The Possibility of Forgiveness

Note from Mark Timm, CEO Ziglar Family:  Last year at this time, I published the following post, and the reaction was huge!  The message seemed to really strike a chord with our community, and to this day it remains our most-read and most-reacted-to post.  I’m publishing it again, in case you either didn’t read it the first time or maybe could use a reminder.  Peace, everyone!  

It seems like the holidays are the time of year when our thoughts turn most often to family.  Families are the foundation of our humanity. It is within our family that we learn how to love unconditionally, resolve conflicts, compromise, selflessly serve others, and forgive one another.  

Even Hollywood capitalizes on the family theme during the Christmas season with movies like Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life, and one of my favorites— Home Alone

Remember Kevin, the youngest son?  He’d been separated from his family for days and was feeling lonely and guilty, when he wandered into a church and encountered Old Man Marley, who had been estranged from his own family for years. 

As Kevin shared his mixed-up feelings about his family, Marley responded, “How you feel about your family is a complicated thing. Deep down, you always love them. But you can forget that you love them. And you can hurt them. And they can hurt you.”

It’s true.

No family is perfect. We can, like Kevin, be confused by how we feel. Or like Old Man Marley, we may be guilty about mistakes from our past, feeling hopeless for any forgiveness.

But the story doesn’t end there.  Sitting before the Nativity scene, with strains of O Holy Night in the background, Kevin and Marley each suddenly understand:

Into this world full of pain, injustice and tragedy, God became one of us through his Son. Christ was not just born into the manger, but into our lives. And by that fact alone, we have hope.  We have the possibility of forgiveness.

And we absolutely need to bring that truth to our own families. 

Creating a culture of forgiveness in the home requires intentional action. As parents, we must offer sincere words of apology to each other and to our children. That, of course, leads to demonstrating how to offer and accept forgiveness.

8 Steps to Forgiveness

Dr. Fred Luskin suggests these 8 steps to take in the practice of forgiveness:

  1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK.
  2. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action. What you are after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the “peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.”
  3. Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or ten years – ago. Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings.
  4. At the moment you feel upset practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body’s flight or fight response. (Deep breathing, counting to 10, etc.)
  5. Give up expecting things from other people that they do not choose to give you.
  6. Put your energy into looking for another way meet your positive goals other than through the experience that has hurt you. Instead of mentally replaying your hurt, seek out new ways to achieve what you want.
  7. Remember that a life well lived is your best response. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you. Forgiveness is about personal power.
  8. Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.

Forgiveness is the most essential action that you can take to restore the brokenness that may exist in your family. Even if your situation appears impossible, know that there is a way to find peace and reconciliation, and it may be that the Christmas season is the perfect time to start the journey.


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