Saturday, January 12, 2013

Forgiveness: Good to practice, good to teach

One of the most amazing things I learned when I became a Christian, was the art, the joy and the practice of forgiveness. It was that very thing that led my husband and I to find each other again. Here's how.

Anyone who has been through divorce knows it is difficult, emotionally draining, a time for soul searching for both parties. This was the time when I learned to trust, rely on and have faith in the Lord.

As a part of this, I adored going to church, soaking in all the things I had been missing. One of them was how to forgive and why we should.

Forgiveness for big things, little things, forgiving yourself for things you've done wrong, forgiving others for having wronged you or someone you love. It's not easy, that's for sure.

Forgiveness, like gratitude, takes practice. And sometimes your feelings are so hurt, so angry, so raw, that you can forgive a person and then fall off the wagon when a memory is triggered bringing you right back to the initial moment. So, you forgive again. And again. And again.

As a part of self-forgiveness, I recalled how my current husband and I had broken up 16 years earlier when we were engaged. It was a tumultuous, emotion-filled experience and I didn't always handle my side of it well. I said and did things I was not proud of even years later.

So in 2010, I sent him a message on Facebook after having had no contact those 16 years. My intent was only to apologize for the things I had done wrong. While it took him four months to finally get the message, it opened the door for him to apologize as well. And here we are, together again.

There are two things I have heard about forgiveness that stick with me.

From Divorce Care support group

Un-forgiveness is like taking poison and hoping it kills the other person. 

Un-forgiveness breeds all sorts of bad, dark, unpleasant things inside your spirit, your heart, your soul. It will eat away at you. The other person may or may not care whether you forgive them or not. They certainly aren't aware of the inward battle you fight. Your forgiveness may be meaningless to them, but it will mean everything to you and to God and to those around you who look to you as an example.

From my Mom

Un-forgiveness allows the other person to have power over you. 

Similar to the above, you allow that person to have influence on how you live, think, feel. You can allow them to affect your physical or mental health. Why do that?

Forgiveness is also important to show to your children. Tell them that God, who forgives us for everything we do, wants us to forgive others.

If your child is wronged at school, pray with your child for the person who wronged them. Try and think of reasons why the person may have done this. Did they have a bad day? Were they sick or tired? Did they get in trouble at home? Are their parents divorcing? Have they been taught differently than your child?

Of course this doesn't excuse bad behavior, but it helps to explain it and it helps to forgive if you have some understanding of the circumstances.

If someone wrongs you out in the world, tell your child about it and how you dealt with it and how you found a way to forgive. If your child throws a fit, makes a bad choice, disobeys you, after you have dealt with the situation, tell them that you forgive them for what they did.

And if you make a mistake with them, ask them to forgive you as well. The earlier a person starts to learn this wonderful gift, the better they can make use of it in their life.

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