Reverend Steve Jones: There has never been a more opportune time to forgive
PUBLISHED: 12:00 01 November 2020
Reverend Steve Jones writes about forgiveness in his latest column
I wonder if there is someone in your life that you are currently estranged from, and that separation still causes you great sorrow and pain.
They once hurt you and their words or actions splintered your close relationship. The fracture may have happened recently, or it could have happened thirty years ago, with the original wrongdoing now vague in your memory.
If I am describing your situation, then I would like to try to encourage you that there may have never been a better time to think about trying to heal that wound.
I think that for two reasons.
Firstly, Covid has caused many people to feel more reflective about their lives, with the result that I am seeing conversations taking place about issues that would never have been on the table a year ago.
That is certainly true in the Church of England. It is as if our societal shift to a ‘new normal’ is allowing us to revisit old questions with fresh eyes.
Secondly, life seems a little more precious and vulnerable than it did a year ago. As a priest who visits with the dying, one of the hardest things to witness is unresolved interpersonal conflict at the time of death.
I think the awareness that death might be closer for some than they imagined is causing people to think about resolving personal issues now, while there is time and space to do so. It is true that I do not know your situation and how badly someone may have hurt you, but what I do know is that a lack of forgiveness for a wrong done often hurts the victim more than the offender.
As well as being a priest, I am also a facilitative mediator. Facilitative mediation is an effective process whereby a trained person helps people in conflict to resolve their dispute in an ordered and therapeutic way. The most striking thing that I have found about conducting mediation meetings is that, when I help people to really understand what the other actually means by what they said or did, at least half of those conflicts resolve immediately, amid tears, hugs, and mutual apologies.
I have seen people who love each other alienated for years over a simple misunderstanding. Jesus had a lot to say about forgiveness.
A frustrated Peter once asked Jesus how many times he should go on forgiving another disciple who kept letting Peter down.
Jesus told Peter that he should never stop forgiving the person. Jesus’ reasons were threefold. Firstly, Peter had known the limitless grace of God, and he should therefore have been willing to give grace to others. Secondly, Jesus taught a generosity of spirit that pervaded everything that He did; Jesus always gave people the benefit of the doubt.
Thirdly, Jesus knew that unforgiveness would ultimately rob Peter of his peace.
When we are fully resolved in all our relationships, it offers us a sense of peace that few other things can. If I have described you or someone you know,
I want to assure you that there is hope.
It just may be that in this season of life you feel able to finally let go of the pain and tell the person that you forgive them. You could start a phone call, email, or letter with these words, ‘I know that we have not talked in some time. I still feel the pain of our broken relationship.
I wanted you to know that I am willing to forgive and seek to restore our relationship, if you are also willing.’ Dear reader, what if they replied, ‘I have been longing to hear from you!’? If only one relationship in Exmouth is restored, then this article would have been worthwhile.
Please know that I am praying for your reconciliation.
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