Forgiveness in Twelve Words


Hand trembling; I debated whether to call. Will she lash out at me again? The knot in my stomach grew tight as I waited; it had been two months since we last spoke. My whole body sighed when I got her voicemail; I left a message knowing it was the first step in a tenuous reunification.  

Forgiveness is never easy. A prayer from my daily meditation in Lectio 365 opened the door. “While human beings may fail me, You always remain trustworthy. Where broken trust has caused damage in my life, I ask You to bring healing. Fill me with your love and hope today.” God answered that prayer for me through His Son’s words on the cross.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

How many times have I heard those words and the story of Jesus on the cross? This time, however, I heard them in a new way. The pain and deep wound of our mother’s passing caused my sister to lash out in anger and spewed venom. At that moment, she didn’t know what she was doing. She could not see how she hurt me. In colloquial terms—she was clueless.

Jungian analysts Lisa Marchiano, Joseph Lee, and Deborah Stewart describe forgiveness as reaching a place where we are able to “hold in our hearts at the same time, the magnitude of the injury that has been done to us and the humanity of injustice.”

My sister is human and doesn’t always see the pain she inflicts upon others. The reality is, I am also human and do the same thing. As a highly sensitive person, forgiveness is challenging, yet the twelve words spoken by Jesus on the cross held the key.  

She returned my call and told me about all the trees that fell around her home during a recent California storm. I listened. She talked about losing her oldest cat, and that her wisteria isn’t blooming. I listened. She lamented the mud that surrounds her front porch from recent rains and how she fell and wasn’t able to get up without the help of her daughter… and finally, through choked tears, she whispered. “I miss Mom.” I reminded her that grief is a process and has many stages that are not linear, but more of a spiral. I told her I could relate. “We can find ourselves in any stage of grief at any time. It’s important to practice self-compassion.”

The rest of our conversation remained surface level, and likely that is the way our relationship will continue. She is clueless about her actions and sees no reason to repent for her hurtful words and actions. I’m at peace with that. I don’t need her repentance. Twelve words are enough for me. “Father, forgive her, for she does not know what she is doing.”

photo by Alex Shute on Unsplash

4 responses to “Forgiveness in Twelve Words”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: