Hurting those you love

Published 7:15 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Don’t worry. This column isn’t about you.

However, if you see yourself in these words, well then perhaps that is your conscience speaking, nothing more.

I am often struck by those whose feelings are hurt in the normal course of our everyday lives. When I am at fault it often seems the ones offended are those that I love the most. I suppose that isn’t that much of a surprise, since the feelings of those I am not close to would not necessarily be of as much concern to me.

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I can recall with crystal clarity when I have inadvertently hurt the feelings of my daughters. Sometimes, years later, I relive those moments; wishing I could take something back or hoping they really don’t still hurt from things I didn’t mean when I said them. I expect they don’t even remember things that I still live with, not because of forgiveness so much as the passage of time.

As for my wife, well I couldn’t possibly take back all the things that may have hurt her along the way. I am blessed by her grace and her forgiveness. She continues to be an inspiration to me of loving someone in spite of their faults. Never, ever could I live up to the standard she has set in our marriage.

For my mother, I think I have apologized for my shortcomings along the way. Like my wife, she is gracious in her forgiveness, setting examples for me to aspire to attain.

Likewise, I am at peace that my father knew that the things I argued with him about were more of the disagreements of a father and son in the normal rites of passage. I knelt by his chair as he was dying and told him so and his simple response was, “I know.” I treasure that moment more than you can possibly imagine.

As I look at my extended family, I realize there are still things that I need to ask forgiveness for. It doesn’t matter that I might be an above-average brother, in-law, uncle or cousin. It simply matters that occasionally in the dark of the night you realize that there are unsettled differences that need settling. Perhaps it is nothing more than a simple statement of “I am sorry.”

It is only when you are in this frame of mind that you can think of your truly extended family. Those friends from your past and in the present. Your neighbors and co-workers and acquaintances. The members of your closest circles, including your church.

It isn’t all about your own guilty feelings. Sometimes, you yourself are wounded by those you love the most. At those moments you struggle between understanding and anger.

The older you get the easier this should become, or so it seems. After all, you have the benefit of life’s experiences. Your skin should be toughened by the hurts along the way. If you live long enough, have you seen it all?

The answer to all that are honest is that no, you haven’t seen it all. Your skin never toughens enough to insulate you from slights from those you care about. If politics doesn’t teach you that lesson, then nothing will.

As we reach the end of the political runoffs, I think to myself that I don’t want to be insulated. I don’t want to hear condemnations from two opponents who prior to the elections state they will support their opponent in spite of their many declared faults, simply because they happen to belong to the same party. I want to hear honesty and truth.

I suppose that is what I want to hear from all of my family, friends and acquaintances. Honesty and truth have no greater audience than those we love and trust. Our relationships are strong enough to weather the truth, but are fragile when faced with deceit, falsehoods or twisted facts.

When you are faced with these hurts, you can also embrace forgiveness.

How could we live in peace and comfort without the forgiveness of friends and family?

It doesn’t matter whether you are the one forgiving or receiving forgiveness. It only matters that two parties realize that their relationship is more important and stronger than any of the petty things that divide them.

If you have a friend or family member that you need to ask forgiveness from, don’t wait. If you are the aggrieved, then don’t wait for an apology. Call the person and talk. You will benefit more than you can imagine.

Finally, if you are at odds about issues with those you care for, stand your ground, but remember that the relationship is often more important than the argument.

St. Francis of Assisi said in his well-known prayer, “It is in forgiving that we are forgiven.” What hard words to accept no matter how true they are.