Magazine article The Catholic World

Forgiveness: The Heart of Love

Magazine article The Catholic World

Forgiveness: The Heart of Love

Article excerpt

It hadn't been a good morning. Just before breakfast they had blown up at each other. She accused him of selfishness and insensitivity to her needs. He told her she over-reacted to everything. She wanted to take some time to talk about the situation. He couldn't get out of there fast enough. As he went running out the door, they had a few final nasty remarks to make to each other-getting in the last jabs before each went off to work.

Actually, the argument had been building up over several weeks, maybe even months. Maria thought about all the times Joe avoided her, refusing to discuss the distance between them, refusing even to acknowledge that it existed. Yet there was no doubt in her mind that he was preoccupied with other things - his job, his friends, his hobbies, his favorite team. He had time for everything but her. She began to wonder, "Does he really love me anymore? If he loved me, would he treat me this way?"

She wasn't sure she loved him as much as she once did either. Certainly, if he was going to act like this the rest of their fives, she didn't want to stick around and be part of it.

Joe was irritable when he got to work that morning. "What's gotten into Maria?" he wondered. "She used to be so much fun, always laughing and ready for a good time. She's really turned into a nag - just like her mother. What a miserable woman she was! "

They used to be so much in love. There was passion in their marriage - not just when they made love, but every day, throughout the day. They couldn't wait to be together. Life was fun and they were very affectionate. But not anymore. Maria knew Joe had changed. Joe knew Maria wasn't the beautiful girl he had married. While they lived under the same roof, they might as well have been on different planets. She felt hurt and lonely. He felt isolated. They both began to wonder if they were going to make it in the long haul of life ahead that loomed over them like an endurance contest.

Every marriage has its periods of hurt, darkness or pain. It's the normal result of two healthy people living together in intimacy. They're not always going to agree on everything. They're not always going to make each other their first priority. They're going to be distracted by their own tiredness, their children or other family members, their involvement in work, school, community. They'll have periods of stress and anxiety when they don't have enough money, when someone they love is sick or dying, when company comes to visit or when the holidays take over their lives. They won't always be there for each other at these times in just the way the other person needs. There will be sorrow, disappointment, loneliness, and it will hurt because they never expected to experience any of these things from each other. Maybe from the rest of the world, but certainly not from the one person who promised to love and cherish them for the rest of their life.

Whenever we are hurt, we usually see ourselves as innocent victims. Someone has done us an injustice and now we're left to pick up the pieces. While it's true we may be victims, we are not helpless victims. We can choose how we'll respond. There are two principal choices: we can choose to be angry, self- righteous, or resentful and wallow in self-pity and bitterness for a while or even for the rest of our fives; or we can acknowledge that while we have all those negative feelings, we don't want them to dominate our fives. We can choose to forgive whoever hurt us and move on.

Why should we want to do this? Because it's mandated in Scripture. When Jesus told us to love our enemies and forgive those who hurt us he wasn't just referring to our country's enemies an anonymous group of people we'll probably never meet. Our enemies are much closer to home. Our enemy may share our family name, five under the same roof with us, sleep in our bed. Our enemy can be the person whom we most expect to truly love and accept us, and when the person either cannot do that or will not do that, it hurts. …

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