Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries
Sometimes our enemies join us at the Christmas dinner table.
Even Scrooge, the miserly uncle in Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol, eventually sat down with his abused employee and family. Before the Cratchets understood he was there on a kind mission, they were distrustful and afraid.
The same is true of us around those who are against us. We feel uncomfortable while denial, rationalizations, pretending, and fears circulate through our bodies and minds. Once in a while we find comfort, however most often we are tense.
Someone suggests forgiving the past, and we are immediately lost in the confusion. What is forgiveness? Am I to trust this person again? Maybe secrets are best left buried.
Forgiveness is not endorsement of terrible behavior. It does not mean giving up healthy protective barriers, either. Forgiveness is a process that frees us to see the complete picture and set ourselves free of the pain that anger and resentment cause.
Forgiving who has harmed us.
Forgiving who will not acknowledge wrongdoing.
Forgiving who has passed away.
Forgiving who continues to cause harm.
It can take time. Some people seem to pass through it in an afternoon. Others, like me, take longer. I had to put behavior behind my words and deliberately pursue change.
The key was to name the loss, lay responsibility only where it belonged, give up looking for an explanation, and acknowledge the whole story. I could begin to see myself as once victimized and no longer a victim.
Denial and pretending keep us stuck. So do anger and resentment. One therapist said,“Bitterness is the poison we drink while hoping someone else will die.”
Jesus said in his famous Sermon on the Mount, “… love your enemies.” Holding someone accountable for their choices is one way of loving them. It gives them opportunity to repent and change.
Forgiveness is not all roses and tulips; sometimes it takes painful acknowledgment that grave sin has taken place. Once we rid ourselves of denial, and dig up those bitter roots, planting the seeds of Christmas peace can begin.
Today’s Helpful Word