My extended family has always had a bit of unforgiveness running through its historical veins. I had an aunt who no one talked to, since before I was born, because of some offense in her youth (I think it was a baby out of wedlock). Years later my sister was offended by another aunt and my dad had no problem just cutting his own sister (!) out of his and his family’s life. Completely. No looking back. Done.
My mom put up no fight because in her own insecurity she couldn’t forgive them for their snubs of the past. So she was fine with dropping the whole lot of ‘em. ‘Take that, mean people!’
Unforgiveness has tentacles that invade all parts of a family, and just like abuse, unforgiveness becomes a heritage, a go-to when things get difficult or testy.
It is what so easily allowed my brother to cut off all contact with my mother who, as she had always done throughout our lives, said something insulting to his wife. It was wrong what she said, just as it was wrong when she said all the insulting, hurtful things to us our whole life.
But he knew, maybe only subconsciously, that there was an escape. He had that unforgiveness card to play, tucked in his back pocket. And at that moment, at that breakfast table, he decided to pull it out. He had enough and wanted nothing more to do with his mother. He hasn’t talked to her since. Eight years.
And both my mom and dad could not see the connection in their past. They could not grasp the legacy of unforgiving escape that they had modeled for us, that they had taught us by their actions.
Because of unforgiveness, he wasn’t there when dad was dying. Because of his unforgiveness he chooses not to attend anything that she might attend. Because of his unforgiveness, he chooses to cut himself from everyone else in the family. Because of his unforgiveness he has dragged his wife away from the only extended family she has ever had in her life.
Unforgiveness is a selfish sin. The unforgiver gives little thought to how his action affects everyone around him, how it splinters a family that was intact at one time. It affects so many more people than just the one who chooses to play that card. Like a viral infection, it stops healthy growth. It cuts off healing of any kind.
Forgiveness, on the other hand, is a wonderful treat when you receive it, as much as when you give it. @Grace_and_Such
It is what I consider one of those boomerang wonders of God. It never leaves you, nor the recipient, quite the same.
I made the choice to halt the family legacy of unforgiveness. I openly and publicly and continually invite my brother to every family event and update him on all the family news (including mom’s health). I regularly serve the needs of my mother in her failing health. I encourage everyone in the family to do the same.
Arriving at this place – forgiving, non-judging, non-angry – was not an easy journey for me. I tend to judge quickly, to want to make people do the right thing (according to me). So the journey of faith I took to arrive at this healthy place of forgiveness and openness is a story for another day!
We all miss my brother. He is a personality to reckon with. A big, quirky bear of a man with a heart of gold. He was my best friend growing up. My kids, when growing up, adored him.
I’d like to have him back in our family again.
But I will insist that he leave his unforgiveness at the door. And maybe, just maybe, if we love up on him, and show him the way of forgiveness that God wants for him, he will decide NOT to pick it up on his way out!
God can restore what the locusts have eaten away. ~Joel 2.25
It is my continuing prayer.