Monday, February 28, 2005


I’m thinking about forgiveness tonight. How do we forgive if we don’t want to? If our wills are so set against the other person that we can’t imagine a relationship with the person?
I have a rather strong will and a good imagination. I can’t (pronounced "caint" down heah) figure out a way to forgive.

I’m not proud of this. I’m humiliated by it. I am ashamed.

If forgiveness means setting the past behind us so that we can go forward into a new relationship, I don’t know how to do this.
If forgiveness means loving the person despite the damage they’ve done, I don’t know how to do this.
If forgiveness means being able to sit before God and know that I’ve forgiven as I have been forgiven, I’m lost.

As far as I am able to determine about myself, I can forgive. I’ve moved on from wounded moments to continue relationships and found good things in the future. I’ve been forgiven many times by those I love so that the relationships which mean so much to me can grow forward.

But, deep in heart, when I stand to pray with my congregation the Prayer of Confession then offer the Assurance of Pardon, I know that I do not forgive a family member. I wish this were not so.
I have asked God to help me forgive this person. I continue to pray for her.

I try to imagine having a relationship with her and I am repulsed by the idea.
I don’t have to spend time with her or see her often. I’m not sure this helps the situation.
I’ve been given a tiny opportunity to move toward her but don’t trust her enough to do it as yet.
I may never do it.

It’s not enough to hear that it is a "toxic relationship" and that I should just move on.
It’s for these hard-as-hell relationships that Jesus told us to forgive. The easy situations to forgive don’t count for much more than good manners. The entrenched wretchedness of an unforgiving heart is the ideal candidate for the love of Christ to heal.

If I told you the circumstances of this broken relationship, you’d understand that I am being and have been, tested mightily. Big time misery.

I don’t want to be let off the hook because of the other person’s awfulness. What difference does that make? My lack of forgiveness weighs on my heart because I know it is not right. It is not who I want to be.


PPB said...

Wow. Powerful thoughts.

Songbird said...

Have you ever read Lewis Smedes' little book, Forgive and Forget? I found it very helpful. There's nothing worse than feeling this way about a family member. You are in my prayers.

St. Casserole said...

Martha, if the Smedes book is in print still I'll find a copy. Thanks for your prayers.

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

I can tell that this does really wound you. I do not know that I can help much other than to offer prayers and to tell you that we all do understand because we have all faced those things. I thought that I could never forgive me ex. It hung around my neck like a rotting dog and the stench hurt me...not him. He just ask that we walk new in forgiveness each day. He did not ask that you forget. Just keep practicing and I promise you that one morning you will realize that it is not as hard. What is hard is that your behavior is reguested to change, not hers. Do what you know to do and let Him have the justice. Maybe your change will spark a change in someone else, it may not be her but someone.

Songbird said...

It seems to be available at Amazon, which is good news, since last time I looked it seemed not to be around. Bless you.

the reverend mommy said...

It's a lot harder to forgive a family member than the Joe around the corner. Especially when you share with them the *rest* of your family, your family history and identity, even your genes. And somehow not being able to forgive them also means that there are parts of yourself that are closed off to you.
You are in my prayers.

Texas Jaye said...

I am grateful for you and this post. This problem of forgiveness is with me as you might guess much of the time. How do we know when we have done it? How do we know when it takes hold?

Aola said...

One of my favorite essays in RLP's book is on forgiveness. He says some things that really made me think.

"Forgiveness is the healing of wounds caused by another. You choose to let go of a past wrong and no longer be hurt by it.... It really doesn't matter if the person who hurt you deserves to be forgiven. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. You have things to do and you want to move on."

"Forgiveness does not always lead to a healed relationship. Some people are not capable of love, and it might be wise to let them go along with your anger"

Friday Mom said...

Right or wrong, I tend to take an eschatological view of forgiveness...a version of the already-now-but-not-yet-ness of the kingdom. It's something for which I strive in all my relationships and achieve it at times, but in some cases the best I can do is let go of the power the hurt has over me, and hope there's an opening for a new relationship in the future. I have a family member with whom this is a real struggle. It hurts a lot.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

~m2~ said...

what an honest admission.

i used to struggle with *honor thy father* when my father and i hadn't spoken in 23 years. how could i honor a man who abandoned us? never looked after us, cared? i spoke to someone about it and they said "well, honoring someone means you pray for them and ask God to bless them and pray no harm befall them." i think forgiving someone could fit here too.

listen, i come from an EXCRUCIATINGLY dysfunctional family. get-togethers are just short of searing pain and i am wondering if i could ever bear another one (yeah, just in time for the Easter Get Together, whoooodawgs). i know what it is like to live in unforgiveness and it takes so much energy. i have extracted myself from it for the most part, but simply loving a person by praying for them and asking God's blessing upon them doesn't mean you have to be their best friend. we can love them without having to like them, right?

by the way - when i had finally opened my heart to forgiving my dad? he shared his life with me through telephone conversations, instant-messaging and emails, for a full 7 months before he died. i bless God for giving me the opportunity to let the pain soften enough to open the door, and once opened, i found things were not always as they seemed in my mind as a child, that there were other factors that played into his *not being there*

sorry so long winded, you struck a chord.


Anonymous said...

Forgiveness is never about the other person's faults, its about one's own fault. That's the tough part.

I tell my children all the time. You cannot control how other's act, but you can control how you react to them.

When someone acts bad, you can't make them recant, do it over, rectify it. You have to leave justice for that act to God.

But,giving it over to God does not relieve you of acting right--in spite of the other's bad act. Now, that's the rub. Why do I have to act good when someone's treating me bad? Why do I have to be the nice one? Why can't I just do unto them as they have done unto me?

In the end, we are ---singularly, ultimately, without excuses or attorneys---responsible for how we act and react.

Forgiveness reminds us of that.


ntexas99 said...

Forgiveness has always been a tough one for me as well. Someone once told me that perhaps my father was "too dangerous to love". (this wisdom came from This piece of information was extremely helpful in how I was able to seperate forgiveness from reliquisment or vulnerability.

Of course, this is easier for me now in the case of my father, since he has recently passed away, and can no longer hurt me. But even before he died I was given the opportunity to find some sort of common ground (although it was a very narrow island of opportunity), but it was enough to carry me through his death, and all the unlived moments of our lives.

I sincerely hope that the prayer that is in your heart will see fruition in such a manner; that you will quietly hope and pray for forgiveness, and work steadily towards that goal, only to wake up one morning and realize that you are looking over your shoulder at a successful healing of your heart.

Many prayers, and love ....