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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Your Dying Spouse 122 - Forgiveness

We are enjoined to forgive...but we rarely do it well.

Every marriage has its dark corners, the fell places where grudges live. The things we mentally hold in reserve with which we can punish our husbands or wives.

Sometimes we don't use them. Too often, we do.

It's kind of like a torture chamber we keep ready in the basements of our souls, ready to use on the person we're supposed to love more than we love ourselves.

And when we send them there...we join them on the rack.

But when death is at the door, you've got to put those old hurts aside, and not only bury them...you have to scrub them from your soul, because nothing is a worse torment than facing the unquiet ghost of someone you loved, and should have forgiven.

Easy to say. How do you do it?

First, you don't do it alone.

I mean, you wouldn't remove your own appendix, right? This is a kind of soul surgery, and you have to get it right. Mess it up, and you may not have another chance.

Getting it right is spelled C-O-U-N-S-E-L-I-N-G.

The resources are out there, but the main thing is having someone who can guide you through the story of the unforgiveness, and help you release the pain...without simply pushing it aside to crop up later.

Don't. please start off by approaching your terminally ill husband or wife with a "You wronged me, but I forgive you."

It may work if its something he or she has felt badly about, but most of the things we hold against our spouses don't fall into the 'grand tragic evil' category...they arise from quirks of personality, and your forgiveness may sound high-handed, and can at worst come across as a veiled attack.

If you've got to start out with a personal conversation, the best thing might be to approach it like this...

"You know, it really bugged me the way you left the towels on the bathroom floor after you showered...but it was kind of stupid of me to be mad."

A gentle absolution is often best.

Piggybacking an apology of your own can also help, and can turn the session into a group-hug-bury-the-hatchet thing. Again, it's not the setting to apologize for infidelity or beating up your father-in-law (those need a counselor!), but hogging the TV to watch Downton Abbey when your wife wanted to watch Sunday Night Football...that can work.

Finally, there is the forgiveness of a grudge that was unjustly held by you...

And for that, you must forgive yourself.

If you can, please do leave a comment. I am trying to answer all, and I am failing, but please know this - I read and treasure each one.

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  1. So much in this post that is good and practical for living in peace with our dearest ones. Thanks, as usual, for cutting to the chase.

    1. Thanks so much, Michele. It's very true that we should always look toward forgiveness...but when there's a time limit, it really becomes vital.

      Thank you so much for being here!

  2. Forgiveness is rarely easy, but it's oh, so beautiful every time, whether for big things or small things. Thanks, Andrew, for encouraging us to forgive and to allow ourselves to be forgiven.

    1. Thank you, Lisa...and you're right that extending and accepting forgiveness are really two sides of the same coin. You expressed that beautifully!

      Thank you so much for being here.

  3. This doesn't only apply to our spouses. There may be lots of people we need to forgive.

    1. Yes, indeed, Jan. When I was writing this, I was making a mental list of people I've not yet forgiven. Still a big job, and not an easy one!

  4. Yes, that ole thing called forgiveness! So easy to say...FORGIVE...yet, so hard to actually DO it!! And, I would have to do that every single day. I don't think the..."I forgive you for...but really should not have reacted as I did" just wouldn't work around here. Me? I TRY to ignore the verbal "abusiveness" and just "let it go"; and moments later he doesn't even remember what he did or didn't do...so, yeah, just let it go!

    Appreciate your continued perseverence in sharing your ensights in this "series"!! Prays lifted for you and Barbara.

    1. Oh, Barbara, that's one f the hardest things with which to live, and you're in my prayers.

      I've known people who took pride in 'never apologizing', and that's where I learned to just let things go...and to also use the maxim "never ascribe to malice that which can be as well explained by stupidity".

      Thank you so much for the prayers!

  5. And forgiving ourself can be the hardest one to forgive ...

    1. Absolutely right, Linda. So often we hold ourselves to a harsher standard, out of pride, forgetting that Jesus said we are to love our neighbour AS ourself.

      Thanks so much for being here today.

  6. Great wisdom here, Andrew. When things get buried, they send up shoots, and deepen roots. Pretty soon, there isn't an easy way to deal with the solution. Counseling takes humility, but it's worth doing because a marriage is worth saving. Forgiveness seems like it's first an act of the will with the heart following through (the emotion) later on. When we make the choice to forgive genuinely, then the healing begins.

    I'm praying for you, friend.

  7. Such wise words, Andrew (and the Downton Abby/Sunday Night Football made me giggle ;) ). Counseling is definintely a good idea, especially if you don't know how to start the conversations or say them in a fair way.