Healing And Forgiveness

Posted at 02:46am on 7th November 2008

An article in The Times, last month, contrasted, without condemning, the reactions of two families who have recently been in the news. First was the story of the two young boys killed by footballer and drink driver Luke McCormick, whose family was unable to forgive him. And second was Carolyn Todd, the widow of Michael, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester who forgave her husband not only his affairs, but also his death on a mountain in Wales. In the same week, the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and Cabinet Minister, Peter Mandelson, showed us all (seemingly) how to forgive and forget in political circles. The feature prompted me to write a few weeks ago on the art of forgiveness and whether it is achievable.

UNDERSTANDING THE STEPS TO FORGIVENESS

The conclusion I reached was that there are certain steps to forgiveness. These show that the process is:

  • an act of will rather than emotions
  • a one-way affair, in that it does not depend upon the other person saying sorry
  • and that unforgiveness is a cup of poison, drunk by the victim, whilst he waits for the perpetrator to die

This month, I want to look at some further aspects of healing and forgiveness. And, whether you’re religious or not, the best model – the one on which almost all other methods are based – is found in the Christian faith.

FORGIVENESS IS A JOURNEY

Because forgiveness is an act of will, it often takes the emotions time to catch up. For instance, I may decide that I want to forgive a local lad for breaking into my house and stealing some jewellery. However, the necklaces, bracelets and brooches are not simply items on which I can claim insurance and buy something similar. This jewellery is particularly precious to me because it’s been passed down to me from my great grandmother, whom I loved. Therefore, it’s going to be hard not to feel the pain of that loss every time I want to wear a piece of it – and can’t. On each occasion it’s going to make me think of the person who gave it to me, and I shall feel the loss all over again!

Even harder is when there’s a loss of life; and harder still when that occurs in suspicious circumstances. Because this was relevant to my daughter’s death, I’ve written on this subject in my novel A Painful Post Mortem. Click on the Feedback page to see what people have to say about the book.

HOW MANY TIMES SHOULD I FORGIVE?

In both situations I choose to forgive because I know that, ultimately, it’s me that my unforgiveness will destroy. But that doesn’t mean that it’s over and done with. The pain and anger that often accompany loss may reappear at any time. You may find yourself on a roller-coaster of emotions. You may believe that this makes a mockery of your determination to forgive. You may even feel like a hypocrite.

But people with a faith know that:

  • forgiveness, if necessary, has to be carried out seventy times seven
  • forgiveness is not condoning wrongs
  • forgiveness does not mean there are no consequences / punishment

So how does that play out, in reality?

CHRISTIAN RECONCILIATION

The Biblical principle of forgiving seventy times seven was given by Jesus. It is meant to convey an infinite number. If you find that forgiveness comes easily to you, this may be instant. But for others the healing process of being robbed of something precious – be it your reputation, trust, a loss of life, or all your worldly possessions, may be a long and painful journey. During that time, your will to forgive is what takes you forward. And that requires perseverance and endurance. Sheer grit and determination.

WHERE IS GOD IN THIS?

In his book The Shack, William P Young examines what it means to stand in judgement on someone else. The main character, Mack, is asked how he feels about the man who murdered his daughter. With fury and anguish, Mack condemns him to hell. He’s then asked about his other children. Should they, too, be condemned to hell because they have sometimes expressed hatred to one another; to him? In this way, Mack is made to see that God’s justice is tempered with mercy and grace.

In my own book, A Painful Post Mortem, I have used a similar theme. Claire, mother of the dead girl, condemns the husband from whom she is divorced, because she is convinced that it was his adultery that catapulted their daughter into the drug scene. Only later is she able to admit that she, too, has fallen short as a parent. And that if she condemns Katya’s father, she must condemn herself as well.

If you want to read more, click here to buy the book. It's a love story at heart, and all profits are for charity. A good Christmas read.

NEXT TIME

We’ll take a look at Forgiveness and Reconciliation

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