When Sarah’s husband (whom we’ll call Mark) had an affair, Sarah’s sister, Jessica, had trouble forgiving her brother-in-law—even after years had gone by and her sister’s marriage, with the help of counseling, was back on track.
“I went to confession after being angry for so long, and the priest talked to me about giving the anger to God and being loving instead,” Jessica says. “I can’t tell you the strength I received when I chose to forgive Mark and love my brother-in-law once again. It took a long time to get there, but it was worth it. I now think forgiveness is the most important lesson we have to learn in life. And it’s also one of the most difficult.”
Family is the first teacher of forgiveness. From our family of origin we can learn either a healthy or a dysfunctional way to react to hurt. Jason, father of two, said that when he was a teenager, his father and his uncle got into an argument over a piece of heirloom furniture and stopped speaking to each other. About five years into the silence, Jason’s uncle—still only in his 50s—had a massive heart attack.
“I remember my dad coming to say his goodbyes and how heartbreaking it was for him to try to receive and give forgiveness to his brother who could not communicate with him,” Jason says. “I thought it was beyond tragic that brothers should be in this situation and live with the guilt of all the wasted time that they never spoke. And although I observed this firsthand, I stuck to being stubborn and unforgiving in my own life.”
It wasn’t until Jason had two daughters of his own that he began to change his ways. “I realized that at the foundation of healthy relationships is the ability to forgive and to ask for forgiveness,” he says. “I now consider it a life skill. Maybe it can’t save a life, but it can preserve the quality of life for us and those we love. And it can save our relationships. I would never get over it if my girls became estranged and severed their relationship.” …continued next week
By Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the Best in Class award in 2014 from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for the past four years running. Here’s a sample issue.
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