by James Rudy Gray
A professional Christian counselor in Colorado once estimated that over 75% of the problems he saw in his private practice were in some way connected to forgiveness; people who need to forgive or people who need to be forgiven.
Forgiveness is a healing force in families. Jesus taught us the need to forgive people when He told Peter to forgive someone who wrongs us 490 times. He also taught us how important it is to seek forgiveness from others when He told us to leave our gift at the altar and make things right with our brother before we try to worship.Somehow, however, the great teaching and tremendous value of forgiveness seem to be often neglected inside our families.
Apologizing for something we have done wrong is certainly admirable. However, an apology can come short of sincerely seeking forgiveness from someone we have hurt. Pride, which may be the root of all sin, can keep us from doing what is healthy and lead us to develop habits that are decidedly unhealthy and unholy. When we desire to be forgiven, we realize we have hurt someone and we want the relationship to be healed of that pain. When we forgive someone, we face the hurt realistically and move forward by the power of God, erasing the debt we may feel that person owes us.
A wife, whose husband had left her suddenly, confided, "I don't want him to die. I just want him to be in a traffic accident and hurt a long time." She obviously was not in the mood to forgive. Forgiveness is feeling the hurt and yet choosing to release the negative desires for revenge.
One of the greater and yet tougher things for parents to do is teach their children to be forgiving and to seek forgiveness. This kind of learning takes place most effectively when the right behavior is modeled before the children. Parents make mistakes. We need our children's forgiveness. It is not easy to say to a child, "Will you forgive me?" It is powerful and unforgettable, though.
If none of us ever made a mistake or hurt another person, we'd never need to think about forgiveness. Since we do, forgiveness deserves an important place in our life skills repertoire. Forgiveness is not a feeling we have or an emotion we show. Rather, it is a commitment we make. We are grateful God has forgiven us in Christ. With Christ in us, we are capable of forgiving others and seeking their forgiveness as well.
Not too long ago, I spoke hastily to my daughter. It hurt her. I was wrong. I asked her to forgive me. She did. The understanding and love that was felt from that experience was invaluable. Forgiveness is a good thing.