Monday, September 8, 2014

What to do when the answer is “No, I won’t forgive you.”

The Chaplain is the one to provide the emotional and spiritual support to the patient when there is the devastating, back-hand of an answer to a humble request of “I know what I did was wrong, please forgive me.” That answer leaves the patient and in other cases, the caregiver all discombobulated… emotionally and spiritually. What is the Chaplain’s response to the brokenness of the patient? Let’s review the circumstances… First, what does it take to bring a hospice patient or, for that matter, any person to the point of seeking forgiveness? I think I can speak to this because, like you, I have had to ask for forgiveness from those I have wounded. It is a personal epiphany of the extent of failure, the awakening that what was done was so wrong that it damaged people I love, and that humbling oneself was far secondary to seeking to right the wrong. Has any of you been denied what you requested? I have. If you can recall the pain of having been told, “No, I won’t forgive you”, then you can compassionately identify as you provide support to the patient reeling from that denial. Brokenness responds to brokenness. How have you worked through your denied request for forgiveness? Counter-transference is not a healthy thing. C.S. Lewis helps us out when he wrote: “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” How does this statement inform your life? “It changes me.” Hearing those words drains the infection off of the wound allowing me to heal. It is never a pleasant experience to come to the place of deep humility, bare your soul and in that position of vulnerability seek a rightness where there was only wrongness and have it all pushed aside and denied. We all pray because we are helpless. Working through this type of pain is something only God can do. Out of the richness then of your experience with God are you able to provide a balm to the deeply troubled soul of your patient. God has a lot of experience with people who have said, “No”, to him. I hope you have noticed that I did not provide a simple formulary of “The Three Steps to Helping Your Patient Overcome the Pain From Being Denied Forgiveness.” I don’t think there is such a thing. Life does get messy. The hospice Chaplain is there to help with clean up the mess with the towel of humble service. Blessings to you this day, Bless Chaplains.

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