Dear Pastor Anthony, they say God forgives all . . . does that include my mother-in-law? J.H.
I’m so glad to see that the people reading this column have a sense of humor! While this is a tongue-in-cheek question, it actually speaks to the larger question of forgiveness.
The short answer to J.H.’s question is: Yes! God forgives your mother-in-law. She may not be the same as your mother or may even be nasty, rude or cold to you for marrying her child, but God forgives her.
The good news is that God also forgives you for asking this question! We all have a hard time with some people, don’t we? Certain people rub us the wrong way or say things that get on our nerves. And we harbor anger or frustration as a result. Perhaps we have even said some things that we may or may not regret. And God forgives us for that just as He forgives her for whatever she did to you.
It is difficult to get used to the dynamics within families. It’s even harder to do so when you are coming into a new family through a marriage. This is why mothers-in-law are the butt of so many jokes. I’m sure fathers-in-law aren’t perfect either. As a former son-in-law, I can tell you that I said things to my former in-laws that I regret.
My Italian family loves to eat, drink and be loud. I imagine that would be hard to get used to for someone who wasn’t raised that way. It might even lead to hurt feelings because what is normal joking to us could be hurtful to someone who is sensitive and quiet.
And all of this is a microcosm of forgiveness. Each person in the world has their own way of talking and acting. They may intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone else. And God forgives them for it. We have a hard time with that because we fail to realize that just as we’ve been hurt by someone, we also have hurt others. It’s easier to see the flaws in others than to take a hard look in the mirror. We need to be forgiven just as much as the next person.
Forgiveness becomes a little easier when we realize that we are no better than anyone else. None of us are perfect. We all do things that require forgiveness. Don’t get me wrong: it’s hard to forgive, especially when we feel the other person doesn’t deserve it.
All of us are broken people living in a broken world. J.H., from one broken person to another: try to forgive your mother-in-law. I don’t expect it to change her but I do believe it will change you.
Anthony Giordano is the Pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church in East Meadow and President of the East Meadow Clergy Association. He has four amazing children and two cats. If you have a question you'd like to ask Pastor Anthony, you could e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.