Yesterday I sat reading the paper and I stumbled across a small article about Pope Francis’ advice for a long and happy marriage. I kind of skimmed over the article with a slight eye roll wondering how in the world an unmarried man could ever be someone whose advice about marriage I could take seriously. As you can probably tell I don’t put too much stock in someone (even a Pope) who has never been married and hasn’t ever experienced the day-to-day realities of married life. Let me go on to say I truly appreciate Pope Francis and all he has done for our Church, but I still question any never married person giving marital advice. So I flipped the page and started in on another article. But something kept niggling ant the back of my brain. I just had to check and see what he had to say.
I turned back to the article. And I was surprised by what I read. It’s how Stan and I have tried to be with one another, in our marriage. I’m not saying we’ve always done things perfectly. In fact we’ve both failed each other a number of times and in various ways. But what I am saying is that we’ve tried to live by the advice Pope Francis gave…
Please. Thank You. And I’m sorry. They’re basic manners. Human kindnesses. A way of validating one another to the world.
But who knew they were the key to a long and happy marriage? We teach our children these three sentences, but sometimes we, as married adults, don’t make sure to keep them at the forefront of marriage. Stan and I do. It’s the one thing we do often and with abandon. It’s one of the things we do well.
Not only do Stan and I say Please, Thank You and I’m sorry to each other. We make sure those three sentences are in our children’s vocabulary as well. All of our children know the importance of those three sentences.
But Pope Francis forgot one, and to me, it’s almost more important than those three.
I forgive you.
That one sentence is what life is all about. We all fail sometimes. We all stumble occasionally. We all screw up fantastically. But what sets some people, marriages and families apart is the ability to forgive.
When our kids were little and they were mean and nasty to one another, as siblings can sometimes be, we would always make sure an apology was given and forgiveness granted. Sometimes it took a while for forgiveness to be granted. We never forced any of the kids to accept an apology if they didn’t mean it. But they had to say, “I’m not ready to forgive you yet.” They had to figure out how to forgive and truly forgive.
I’ve even had them say to me, “Mom, I’m not ready to forgive you, yet,” on those occasions where I really hurt their feelings, their pride and their souls.
But in this house we have always granted forgiveness.
I’m kind of surprised Pope Francis forgot that one. It’s the basis of what he stands for. But that’s OK. We all screw up, even Popes. So I’ll forgive him and help to spread this one for him!
Oh, for the love of our children…
PS. Pope Francis really does have a handle on the whole forgiveness thing since he has declared this year to be the year of Mercy.