A Brick in the Valley

Help on a Forgiveness Example
May 25, 2007, 3:35 pm
Filed under: Forgiveness

I need your help on a forgiveness example.  Read the following and answer one simple question.  What should Bev do in the short run? 

Bev and Sue had been close, close friends for years.  They lived two blocks apart and for the last 20 years attended the same church.  They co-led their Mom’s Bible study together for four years in a row.  Their husbands were fishing pals; their daughters were born just a few days apart.  They talked on the phone several times a week.

Recently, however, their friendship was broken.  Looking back on it all, Bev would say that the rift was building up for years.  Things boiled over when Bev learned that Sue had been talking about her to other women in the church.  In Bev’s mind, Sue had always been a bit of a talker, but she now learned that Sue was sharing things about Bev’s life she shared in confidence.  Not only that, but Sue was not being completely accurate.

It hurt.  It really hurt.

After many tears, and prayer, Bev approached Sue about it.  She hated to do it.  But, she felt that it was necessary to confront Sue about her gossip.  Bev had little doubt in her mind that Sue would own her mistakes.

Bev could not have been more wrong.  When they sat down to talk about it over coffee, Sue blew up.  With a red face and raised voice, she told Bev that she stood by the things she said and that a number of other people agreed with her.  When Bev asked who, Sue refused to tell her.  When Bev suggested that Sue should have talked to her directly, Sue said that it was not worth it.

Bev was so upset.  After a couple of sleepless nights she and her husband met with an elder in the church.  In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus said that we should first confront those who sin against us privately.  If the person will not listen, we should take one or two others along the next time.  Bev asked the elder to go with her to talk to Sue.  The elder listened patiently to Bev’s concerns.  He asked Bev for permission to pray about it.  A few days later he called back and suggested that Bev simply drop the matter.  He told her, “love covers over a multitude of sins” and that in this case he believed Bev not take it to the next step (1 Peter 4:8).  The elder from her church pointed out that a number of young Christians in the church would be hurt if this disagreement went further.

Bev and her husband discussed the matter and decided not to press it further.  But, the betrayal by Sue was still awkward and the wound was deep.  Bev and Sue did their best to avoid seeing one another.  They barely spoke when they were forced to have contact.

Then tragedy struck.  The pastor’s wife of the church called Bev to tell her that Sue’s only daughter, Rachel, was killed in a car accident.  When she got the news, Bev’s knees literally buckled.  She sat down in a chair and sobbed.  She loved this young lady.  She could remember holding her in the hospital.  She had rocked her and watched her grow up.  Bev could not imagine how Sue would deal with this.  And, she wondered what she should do, given all that happened and the tragedy in Bev’s life.

So, here is the question.  In the short term, how should Bev relate to Sue during her tragedy?  Should Bev:

(a)  Go to Sue’s home at once and hug her.

(b) Send a card so that she shows concern but at the same time gives Sue space.

(c)  Keep her distance and not communicate at all.

(d) Other?

What do you think?  Post a comment or send me an e-mail either one: chris@theredbrickchurch.org

20 Comments so far
Leave a comment

b. Send a card. In the card I would offer prayer and tell Sue that my feelings and sadness for her loss transend any past differences. I would ask to come and see her.

Comment by pete mazanec

I think she should (a) go to Sue’s house and hug her. In this tragic moment, humbling herself enough to become available to her friend should be a small matter. If Sue should reject her involvement, she will need to retreat, but I suspect that the magnitude of this accident will cause the disagreement between them to seem rather trivial.

Comment by Shannon

My immediate reaction was to go over immediatley and hug her. But I wonder if she should take sometime to evaluate 1st if she was really ready to put the other issues behind her, and focus on giving Sue grace. Once her mind was focused on that then I would say go hug her and let Sue know how much shes loved. The relationship may never be what it was if Sue never owns her sin, but they can still have a relationship and Bev has the opportunity to really show the love of Christ.

Comment by Julie

I believe answer (a) is the one I would choose. In a literal sense, the death of Sue’s daughter is not related to the gossip issue. This is a church family situation that requires love and support from Bev. In an emotional sense, I believe the awkwardness between these two would be overlooked, at least for the time being. Ideally, the act of love that would be displayed by Bev to go over and hug Sue would be the thing to break down what ever barrier Sue has put up and they would get a chance to work out the gossip issue.

I’m concerned about the Elder’s response to the gossip issue.

Comment by Tom Eytalis

(A) I feel that a hug would do both of the families some good, especially the one in a time of loss. We may not live long enough to say or do the Christian things we should have done.

Comment by Tim Thayer

I would choose A.
A hug would say a thousand things that words could not express.

Comment by Tricia

For those reading the comments, let me throw this twist into it. Does the tragedy change anything, or should Bev have gone to her and given her the hug even in the first place?

