You & Your Family

Forgiveness and healing

Mar 2012    

RIGHT RELATIONSHIP

“We begin this process of forgiveness not based on the merits of the individual to be forgiven or even our desire to want to rebuild our relationship. We begin with the sincere desire to be in a right relationship with God.”

READERS OF MY PREVIOUS CONTRIBUTION to Methodist Message would have realised that it ended with a “cliff-hanger”. is means that it left the readers in suspense. To summarise, the article dealt with the issue of infidelity and the need of the offending party or the betrayer to repent unreservedly and to “sin no more”.

Though there may be much that the betrayer needs to account for, what is needed is genuine contrition and to make amends. For the hurt party, I only mentioned the need to forgive. at will be addressed in this issue.

The English have a saying, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” This succinctly defines the human condition. We fall easily, but instead of that leading us to be more understanding when others fall, we are quick to condemn them. We will not hesitate to ask for the patience and pardon of others, but may be guilty of withholding our compassion and acceptance.

When others hurt us, we feel entitled to hurt them in return rather than turn the other cheek. It is as if being forgiving goes against our human nature. As the saying implies, forgiveness seems to be a virtue held only by God.

However, not offering forgiveness means that there is no real healing of relationships. To deny forgiveness also means that the offence and the wound that it brings will remain, resulting in the victim being re-victimised each time he or she remembers the offence and hate in their hearts. We all know of people who have borne this type of bitterness for years and how it has led to severed relationships.

How are we to forgive, and let go of our hurt and anger? Is it humanly possible? 1 John 4:19 says, “We love, because He first loved us.” is verse points us to the source of our ability to love, which is God. So if we think it is humanly impossible to forgive, then we have a divine helper in this process.

As in most things in the Christian faith, it does not stop there. The Scriptures go on to add that we cannot really say we love God when we live with hate against another. It is as if our hate interferes with our love and fellowship with God.

So we begin this process of forgiveness not based on the merits of the individual to be forgiven or even our desire to want to rebuild our relationship. We begin with the sincere desire to be in a right relationship with God. We want to be walking in His Will and not let the toxic nature of hate erode our fellowship with God.

The next step is to refrain from ruminating over what happened. We need to resist every attempt to recall past hurtful events. is may also mean that we choose not to find out more than is necessary. I say choose because it is probably right and understandable for one to get to the truth of the situation. But at some stage, knowing more becomes counter-productive.

The next stage is to build more current and hopefully more positive memories and associations with that person. is can take months, if not years, but a sign that things are improving is the person’s ability to recall past events without the same level of distress or disappointment as before.

At the same time, the betrayer should continue to live his life in such a way that does not violate the sanctity of the marriage nor cause offence to his spouse. Acts of kindness should be done even when they are not initially met with acknowledgement or appreciation.

Finally, what is a reasonable outcome for such relationships? Can a loving relationship blighted by betrayal ever be restored? We hold on to the promise that God’s offer of perfect love will not only cast out all fear (1 John 4:18) but can also help mend broken relationships.

Benny Bong is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, is a family and marital therapist.

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