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Family and Forgiveness

Families need to forgive themselves and others.

"Why Did You Do It?" Photo Credit: John Tuttle.

Growing up in a Catholic family, I have examined the benefits of forgiveness since an early age. Can you imagine a mother with no forgiveness? I am sure they’re out there, but a lack of this kind of charity does not make for strong, unified family relationships. And I’m quite thankful I had good parental examples.

This virtue is one of the hardest to exercise at times. Forgiveness starts in the home and is able to spread out from there. Therefore, an early introduction is always best. Children and adults alike need forgiveness, and certain personalities thirst for it more than others. It is really easy to let our emotions get the better of us. After all, we’re human. Human beings are pretty emotional creatures, and it’s a good thing too. Emotions make us who we are: how we love, how we handle a difficult task, how we socialize.

It’s when we let emotions take priority over our sense of moral obligation that they become a hindrance. When anger or fear start to run how we make decisions, the slightest disturbance of our comfort zone could set us off. We are walking emotional time bombs. We could explode at anyone whenever it strikes us. We may find ourselves venting at someone who has done some minuscule act that in a subtle way vexes us.

Life is full of irritating problems and even bothersome people, but the right response to the disturbance they cause is charity: forgiveness. An act of forgiveness does not need to a verbal one; it can simply be mental acceptance, though it also should be a heartfelt one. Indeed, in instances when we permit our emotions to take over, we often find ourselves in need of forgiveness. This reiterates the fact that all people need to be forgiven.

Whether an offender feels remorse for his actions (if he’s even aware of what he has done is frowned upon) or if he does not, you are always capable of forgiving him. Some do not like the idea of accepting charity such as pity or forgiveness. If you forgive someone straight to his face, he may say he doesn’t accept it. He can say that if he wishes to, but it is an empty statement. He is the offender; he is in no place to deny forgiveness. It’s not a thing he can manipulate.

There are several effects of forgiveness that drain back into our pool of emotions. For the offender who is fully aware of what he has done a feeling of guilt may linger, an unsettling feeling which only you can relieve when you forgive him honestly and openly. For you, the forgiver, there are also perks. If you truly forgive someone, you are proving that your intellect can win out over your emotions. You show control.

Perhaps the most important aspect of forgiveness is that, when it is offered from the heart with sincerity, it manifests itself as a form of superiority. True forgiveness releases the person or people who offended you from any debt attached to their offense. This superiority does not represent a “I’m so much better than he is” scenario. It actually means that the forgiver has an obligation to the offender, not the other way around.

In other words, it is up to the one who forgives to teach the offender to not continue in his offensive deeds. This is primarily to be practiced when the offender has done something morally wrong. Let’s suppose a mother informs her child not to eat any of the freshly-baked cake on the countertop. The child, who’s old enough to know better, disobeys her. When she finds out, she reprimands the boy, yet forgives him in the same moment. This is the beauty of a mother’s touch.

The child knows what he did was wrong. He is forgiven but at the same time, he has to be firmly reinformed that what he did was wrong and that he should not do it. In a case such as this, the parent is obliged to teach the child why he should not do such things. The mother could simply state how unfair and selfish it was for him to greedily take the cake for himself and forget that other people deserve to enjoy the cake just as much as him.

Forgiveness is not going to be easy in all circumstances, but if more of the human race strived to forgive and not accuse one another, we would not have as much of the strife and brutal conflict that plagues our modern world. We would not have as many wars or as many families mourning the loss of a loved one. This much-needed virtue of forgiveness starts with you and me. It starts with the family.

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