Words of Hope: Proof is in the Pudding

When we ask forgiveness without change, we commit further harm. Teresa was an angry parent. Despite her best intentions, she often yelled at her kids, pushed them into their chairs, grabbed their faces in anger, and said mean things. After her rage binges, she would immediately feel shame and guilt. She would hold her boys and cry. She often asked forgiveness. A period of peacefulness would follow for a while, but then the indignation and disdain would emerge again. This cycle of rage, shame, forgiveness, and honeymoon left her boys feeling disconnected and bitter. Mother’s Day cards and essays on home life revealed the boys’ frustration with their mom’s cycle. The words on the card belied their real sentiments. They didn’t trust her when she asked forgiveness because they knew she would do it again in a day or two.

My Dad believed asking forgiveness without actual change is perhaps more damaging than not asking forgiveness at all. The words of forgiveness become hypocrisy and yet another thorn in a painful situation. Dad’s philosophy was that the longer we have failed to modify our behaviors when we have hurt others, the more consequences and outside accountability we need to help us change. It is not enough to ask forgiveness after a fit of rage only to do so again and again. Indeed, we cannot expect ourselves to be perfect and never make mistakes, but we should be improving not just in our own eyes but in the eyes of those we harmed. We cannot continue to remain the same. If we are indeed changing, those in a relationship with us will recognize it. If I think I am changing but my family does not, chances are I am blinding myself. One of my favorite Psalms says, “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.” My judgment of my behavior in relation to my children could be very different from what they feel my behavior is like. I need to change if I struggle with perfectionism and have built a relationship with my children based on criticism. I cannot rely solely on my evaluation of my behavior. I may believe I have been exceptionally patient and compassionate, but if my children believe I have been negative and critical, I need to submit to their evaluation.

Outside accountability and training must be sought diligently until the offensive behavior ceases. The harm to others, anger, self-righteousness, contempt, criticism, bitterness, pornography, addiction, and whatever offense continues to interfere with our loving relationships must be removed. Our loved ones must confirm our improvement.
Dad liked to use the old phrase; the proof is in the pudding. I asked him what it meant. He said it wasn’t enough to say you made an excellent pudding; the evidence was in the tasting and eating of the pudding itself. Same with change, it’s not enough to say I’ve changed to explain my change; the proof is in the lived reality of my change.

Words of Hope: Proof is in the Pudding – Matthew 3:8