The desire to enjoy healthy, positive family relationships resides in all of us. Humility combined with patience, where we consciously bear with one another, are key factors towards achieving that kind of mutually beneficial relationship. It is a great start for rebuilding and repairing broken relationships, and for maintaining those that are already strong.
There is another critical piece when added to humility and patience can move our relationships in the direction of healing and strengthening. It is…
Forgiveness is feigning a disingenuous, “I forgive you”, while holding an internal grudge. Let’s face it, it’s hard to forgive when someone has deeply hurt you and refuses to repent of that act that caused such hurt. Even if they do repent, it can be hard to forgive when the hurt cuts deep—like when you are cut off from contact with your grandchildren without justification. There are not many things more painful than that.
Forgiving can be hard. Perhaps that’s why Paul ties kindness and compassion to the act of forgiving in Ephesians 4:32. Compassion communicates care for another. Holding a grudge circles back to me—how I feel. Compassionate believers understand they are sinners in the need of grace and forgiveness like everyone else. Compassion longs for reconciliation and restoration of a relationship above justice… for all parties involved, no matter how much it hurts.
Compassionate forgiveness doesn’t deny or ignore the hurt and loss caused by another’s actions. It is, however, strong enough to rise above that hurt and empathize with the pain of the one who wronged us. Never ought that be truer than with our family relationships. We may not understand, but we must try to figure out what might explain the hurtful action toward us.
Compassion extends a heart of forgiveness knowing there is more at stake than my injured feelings. Forgiveness provides the most compassionate act we can offer through a hand reached out in reconciliation. That is how the Father reached out to us through the sacrifice of His only Son. His forgiveness is no trite matter. No wrong against us compares with our sins against the Most High.
When Forgiveness Springs to Life
Forgiveness springs to life in our hearts when we come to grip with two things:
- How God much forgave us (and how much others have forgiven us too);
- How much we still need to be forgiven
As we increasingly take forgiveness seriously, and put it into practice with compassion, a remarkable transformation occurs. Our hearts are transformed. Like cholesterol fighting medicine unclogs arteries in the human body, unclogs the arteries of ‘heart’ allowing God’s lavish grace to flow freely in and through us. Forgiveness opens the door to reconciliation. Unforgiveness shuts it.
Forgiveness is also like a two-sided coin. On the one side is our willingness to forgive others. On the other side is our willingness to ask for and accept forgiveness from others. I am indisputably unworthy of God’s forgiveness, yet He offers it to those who are willing to ask. We may be surprised at the willingness of others, especially our family, to do the same.
Are the relationships in your family important enough to put forgiveness into practice? Do you believe God is able to do more than we possible imagine? Then do it, and watch the transformation that can’t happen unless we do it.
Ask God to show you one person you need to forgive and/or you need to ask forgiveness in your family. Write down that person’s name and ask God to fill your heart with compassion for that person, and to help you understand why there is a gulf in your relationship.