I drafted this article for Baddow Life newspaper, which is distributed free by the three churches in this parish to the over 6,000 homes in the area. Thus the intended readership is non-Christians as well as Christians. This is intended to be part of a set of articles on forgiveness. If it is published it will not be in quite this form.
A woman I knew argued with her husband regularly and kept bringing up how he messed up some travel arrangements on their honeymoon – which was more than 40 years ago! She looked at everything he did in the light of that incident, and because of that she could never find peace or happiness in her marriage. She thought she was punishing her husband, but in fact she and her children were far more harmed by this.
This is so often what happens to people who refuse to forgive others, whether for small matters as in this case or for huge ones such as the loss of a loved one. Even after the worst of tragedies, as long as the bereaved hold on to the wrong that has been done to them, they continue to suffer the pain of loss and can never move on to rebuild their lives. Instead they find themselves in a pit of bitterness and depression. They may claim that to forgive would dishonour the memory of their loved ones, but would those loved ones really have wanted to be remembered in such misery? And if this is true after awful disasters, how much more does it apply after trivial hurts!
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” – in these words the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that we can only expect to be forgiven for what we do wrong if we forgive others.
It is of course not easy to forgive. But it is the only way to get out of that pit and move on to live a normal life. I remember how I felt some years ago when my fiancée suddenly broke off our engagement. For weeks I could think only of how to get back at her. But then a wise Christian friend reminded me that even if I could find ways to hurt her I would end up hurting myself even more. When he counselled me I ended up in tears in a public foyer. But with this help I was able to put the matter behind me, forgive and move on.
I’m happy to say that that woman in the first paragraph did eventually find a way to put the honeymoon incident behind her and forgive her husband. And so they were able to enjoy their last few years of life.