Letting go and moving forward: Forgiveness

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

May 05, 2023

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you - Ephesians 4:31-32

It was 1972 and I was nine years old when an uncle, my mom’s older brother, passed away suddenly. At his funeral, I learnt that I had an uncle and four cousins whom I never knew existed.

My mom and one of her older brothers had stopped speaking to one another after a family squabble, and only after a sibling passed away did they realise how fragile life is and reconnected again. My dad had the same issues too with his family. It was only at his mother’s funeral that he reunited with his sister and brother, after not speaking to them for 14 years.

Throughout my childhood, I remember both my parents not speaking to their family members, for decades at a time, and it was usually a death in the family that reunited them.

As a family, we lost out on attending joyous occasions like weddings, birthdays and family holidays with cousins. We were not short of other cousins or relatives to visit, due to the large family units we had on both sides.

On the outside, I’ve seen family members attending the same church, listening to the Word of God, being active members of the congregation, but are arch enemies. There are always “camps”, and if you opt to be friends with one family member, you can’t be friends with the other.

I know of friends and family members who live together under the same roof but don’t speak to each other. Messages to spouses are relayed by the in-house messengers: i.e. the children.

Family squabbles can be incredibly painful and damaging, and it is understandable that some conflicts can result in family members not speaking to each other for the rest of their lives. However, it is important to remember that holding onto grudges and cutting off communication with family members can have negative consequences for everyone involved.

When family members stop talking to each other, it can create long-term rifts that are difficult to repair. It can also cause emotional pain, isolation and a sense of loss for all involved. In some cases, it can also impact other family members, such as children, who may be caught in the middle.

While it’s not always easy to resolve family conflicts, there are often steps that can be taken to improve communication and work towards reconciliation.

The Bible has many verses emphasising the importance of leaving one’s family of origin to form a new family unit, honouring and caring for one’s parents and relatives, staying connected and supportive of one another, showing love and respect to family members, fostering peace within the family, and raising children in a way that reflects Catholic values.

Ultimately, it is up to each individual to decide what they are willing to do to repair relationships with family members. While it may not always be possible to resolve every conflict, taking steps towards forgiveness and reconciliation can help to bring peace and healing to everyone involved.

In the Catholic teaching, the family is seen as a fundamental unit of society, and as such, the Church places great emphasis on the importance of family unity and harmony. When it comes to family squabbles, the Church encourages forgiveness, reconciliation and peaceful resolution of conflicts within the family.

The Catholic Church teaches that the family is a reflection of the Holy Trinity, and that every member of the family has a unique role to play in building up the family and promoting its well-being. Therefore, when there is a conflict within the family, it is important for all members to work together to find a solution that is in the best interests of everyone involved.

In dealing with family squabbles, the Catholic Church emphasises the importance of communication, patience, and understanding. Family members are encouraged to listen to each other with an open mind, and to seek to understand the other person’s point of view. They are also encouraged to be patient with each other, and to work through their differences in a calm and respectful manner.

Ultimately, the Catholic Church teaches that family squabbles should be resolved in a way that promotes love, unity, and respect for each other.

This is, of course, easier said than done. We all have our pride and believe that we can do no wrong, and this is often a problematic attitude that can lead to a lack of empathy, closed-mindedness, and being constantly conflicted with others. It’s important to understand that we are all fallible and can make mistakes, and being willing to admit when we are wrong and learning from our mistakes is crucial for personal growth and healthy relationships.

Acknowledging our fallibility and being willing to learn from others can help us become better individuals and foster positive relationships with those around us.

At the end of the day, I always try to remind myself that forgiveness is an important aspect of Catholicism and that it is often emphasised in the teachings of the Church. Forgiving family members can be difficult and challenging, but it is essential to do so in order to achieve inner peace and live a life of love and compassion.

I would be the first to admit my own shortcomings. I constantly pray for guidance and strength to forgive and let go of any negative emotions that I hold on to. Perhaps before seeking to forgive others, I must acknowledge my own sins and seek forgiveness from the Almighty.

The life and teachings of Jesus provide a powerful example of forgiveness, especially the example He set by forgiving those who persecuted Him.

Forgiveness is a choice, and it requires a conscious decision to let go of anger and resentment towards the person who has hurt you. I’m still learning, and it is a work in progress. In the meantime, I keep praying and reflecting on the teachings of Jesus and, hopefully, it will lead me towards finding peace and healing in my life always.

(Regina William is an ex-journalist turned head of communications, now full-time grandmother to three, crisscrossing the globe to play the role. She can be reached at regina.william1223@gmail.com)

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