1 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do.” As a pastor, it wasn’t uncommon when counseling a couple that one of them would become historical. They would begin enumerating everything their spouse had done wrong. It’s tempting to keep a “screw-up list” as ammunition for future fights, but in a healthy relational dynamic, love doesn’tkeep score. Healthy relationships practice forgiving each other a lot! It is not uncommon for grieving families to expose have “family feuds” in the presence of the funeral director. As the Director of Aftercare, I must embrace the need to talk openly about forgiveness. Forgiveness is not only the most difficult act of love but is very often misunderstood.
FOUR THINGS FORGIVENESS IS NOT
FORGIVENESS IS NOT CONDITIONAL
Authentic forgiveness is not based on someone else’s response and thus is not earned. Forgivenessis not reserved just for the unintentional hurt.
FORGIVENESS IS NOT RESUMING A RELATIONSHIP WITHOUT CHANGES
This is one of the most misunderstood concepts. Forgiveness is not the same as restoring a relationship. Forgiveness is immediate, but reconciliation requires time and effort. Trust must be rebuilt over time. Forgiveness takes care of the damage done but doesn’t guarantee a restored relationship. Forgiveness is my part in reconciliation, with someonewho’s hurt me. We’re obligated by God to forgive, but we are not obligated to trust that person or instantly restore the relationship. An abusive spouse batters his wife repeatedly until finally she says, “No more! You’re harming me. You’re harming the kids. You’re out of here.” And if he comes back and says, “I’m so sorry. I’m ashamed of what I’ve done. It will neverhappen again. Will you forgive me?” She is spuritually and morally compelled to say, “Yes, I do forgive you.” But when he says, “OK! So, I can come back home?” That’s another issue! To require the earning of trust is not unforgiving, but part of the healing process. Forgiveness requires mercy…Trust requires change!
FORGIVENESS IS NOT… FORGETTING WHAT HAPPENED
We’ve heard the cliché “Forgive and Forget”. The problem is that it’s impossible to forget. Our brains are God-designed computers for stored memory. Scientists tell us that our brains are naturally programmed to not forget anything. In fact, repressing the memory is unhealthy. There is something better than denial that requires spiritual maturity. It’s called “Remembering-but-Realizing”, the willingness to understand that, even though this terrible thing happened to me – through the hurt, I choose to turn it around and use it for good.
“Remembering-butRealizing” helps us move from the past to the present in a healthy way. It gives meaning to the phrase, “letting go and move on!” It’s about letting go of the pain, the hurt and the anger; letting go of the bitterness by refusing to hold on to it, because we are just not wired to forget. I’ve had people ask, “When will I get to the point where I forget all those hurts?” It ell them, “Never.” The key islearning to see it through the lens of God’s love, grace, fairness and hope. I can tell you from experience that God gives hope to the wounded heart!
FORGIVENESS ISNOT… MY RIGHT – WHEN I AM NOT THE WOUNDED ONE
I can’t forgive people who haven’t hurt me. This is an unhealthy concept; offering a kind of blanket forgiveness to those whom we have no legitimate right to forgive. Not long after the Boston Marathon bombing, a Richmond woman arranged to have the terrorist Sarniev’s body buried just up the road in Caroline County. She announced that we must forgive Sarniev. She said, “I have forgiven Sarniev.” The problem is none of her relatives were murdered or injured in Boston that bloody day. She wasn’t maimed or crippled. Shehad no ethical or spiritual authority to offer a forgiveness that wasn’t hers to offer. You and I can only forgive those who’vehurt us. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be angry at someone because oftheir actions. I simply cannot and should not offer forgiveness to someone onbehalf of someone else.
Thefuneral business is a complex inter weaving of science, law and economics, as well as emotional and spiritual care. We often find ourselves caught in the middle of family conflict crossfire. We must navigate the choppy waters of family relationships infected with the bitterness of unresolved conflict. The more we understand the nature of forgiveness, the better equipped we will be to helpfamilies as agents of healthy change.
Director of Aftercare
Morrissett Funeral & Cremation Service