To err is human; to forgive, divine
by Fr. Peter deSousa
Because we are all human beings, we can expect to make mistakes and at times
slip back into selfish and sinful behaviour. Some of us may have rather
poor self-control, when we are tired, stressed out or sick. But the other
members of the family have a marvellous chance to show us God's forgiving
love at such times.
When I was 9 years old, I quarrelled with an older sister and decided not to
speak to her again since she was cleverer than me and would always win. My
mother who observed this, asked me if I wanted to live as God's child. When
I said yes, she told me that God is a forgiving God, and if we want to live
as his children, we have to be willing to forgive over and over again.
This made a deep impression on me. I often find it hard to forgive someone
who is ungrateful, takes advantage of my kindness, makes use of me or a fool
of me. My ego is threatened. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those
who trespass against us" is a challenging prayer at such times. Jesus on the
cross praying: "Father forgive them for they do not know what they are
doing," brings me to my senses. In the measure that I forgive, I am
I remember my Dad singing to my Mum, after a small tiff: "Let bygones be
bygones forever; we'll fall in love, once again." Yes forgiveness is one of
the greatest ways of loving and showing that we are Jesus' disciples.
Husbands and wives, Parents and children, siblings are very human and all
can act rather selfishly at times. Yet as disciples of Jesus, we have no
option, but to forgive 70 times 7 times, which is without limit. How do we
get this grace? Humble yourself before God and invite the Holy Spirit to
soften your hard heart. I know of one couples who would lie prostrate before
the Blessed Sacrament and not arise until they were willing to forgive. It
took 45 minutes at times, to let go of the other's offence.
In many homes, each one wants to win by making the other lose. I may enjoy
being right, dominating the other, taking my revenge, teaching the other a
good lesson, for a while. The other will feel resentful. After a while my
victory will be short lived too because we are out of relationship. If each
one feels listened to and their feelings acknowledged, a solution is often
So there are two factors to consider.
- the actual problem to be solved and
- your relationship.
The second is more important.
There are various ways of dealing with conflict.
- Do not blame the other for your feelings: e.g. "You made me angry".
Rather say "I feel upset when you spend more than ... on new clothes,
without consulting me."
- Accept that this is how the other is feeling. Feelings are neither right
nor wrong in themselves. Give feedback as follows: "You feel upset when I
spend more than .. on clothes, without consulting you." When both feel
listened to and accepted with respect, it is easier to look at alternatives,
weigh the pro's and con's and consider possible solutions.
- Saying nothing but sulking and avoiding the other
- abuse or violence
- acting the martyr and giving in with disgust or self-pity
- manipulating and bribing
- compromising (give and take), and
- collaborating - working out what is best.
What is your pattern? Share it with your spouse. Everyone of has a
family history where we learned how to deal with anger. Free yourself from
the past and choose to modify your behaviour with the help of the Holy
What are some areas where there is conflict and how can you resolve it?
Agree on some ground rules of what is acceptable in your family.
e.g. Using the phone. Bathroom occupation. Watching TV. Meal attendance.
Noise level. Bed time.
Have regular times for reconciliation, resolving conflicts, listening ,
sharing and praying together before making major decisions. One family
chose Fridays before dinner, when they reflected together on Jesus on the
cross forgiving us. Alternately, read and reflect together as a family on Lk
15:11-32 or Mt 5: 1-12.
(from Family First: Pat Lythe, P.B.47.904, Auckland 2, New Zealand pp
When we reflect back on our own personal history, we may recall past hurts
that are still not resolved and bring back buried feelings of resentment,
hatred or anger.
Married couples can do this prayer exercise with each other and take the
part of Jesus to each other in listening, responding, embracing and healing
the other. For this is the meaning of your sacramental relationship, to
redeem and heal your spouse. The best place to do this is in your bed-room.
Jesus wants you to listen, share, forgive and heal each other through his
precious blood and his healing, life-giving spirit.
- Bring Jesus into that situation and see yourself through
his eyes. Allow him to love, comfort, strengthen and provide you with what
you needed at that moment.
- See those who hurt you through Jesus' eyes.
Maybe Jesus was angry at the way they treated you and takes a whip to drive
them out of the temple of your body or spirit, which they violated.
But place them also under his cross and hear him praying to Abba Father to
forgive them. Let his precious blood flow over them and over you.
to consciously give up your resentment, fear, anxiety, shame, revenge or
hatred. Cast it out from you with the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to fill those vacated areas of your life with love,
joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, patience, praise and thanksgiving. Then
those painful memories from your past are healed and you are free to love
and forgive, as Jesus' disciples.
Parents can also heal their children by inviting them to come and lie down
between them and share their hurts and frustrations. Silently listen to
their feelings without defensiveness. Ask forgiveness if you have hurt them.
Give forgiveness if they have hurt you. Help them to give up what negativity
they are clinging on to and ask God's spirit to fill them with new life.
Friends of mine healed their 31 year old son in this way. Try it. It really
works. God gives you the grace to be life-giving to your children, not only
in conceiving them, but always. Parents are the best healers of their
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For Better or for Worse copyright © 2004 Fr. Peter deSousa. All rights reserved.