Saturday, July 26, 2014

Stories of forgiveness - How did your family do forgiveness?

They were in couple's counseling after Jerry had his affair and Chris was devastated. It had been a year since the discovery and end of it and yet Chris complained that she still couldn't trust Jerry.

"How did your families do forgiveness?", Martha the therapist asked.

They both stared back at her seemingly at a loss for words.

Finally, Jerry spoke first, "I don't remember either my father or my mother ever saying they were sorry or apologizing. I guess we just sucked it up, waited for whatever it was to blow over, and moved on. Of course, they both drank a lot and denied there was a problem, but neither my sister or I could depend on them. You just never knew what kind of shape either one of them would be in."

"My Dad was a drinker too," said Chris, and my mother was bitter and criticized him constantly. She would never admit to anything because I think she was too angry and didn't think she owed him anything. When he got sober, he went to AA and did his fourth step and then wanted to make his amends. He tried to make up for lost time and years of crap. I was 17 at that point and couldn't have cared whether he lived or died. My mother left him and was even more bitter and depressed and so I never really had parents I could depend on, who, you know, were there for me. I guess I never learned how to forgive. I've been too afraid that if I forgive someone, especially if I really care, that they will just take advantage and hurt me again."

Martha said, "I wonder if you would be interested in doing some research and watching and asking other people how they do forgiveness? Forgiveness is a skill and takes practice. Like any skill you want to learn, you have to see it demonstrated in order to get an idea of how to try it."

"My friend told me that if I accept Jesus as my Lord and savior all my sins will automatically be forgiven. I don't have to do anything because Jesus already died on the cross for me," said Jerry.

"What do you think of that idea," asked Martha.

"Sounds too good to be true," said Jerry.

"It certainly doesn't work for me," said Chris.

To be continued

1 comment:

  1. This story is all too common in the field of substance abuse counseling where Jerry and Chris would be referred to as "Adult Children of Alcoholics", ACOAs.

    Emotional dysregulation and dysfunctional relationships are a product of this kind of upbringing. This does not necessarily explain the infidelity and fear to trust again completely, but is a common part of a situation which has developed from this kind of history. While the problem is framed here as a spiritual and ethical issue which is appropriate, it also can be understood as a psychological phenomenon based on dysfunctional coping and interpersonal skills.

    Thank you for this story. In my line of work in the mental health counseling field it is very common and a staple of my practice. Your light on it brings a new level of understanding and appreciation of the complexity of issue with which people struggle. Alcoholics Anonymous, and Al-Anon are 12 step programs for people who want to quit drinking and the people who care about them. Beyond this, AA and Al-Anon are some of the biggest spiritual programs in the world.