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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Your Dying Spouse 262 - Forgiveness

Forgiveness. It's the one part of Jesus' teaching that we'd all rather not hear.

It just seems more right, somehow, to draw a circle to shut out those who've wronged us. And for the most part, we admit it's wrong, confess the error...and keep doing it.

We rub along with that friction in our lives.

But if you're a caregiver, you'll find that you can't. At some point, if you have the unresolved hatred that's the deep definition of unforgiveness eating away at you, you'll go past running on empty, and it'll start to take a toll.

On you, and on the husband or wife for whom you're caring.

You've got to let it go. Easy words, but there's nothing else for it, but to say, "I don't have room for this any more." When you're caring for someone who's dying, you don't.

Because if you don't, you'll start taking it out on the patient, in the form of anger that you want to throw at the real target (assuming the real target is not in fact your spouse).

You'll become short with friends and health professionals.

And worst of all, you'll take it out on yourself, and start destroying your own soul.

There are four categories of unforgiveness:
  • Unforgiveness for someone outside the family - neighbours or co-workers or the guy who cut you out of line at the grocery...these are the unforgivenesses we bring home
  • Unforgiveness of family - the parents who are overly critical, the siblings who are insufferably haughty, the grown children who never call...these are the unforgiven ghosts that  walk through our home, always there, and hard to banish for their long history and close connexion
  • Unforgiveness of your spouse - the wounds to the heart that can feel as fresh and infuriating, even after years
  • Unforgiveness of yourself - worst of all, this is the devil's whispering that you blew it, and that no amount of time can ever wash that away
And to be an effective caregiver, they all have to be released.

Your world will narrow as your mate's illness progresses; you'll be centered in the sphere of care, and if you take these in there with you, you will take them out on the nearest targets available.

Your husband or wife, and yourself.

But how?

The easy and pat answer is, "turn them over to God." It's a good answer, yeah, but not always easy...and sometimes, we're far enough from the Divine that it's not possible. So here are some other suggestions:
  • Never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity - much of what hurts us was not meant that way; it was poorly phrased, and reflects more on someone else's deficiency, or on plain bad manners
  • Did it hurt the soul, or merely the ego? - egos are fragile and prickly things, because they're built on a foundation of air...the ego is how we want to see ourselves, and not who we truly are. Hurt pride doess ache, but it's only superficial, in the end. It doesn't devalue who we are at the core of the soul.
  • Is the person who hurt me that important in my life? - obviously, if its a spouse 9and some family), the answer is yes, but for others...does what they said of did really matter...matter enough to give them that power over how we feel, and the power to keep us from walking the Christian path of forgiveness?
  • It's water under the bridge - no matter what the hurt, it's in the past, and nothing will change it, so why give the past control over the future?
And if you can't forgive yourself for something, ask this - If my dearest friend had done what I hold against myself, would I forgive him or her>

Granted, these won't work for every injury we have trouble forgiving...but they'll work for many, if not most.

What other strategies have you used to reach forgiveness?

I have another blog, "Starting The Day With Grace". The focus is a grace quote from someone you might not expect (like, say Mick Jagger) and a short commentary. I hope you'll join me.

Marley update... been moved to a sanctuary, and Bay County will revise their 'dangerous dog' codes.


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  1. "It's water under the bridge." Ain't that the truth! It is hard to let an emotional injury go because it felt so wrong when we heard it. We get wounded. I agree that during a pressured time, when we're weary of it, we tend to let the words slip or the impatience show. Our boundaries aren't what they used to be. How we react or the ability to forgive is a choice, one that we must repeat often. It is good to be reminded of the need to forgive (and be gracious). Thank you, Andrew.

    1. Norma, you're so right, that our boundaries aren't what they used to be! They get careworn, especially by caregiving. And it is a choice.

      Thanks so much for being here!

  2. I always enjoy reading your thought process and agree with the principles you offer for caregivers, Andrew. This again hits on a very relevant issue that caregivers experience--we all experience.

    With all that said, in my own experience, prayer and Scripture have been the balm that has brought healing to my heart, Andrew. I can't simply read a verse or pray a prayer and v-wal-a, I'm healed! What I'm talking about is "the stuff of releasing my anger to God" that it seems you feel is not possible. But I do feel it is possible and have experienced it over and over again. I think that's also where the rub comes in. People don't want something that takes time, intentionality and constant surrender to God when it is a human being they are angry with. It feels and seems too abstract, indirect and hard to do--especially when there's not always quick relief. But it is my life and has become my lifestyle. Otherwise, I become bitter and take that anger out on those closest to me, like it unfortunately appears you've experienced, my friend. You have my continued thoughts and prayers!

    1. Beth, thank you for this insight - I do feel that releasing anger to God is possible, but it can be awfully hard to do. I can accomplish this - sometimes. But other times, I have to go a more temporal route, sometimes using just the logic that my anger is hurting only me.

      Thanks so much for being here, and for your prayers!

  3. Your list of "hows" are very insightful and extremely encouraging in that they make sense! I like how you boiled it down to its simplest meaning. As I read I thought to myself, she's right! On all counts! :-)

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much, Karen! I really appreciate this, and an grateful for your presence here today.

  4. Once again, your words hit where it hurts! They are so true in my life as a caregiver...OR just in my life!! Years ago, almost 20 in fact, I was attacked. A few years after that, with some soul-searching and journaling and just NOT wanting to continue to be "his" victim, I "forgave" him. No, I didn't go to him and say, I forgive you. No, I didn't write him a letter...well, actually, I DID write him a letter but never intended to mail it! The point for me is, I released that feeling and forgave the act that was so awful done to me.

    And, why do I even bring that up? I think my problems as a caregiver stem from the fact that I have a hard time distinguishing from the person/personality of my husband vs. the dementia/disease acting or saying the things he does or says...and I don't think I have actually forgiven him for it. I usually just let it go...and that's OK too because most of the time he doesn't even remember or feel he's done anything wrong...I STILL should forgive him, even if in my heart and mind. And, I guess, deep inside, I do forgive him when I go on as if it hadn't happened...

    Thank you for your views; we don't all handle these issues in the same way. And, it always helps to read what others' ideas are...yours as well as those who comment!!

    1. Barbara, thank you so much for sharing this. I know it must have been hard, and I appreciate your courage both in the sharing, and in the forgiving.

      To my mind, letting it go is the functional equivalent of forgiveness, perhaps more of the 'forgiven but not forgotten' variety. And we are enjoined to forgive, but as far as I understand it, God's the only one who does the forgetting of our sins after He offers forgiveness. He understands that we aren't quite 'there' yet.

      Thank you so much for being here!

  5. Oh my goodness, Andrew. What a needed post. You brought a lot of depth and practicality to a tender subject.

    I find that forgiveness is a process with many layers. I may forgive a person. I've made the choice to forgive. And that's the first step. But, as the memories of hurts come up, I have had to forgive again. And again. But reminding myself that I've made the choice to forgive—and asking God for help to walk in forgiveness with that person—has been crucial for me in truly letting go of the offense.

    1. Jeanne, I love the way you put this, describing forgiveness in layers. That is so true! I think an engineer might describe it as an iterative process

      Thank you so much for this marvellous addition!