The anguish in her voice broke my heart.

She had just confirmed her father's affair with another woman after months of speculation, separation and conversation.  Hers is a version of the same story I've heard before from others I love, and it stings my heart to listen again.

She asked me hard questions, the kind that don't really call for answers, the words that help you wrestle through Things That Ought Not Be.  Questions incensed with fiery righteous indignation and understandably so.

How could he do that to her?  How could he do that to us?  How could he…?  

I was angry for her, once again a witness to the fallout and consequence of someone else's selfish, self-serving choices.

It comes packaged in so many ways–

  • You learn your teenage daughter – a leader in her youth group and a missions trip veteran – has been sexually active at the same time you discover she's pregnant.
  • You find your spouse has been making risky financial decisions for years without your knowledge or input, destroying your credit and bringing you to bankruptcy's cliff.
  • Randomly deciding to use the car your son's been driving, you find cigarettes and a lighter tucked away in the side of the door…and you can't decide whether or not to be relieved that "at least" it's not what your neighbor found in her son's room–illegal drug paraphernalia. 
  • The friend you considered your best, your secret keeper, your kindred, curiously drops out of your life, becomes close to others, never explains why.
  • Your parents' marriage crumbles when your dad confesses his involvement with another woman, and his profession of love for her poisons your relationship.

No man is an island, no woman lives in a vacuum, and as much as we'd like to compartmentalize, our actions and decisions affect those around us…even if that's not our intention.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. ~ Colossians 3:12-15 (NASB)

There's a reason God commands us to love and forgive; if it were optional, I'm convinced we wouldn't.

But people make it so hard, don't they?  And in response, aren't we inclined to make our love and forgiveness conditional?

When your life is rattled or upside-downed by the decisions and actions of others, how are you supposed to move beyond the immediate offense, pain and betrayal?  Is that even possible?

I believe love and forgiveness are possible and even in every circumstance.

* * * * * *

But how can I make such a crazy assertion?  I hope you'll continue reading "When People You Love Make Choices You Hate" today at (in)courage…and find some encouragement as I wrestle through practicing what I profess (or offer your own perspective in comments).

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