DJ's Book Rants

A Seminary student and pastor trying to find an outlet for all the books he has to read.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Reconciling Differences

Chapters 6 and 7 on forgiveness reshaped my understanding of the subject. The definitions provided for repentance and confession in chapter 6 were insightful. The confession grid (figure 6.2) on page 137 brought depth to the true complexity of a confession. Even when a confession is made there may be a limited amount of remorse or intention to change. On the other hand an authentic apology which includes the offenders plan to change is both remorseful and committed to change. I was able to see direct examples of this chart in my own marriage. My favorite mode of confession has always been “account giving.” I will admit my fault as long as the other person realizes their part, or assumes primary responsibility. In retrospect I can see that I have little intention of changing my actions.

Chapter 7 provided a workable and practical understanding of how forgiveness can be accepted. Each of the stations rang true, but at the same time I had never put the whole process together. I see insight as a station in forgiveness that is often elusive and sometimes a stumbling block. Finding the true cause of the problem can often be hard. The blame or root cause of the problem maybe put in the wrong spot. For Gabriella and Chad they believed the cause of the problem was "the arrogance of our innocence.” In an effort to stop this chain the couple was intentional about educating their children about the affair and the “arrogance of innocence.” Because of our natural defense mechanisms it seems like it would be easy to offer a true but safe cause. I could say I caused great pain in our marriage by continuing the family addiction to work. Work can become the identified problem when truly the deeper issue is that I have an overwhelming need to achieve.

I found the key word in the second station of forgiveness to be empathy. To understand why a partner has harmed his or her spouse requires empathy. When a person has been wounded and feels the full pain of the offense it is hard to imagine themselves doing such a thing. To walk in the offenders shoes requires what Holeman calls an “understanding of who we are.” Until the offended can understand the struggles and brokenness of the offender they will have the temptation of demonizing them. I have experience this in more than just the marriage relationship. When I am at odds with someone and do not understand how they could act in such away I do not see them for “who they are.” I see them as evil and full of evil intentions. However when I see behind they actions into their heart and mind my perspective is often changed.

Hospitality is a bridge many couples are never able to cross. This station must be initiated by the person who has been wronged. They are the only ones who can invite the guilty part back into relationship. For Gabriella this meant verbalizing her commitment, embracing relocation, and praying together. They action invite Chad into the reconciliation relationship and make future progress possible. I can see that the list of actions could vary greatly from couple to couple.

Without Holeman’s direction I would have never seen “giving opportunity for compensation” as a station. I would have taken for granted that when the transgressor makes attempts at compensation they will be accepted. After further reflection I can see that this would not always be the case. The injured party needs to committee to having what I would call, “eyes to see” the attempts of their partner. Without this commitment I would imagine that no compensation is going to count or make up for what has been done. In reality the compensation is not paying off the debt, but is rebuilding the relationship.

I appreciated the fact that the “overt act of forgiving” comes last. We I have been the offending party I have often wanted this to be the first station in the process. After I lay out all the details of my wrong doing and repentance I would like my spouse to cancel my debt. However, it is only after the work of forgiveness has taken place that the right environment for debt cancellation is truly present. I will now be able to suggest a better process to other couples and be more patient in my own marriage.


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