My Life, Forgiveness And Jesus Christ

Somehow, it has become the popular notion that to forgive means to forgive and to forget.  I don't think this is actually possible and I certainly don't think Jesus Christ ever said anything like that.  What I remember Jesus saying is ,"If your brother sins, reprove him.  If he repents, forgive him."

Before I talk about my own challenges with forgiveness, I would like to explore what Jesus said a little more.  His teaching about forgiveness entails a two-fold responsibility.  The first part of it is to reprove the sinner.  Ouch.  That is more easily said than done.  How does an abused child reprove his parents?  I think the answer is, when the time is right.  If you know that someone has done wrong to you it is actually contrary to the teaching of Christ to just let it go.  He clearly says to reprove. 

There has got to be a technique to reproving.  I think at the outset, before you go reproving you should stop and think about your own rotten sins.  And we all have those.  If you have to reprove a parent or superior, there has also got to be respect shown for their position.  If you have to reprove a child, it must be done with reassurance, firmness, gentleness and lovingkindness.

Then there is the other part ot forgiveness.  "If he repents, forgive him."  And what a big "if" that is!  If.  Not unconditionally.   If.  There is one person who comes immediately to mind in the life of Jesus Christ on Earth and that is Herod.  Herod is the one person in the Gospel accounts Jesus refused to talk to.  For those unfamiliar with the story, Herod was the one who ordered the murder of St John the Baptist (Jesus's cousin) to please Salome.  Why did she and Herodias want John the Baptist out of the way?  He kept reproving Herod for his adulterous affair with his brother's wife, Herodias.

Jesus Christ said, "If your brother sins, reprove him.  If he repents, forgive him."  Herod was reproved by St John the Baptist but he did not repent and murdered the saint.  Jesus refused to speak to him.

Hmm.

Now for my life.  I am truly more concerned about my wrongdoings than what anyone has done to me.  I am actually happy when I have the opportunity to forgive someone who is sorry as I feel it will help me to find mercy.

Stuff happens of course.  I have issues over my family, especially my father.  He has apologised, and I have attempted to forgive him.  The problem is, he keeps reneging on his apology.  He oscillates between being sorry and trying to blame someone else.  I find accordingly, I have to keep reproving him.  That is not the way I want it to be with my father, but it would be intolerable otherwise.  I do have some pity, as apart from my sister, no-one else will have anything to do with him and he is an old and frail man.

I think it is helpful to have the preparedness to forgive.  But you don't forget.  Let's be realistic.  Where would be the merit in forgiving if you did forget?

  Forgiveness is an act of healing and an act of love if the pre-requisite repentence has been obtained.  

Let me give an example.  My current boss was also my boss in another workplace in another country.  We had a big falling out over his refusal to deal with a bullying situation.  I reproved him by giving him an excellent book to read on workplace bullying.  He read it and admitted that he was at fault.  That was a start.  When he move over to my current workplace, he showed in many ways how sorry he was.  In fact, I can't get over how he has changed.  Bullying situations have arisen and he has dealt with them most effectively.  In this situation, it is actually easy and a joy to forgive as you can see the positive growth that has come from it.

perseverer perseverer
56-60, F
5 Responses Feb 23, 2010

You, I think, are one of the few who do.

Dear Perseverer, As usual you are setting a great example for me! I just find the idea of reproving so tricky!!! Is it one of those things that the more you do it the easier and more skillful you become at it? I really appriciate the details and examples you included. I think you are doing right by constantly holding your father to account for what he did, in my opinion that is exactly what our guy JC would want us to do.

In this instance we are not talking about interactions between normal, well balanced people, but rather about survival skills when living with abusive people. So I will pm you as we have much to discuss.

Excellent questions, Cumbersome, and ones I continue to grapple with.<br />
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When someone does not ask for my forgiveness, I reprove them anyway. For example, I was recently offended by a doctor in the ER department. He knew I was offended, but he did not say sorry and he did not ask for my forgiveness. So I wrote a letter of complaint to the hospital, to the Minister for Mental Health and to the local MP. And I was informed, via the Minister for Mental Health, that the doctor was sincerely sorry. Not that I care two hoots about my hurt feelings being assuaged. It was more about making sure Mental Health patients receive appropriate understanding and support.<br />
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When someone claims they did nothing wrong .... This one I come up against all the time as a teacher. I spoke about it in my story, "Dobbers". I have two techniques I use. First, I bring in witnesses. Second, I use the power of three. You say what they did once, then twice, then a third time. Don't ask me why it works, it just does. I was taught this technique by a psychiatric nurse come social worker who was an expert at dealing with paedophiles.<br />
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When someone repeatedly offends me .... well, this is what as human beings we do, isn't it? We are fallible and wonderful at the same time. Recidivists continually groping for reform.<br />
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Our preparedness towards one another to forgive is marvelously liberating. I often think how my husband never, not once, criticized me for gaining so much weight. The process of losing it was made so much easier because I didn't feel under pressure, I felt accepted whether I succeeded or not.<br />
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With my father, it was more complicated. When he apologized for sexually abusing my daughter, I wanted to believe that he was being sincere and I did forgive him. But I still kept him distant. After about 7 years I allowed him to visit. And before long, he was being just as arrogant and offensive as ever, exonerating himself and claiming that he never touched her, it was her brother. And I was forced to conclude that his original apology was nothing more than a face saving expedient. <br />
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So I continued to see Dad, but I went to lengths to keep him away from the rest of the family. I would take him on long drives. And when he started carrying on with his clap trap I would just give it to him straight. I would tell him exactly what he did, and how offensive it was to hear him trying to excuse himself. That he had a problem and could at least try to be honest about it. He would change the subject. <br />
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In my own mind, I felt I should keep trying to have a preparedness to forgive. In my last conversation with him I told him there were no hard feelings and that I was grateful for certain things he did give me. And I meant it. And I do think it helped him to die well.<br />
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So, I don't know whether what I did was the right thing or the best thing, but I think it was all I could do under the circumstances. I was prepared to forgive. At the same time, I was shrewd about not allowing him to have any influence on my family, knowing his likelihood to renege. But in the end, I think the preparedness to forgive meant a lot to him and helped him to open to God. At least, I hope so.

A thoughtful and intelligent response. Thankyou!