Forgiveness, Key to Strong Relationships: Part 2 – Beware Perceived Transgressions

Forgiveness is a key to strong relationships and when dealing with forgiveness there is an area of what I call perceived transgressions.

All cultures and belief systems establish a set of codes, rules, and various forms of etiquette that provides structure. Quite often these are not written rules, but are usually adhered to and accepted, because they are the most effective way to keep the culture together and intact.

Building Strong Relationships:  Defining Perceived Transgressions

The word perceive means, the way we view or see things.  The word transgression means, to break a law. What I mean by perceived transgressions is the ability of people to perceive that some unwritten rule has been broken. This is most evident when we look at the structure of families.  To further explain, let me illustrate a prime example of perceived transgression.

strong relationshipsA remarkable story, sad but true

Speaking of strong relationships, I want to tell you a story about a 15-year-old boy whose mom asked him  if he wanted to spend a week with his uncle working around his yard. The boy immediately jumped on the chance and said: “I would love to go over to uncle Harry’s and help”.  His mom looked at him funny and said, “It’s not uncle Harry silly, it’s your uncle Roger”.

The boy responded, “whose uncle Roger?”

The mom looked at her son with surprise and said, You know Uncle Roger, He’s my brother silly”. The boy couldn’t say a word, because up to this point he didn’t even know his mom had a brother. He thought that this uncle must have lived in another state, because he didn’t ever remember meeting him.

To his surprise his mother told him that her brother lived only 40 miles away.  Later in his room, he thought about how strange it was to not have met his uncle even though he lived a short drive away.

The meeting

When mom dropped him off a few days later, he noticed that the greeting between his mom and her brother was almost like the meeting of strangers. After a few minutes of “polite talk” his mom suddenly says, “Well I have to get going, I want to get back before traffic gets too heavy”. The boy really didn’t give it much thought since he was only 15, and was more interested in his uncle’s strange house.

The house was basically a circular structure with a dome style roof. He had never been in a “round house” of this type and soon began exploring. The first thing he noticed was that there were no signs of a female presence. The house wasn’t exactly dirty or real messy, but it was obvious that his uncle’s place was a ‘bachelor pad’. After twenty minutes of exploring the only picture in the entire house was a picture next to the bar.

The limited disclosure

The picture was of his uncle and some unknown lady. When the boy asked his uncle who she was he said it was his ex-wife, and they divorced “some time ago”. Over the next few days, the boy discovered that his uncle had lived alone now for many years, even though he said he many strong relationships with many people. During the week they had a good time working out in the yard together, but the conversations never went to deep and the boy wondered just how many friends his uncle really had.

The only information disclosed was that the uncle had served in World War 2, had left home at a very young age, and lived alone most of his life. When the week was over the boy felt kind of sad leaving his uncle all alone, and wondered if they would ever meet again.

When his mother picked him up, he tried to ask her more about his uncle, but all she said was “Your uncle is a very private man”. As the boy thought more on the subject he realized that his uncle wasn’t a private man, but just a lonely man.A few months later after many subtle hints the mother finally opened up.

forgiveness - perceived transgressions strong relationshipsThe discovery

As it turned out, his mother, and her brother had a hard upbringing and had not built strong relationships with each other. They were brought up during the great depression, and their father died when she was five. His mother then went on to tell about wide-spread fear, anxiety and financial devastation during this time period. She told him of long food lines, and how sometimes all they had was an apple, and that had to be split three ways. If you don’t have any knowledge of this time period in American history, I urge you to spend some time reading about the events of this time period (1929 – 1940).

Somewhere in the mid-1930’s the mother couldn’t provide for her children, and decided to place them into another home (some type of foster care) for a short time. For some reason the brother was very angry about being placed in another home, because he felt that the family should stay together, no matter what.

It’s amazing how someone can believe that some unwritten rule is broken, and then hold it against them for the rest of their lives.


You see in Uncle Rogers’s eyes his mom basically abandoned the family unit, and by splitting them up had transgressed an unwritten rule. He perceived that his mother had transgressed by break unwritten rule by not keeping the family together even if it was only for a short time.

The conclusion

Apparently it was only for a short time, but the uncle stayed upset non-the-less. Over the next few years Roger became very angry, bitter, and distant during their stay at another families home. A few years later Roger had joined the military just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The boy’s mother then talked about how distant they had become, and that she had hardly seen her brother over the years even though after the war they lived close to each other. The boy was amazed that his mom had been estranged from her brother for what seemed to him an eternity, which was some 35 years at this point.

In the boy’s mind he could not understand what the problem was. His grandma only lived a few miles away from him while growing up, and he saw her quite often. He asked his mom if Uncle Roger had ever visited his mother since he joined the military. Her reply was, “oh yeah they visit each other every once in a while”.

He however could tell that his mother was really saying that they rarely visited each other and had not built strong relationships. Over the years the boy did try to keep in contact with his uncle, but it was pretty much a one-way attempt. Even to this day it is amazing that because the uncle could not forgive, the entire family had to suffer. The boy’s mom acted like it wasn’t a big deal that they didn’t see each other, but even at a young age he could tell that she was covering over the hurt by minimizing a situation.

Forgiveness, key to strong relaionshipsStrong Relationships and Lessons learned

In this story the boy never noticed any indication of bitterness or forgiveness from his mother. Her attitude was basically one of accepting her brother for who he was, and kept getting on with her life. She did make future attempts to reach out to him, but the uncle continued to live alone and died all alone way up in his mountain home.

For some reason the uncle never forgave his mother and in extension his sister over what happened some half century before.

I believe that we can never live life to the fullest, or find true peace and joy, until we learn to forgive others from past and current offenses. Webster’s Dictionary defines Forgiveness as: “Willing or able to forgive, and Allowing room for error or weakness”. Now I realize this is pretty simple, but forgiveness shouldn’t be that difficult especially if you want to build strong relationships with those around you.

Building Strong Relationships Conclusion

As you can see we need to allow room for error on others part, and not hold people to our own “rules” of behavior. To keep building strong relationships we must learn to walk in forgiveness, especially to those closest to our hearts.

Join us for the others in our series on Forgiveness:  The Key to Strong Relationships

Forgiveness, Key to Strong Relationships: Part 1

Forgiveness, Key to Strong Relationships: Part 2

Forgiveness, Key to Strong Relationships:  Part 3

Forgiveness, Key to Strong Relationships: Part 4



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