Comment by cdbrauns

It shouldn’t, but the tragedy changes things. If Bev went to give Sue a hug before the tragedy, I don’t think Sue’s reaction would be the same as after the tragedy. Bev should give her a hug regardless of the circumstances.

Comment by Connie

I think A would be the best response in this situation. Bev wanted to mend the fringe in their relationship by letting Sue know she had been hurt. Obviously things didn’t turn out the way Bev hoped. The tragedy does change things. It shows how Bev chooses to love Sue in spite of all the hurt she has dealt with regarding the gossip. It shows Sue that Bev still cares about her and their relationship.

Comment by Michelle


I think you are right – – –

(I must see those babies before they start school!)


Comment by cdbrauns

Yes you are right…you should!:o)

Comment by Connie

A hug and volunteer to do what you can to help, but don’t miss the point, compassion is not forgiveness. One sided forgiveness does not always mean reconciliation and restoration which would seem to be Bev’s goal. For instance you may forgive someone who doesn’t remember the hurt, care about the hurt, or is still in a funk that you were upset in the first place and confronted them with the issue.
Jesus died to provide forgiveness of sin, but if there is no personal response to His forgiveness, are your sins forgiven? Biblically – no.

Comment by Lon Barkema

Lon, you should just write my book for me. I think your points are right on target.

Comment by cdbrauns

I don’t have much to add to the good responses. I’d definitely say “A” is the best option, although I don’t think it’s necessarily a sin to choose another response. “A” seems to get at the heart of what grace is all about, and we’ve all definitely received grace beyond measure. The hard part would be if I actually had to do “A” instead of telling everyone in this blog what I would do!

Comment by Jeremy Carr

My computer crashed, but I had a response similar to my dads typed up. It actually started out with “I would stay bitter and angry, it feels good.” I realize I won’t be believed, but that is the truth.

Jeremy, you just jumped to the point where knowledge meets actions. Knowledge is much easier to display and few can argue with it.

Comment by Wyn

I would opt for a. realizing that the response of Sue isn’t nearly as important as the opportunity I would now have to be the hands and feet of Christ. Reaching out to Sue in love during such a tragedy by no means seals the reconciliation process – it may not even begin it. But it will be one less hurt that a mangled relationship will need to recover from. Sometimes it’s easy for the focus of restoration to become too much about the response of the other person and not enough about my responsibility to be Christ like, even when I’m hurt or rejected.

It’s here, I think, where the elder’s wisdom could be put to very practical use……Love covers a multitude of sin…….. Let the love of Christ ‘cover’ the sin so you can do just the NEXT right thing – and trust God for the outcome. The journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step……so does the restoration ‘journey’!

Comment by Kim

A few of my meandering thoughts. The submit button below feels so permanent and official.

It’s so hard when disagreements come to roost. I’m living in one right now. Communication is strained, others have poked their heads in with opinions, and resolution is (from my limited perspective) way off down the road. But one needs to gently push forward.

In a perfect world – we make many attempts and have many conversations that move us towards reconciliation. Tragedy fast forwards the process.

Tragedy is one of God’s ways of teaching us, moving us, reminding us of what is important. The writer of Ecclesiastes in chapter 7 says that it’s better to go to a house of mourning than it is to go to a dinner party (my translation). Trouble and trials should move us to the center of God’s perspective: relationships are important and truth is important. Truth trumps relationships, and relationships best function (sooner or later) in the context of truth. I say sooner or later because often times doing the right thing is ugly and painful, and feels like the wrong thing. Biblical confrontation sometimes yields immediate fruit, and sometimes it’s like waiting for a Granny Smith after planting an apple seed.

In many settings a tragedy affords the opportunity to move toward reconciliation, but we should pursue reconciliation and truth telling at all times. Not that we get there fast, but that we are on the right road. So many people want things fixed fast, but relationships are not fast food hamburgers.

I choose option A with the hopes that hugs and love (not minimizing the truth) yields a harvest of overflowing grace at some point in time.

Comment by Andrew Ford

Great thoughts from all of you. Andrew. . . why don’t you come be on our staff over here? Of course, you would need to relocate your in-laws too.

Comment by cdbrauns

“A” What a great opportunity God has given Bev to show compassion and extend grace to Sue. This could be the start of a renewed relationship, that otherwise may have never been restored, just by Bev putting aside pride and showing Christ likeness.

Comment by Nita

I see A. as the only option. Even if the relationship is never really healed Bev will have expressed her real feelings of sorrow and love. I know of several situations with similiar dynamics and in the cases where there was no love and sorrow expressed it left bitterness and hurt forever. It would even give Sue the opportunity (although faulty) to say to herself that Bev had not been a true friend to her since she didn’t care enough to come to her at such a time. It would help her justify not asking Bev to forgive her sins against her.

Comment by Mom

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