31]
Brothers and sisters, together we seek God’s wisdom and strength to give and receive forgiveness in all our relationships. For this together we pray:
Loving Father, touch us so that we may receive and give forgiveness in our relationship with our spouses. Empower us to accept and revere each other as help-mate and life companions. Bless our families with the fullness of your gift of forgiveness. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.