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In general, do I find forgiveness hard?

That’s the beginning of the questions I asked myself while watching The Fitzgerald Family Christmas.  Through this film, Ed Burns gifts us with a heartfelt story and ways we can reflect upon our own lives.

It’s Christmas, and James Fitzgerald has approached his son, Jerry, regarding their upcoming Christmas plans.  Jerry and his six siblings have mixed feelings about their father since he deserted the family while they were young.  Their mother, Rosie, refuses to invite her ex-husband into her house under any circumstance, especially Christmas.

Inside each member of the Fitzgerald family bubbles feelings of resentment, anger and confusion.  When information comes out about their father, some take into account his present circumstances as they process forgiveness.

Through watching this movie, other points of reflection came to mind:

  • Who are specific people in our lives that we find it difficult to forgive?
  • Is there a certain time of year when forgiveness is easy?
  • How long does it take for each one of us to forgive?
  • How do each of us start the process of forgiveness?
  • Which member of the Fitzgerald family do we identify with the most when it comes to forgiving someone?

I think there are people in each of our lives that it would be incredibly difficult for us to forgive.  As Christians, we are told through Scriptures to forgive.  In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asks Jesus “‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive?  As many as seven times?’  Jesus says to him ‘not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.'”

As he teaches prayer, Jesus reminds all to ask God to “‘forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

Even as Jesus hung on the cross, in physical, emotional and spiritual pain, Luke 23:34 says that he prays “‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.'”

Forgiving others and forgiving ourselves?  Easier said than done, Jesus.  Easier said than done…

I am familiar that there are friends I still need to fully forgive.  The process may have started, but forgiveness isn’t an overnight occurrence.  It may have been a quick process for Jesus, but it hasn’t always been for me.  And it wasn’t for the Fitzgerald family.

Forgiveness is a journey.  Sometimes, we have to start by making a little step – – trying to understand what was going through their lives or seeing them as human.  It’s understanding that I would want mercy from my sisters and brothers and God, so why shouldn’t I grant that to another person?

As I think about it, if Judas would have experienced the grace and forgiveness of Jesus, would he had hung himself (Matthew 27)?  If we forgive those who have caused us pain, does that release both us and them from the burden of the past?  Does it free us to move forward towards the future, unloading the rocks that weigh us down?

Burns’ movie gives us a chance to reflect on our process of forgiveness.  It provides us an opportunity to think the anger that continues to fester inside of us.  And it gives us the chance to ask others for their forgiveness and make amends where possible.