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Posted By The Opening the Heart Workshop™

I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness and I was curious what the Bible had to say on the topic. Luke 17:4 says: "If he sins against you seven times... you shall forgive him". Or "Bless those who persecute you" (Romans 12:14); or "If you do not forgive, neither will your father in heaven forgive you" (Matthew 6:14).
What I'm getting here is that "forgiveness=good, non-forgiveness=bad". I've read that God in His special message of love has moved the heart of mighty kings, fishermen and scholars to write down His words. These are The Great Men. And here's Jon Berenson going up against the holy writers of the Holy Book?! The word "hubris" echoes in my head. This word means "Who the hell do you think you are...?" It's like the lowly Baltimore Orioles going up against the Yankees on the Yankees home field!
So, I will just tell you the deal as I experience it. I work a lot in my office with couples and, therefore, with this concept of forgiveness. Emily and Richard have been married for 21 years and have three beautiful children. The work kept hitting a stone wall until I asked to see Richard alone, and, after guaranteeing confidentiality, I learned that he had been having an affair for the past three years with a close friend of the family. I encouraged him to tell Emily so that some real healing might have a chance of happening. When he refused to disclose the secret, I told him I would honor confidentiality but that I could not, in good conscience, continue to work with them knowing that I was now keeping a secret and, therefore, also betraying Emily. He finally agreed to tell her but refused to disclose who the affair was with because "it would cause needless pain" to this other woman and her family. He did, though, genuinely ask for Emily's forgiveness. Emily was devastated, sobbed and, for many weeks, felt that she was grieving a death.
I told them both that it was not Emily's job to "trust" again, but that it was Richard's job to be trustworthy- "for as long as it takes". I also told them what I believe is the map for granting forgiveness. It includes all four of these pieces: 1) he (she) who trespasses gives a heartfelt apology; 2) he demonstrates awareness of harm done; 3) he commits to a redemptive path; and 4) he makes a sacred promise to try to not repeat the hurtful behavior.... For Richard, "as long as it takes" took about three weeks before he became angry that Emily was still "holding on" to her anger.
Elie Wiesel is a Nobel Peace laureate, a concentration camp survivor. He tells the story of a colleague who came to him with the following story: the colleague was in a concentration camp and was summoned to come before the camp kommandant who was dying. The kommandant wanted to clear his conscience before meeting his maker by seeking forgiveness from a Jewish prisoner. Years earlier, the kommandant had rounded up all the Jews in a small town in Poland, locked them in a church and set fire to it. The few who escaped out the windows were shot or imprisoned. The prisoner had lost his whole family. After hearing the kommandant's gasping request for forgiveness, the prisoner silently got up and went back to his cell.... The reason this man, years later, went to Elie Wiesel was to ask him "Should I have forgiven him?" Elie Wiesel listened soberly and finally said "Some things are unforgivable".
This is little Jon Berenson going up against the Holy Writers and saying that neither Richard nor the German officer came close to meeting the four criteria for being granted forgiveness, and, also, I believe that granting forgiveness in the absence of those criteria having been met is condoning and enabling hurtful behavior.... "Forgiveness is the inner act of making peace with the past and of finally closing accounts". (Pierro Ferrucci).... By the way, the Orioles beat the Yankees at Yankee Stadium twice last year.
With Love and Respect, Jon