People with autism can fixate on their hurt feelings. But…so can we. Let’s face it, hurt feelings…hurt! The greater the pain, the greater the fixation. How can we help our children and ourselves to move from fixating to forgiveness?
The Chain that Entangles Us
It’s easy to say we must forgive. But how many of us have torn our hearts apart trying to find forgiveness like we tear our house apart when we’ve lost our keys. What if we can’t give it, because we can’t find it? Frustration, guilt and shame add to the anger and bitterness we already feel, like links in a chain. We feel trapped and get more angry and bitter. The chain gets longer and heavier.
As horrible as that feels to us, it’s even worse for people with autism. Just as they have physical sensory issues, I believe they have emotional sensory issues as well.
Emotional Sensory Issues
To understand this, think of what it’s like to have the tag on a shirt scratch and irritate your neck. Multiply that by ten – in some cases 100 – and that’s how it feels for someone with autism.
Now think about the intensity of your emotions surrounding an offense you suffered. Multiply that exponentially and try to imagine it. That is what people with autism feel. They react the way they do, because of the emotional chain that entangles them. Isn’t that why we react the way we do?
We know we must forgive…but, HOW?
What do we do when we lose our keys, have torn the house apart and still can’t find them? We try to remember where we saw them last and look for them there.
Forgiveness is not something we can drum up. If we’re looking for it as though it’s something we produce, we won’t find it, because it doesn’t come from us.
So, where did we last see forgiveness? Where is the only place we’ve ever seen forgiveness? At the cross.
Yeah, but I don’t need forgiveness – I was the one who was offended. It’s the offender that needs forgiveness.
Let’s look at the cross from a different perspective. Jesus was crucified between two thieves.
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”’ (Luke 23:39-43 NIV)
Have you ever thought about those thieves? They deserved their punishment, but only one of them knew it. Forgiveness was available to both, but only the one who knew he needed it received it.
Why didn’t the other thief know that he needed forgiveness? Could it be possible for him to not know he stole something? Could the same be possible of us?
Maybe he tried to steal God’s throne.
Jesus died to bring forgiveness to every person who has ever lived. Think about the person who hurt you. When we hang on to our hurt, anger and bitterness, what are we really saying? Aren’t we saying that we don’t want that person to be forgiven…that Jesus was wrong to bring him/her forgiveness? Aren’t we then judging God…and seating ourselves on His throne?
Could it be that one thief stole from people, knew it and received forgiveness? Could it be that the other thief was the offended…turned offender to steal from God…didn’t realize that’s what he was doing and refused forgiveness?
There are as many heart-wrenching stories of hurts as there are people in this world. However, the most heart-wrenching story of all time is Jesus’ story. He was truly innocent – never sinned once. Yet He willingly took the punishment of sinners who stole from people as well as those who stole from God. He made the amazing gift of forgiveness accessible to all; but many of those who stole from Him, turn their backs, rejecting Him and His costly gift.
From Fixation to Forgiveness
How can we help our children and ourselves to move from fixating to forgiveness? Let’s be willing to see our sin, turn our hearts again to our Savior and receive His forgiveness. Only when His forgiveness flows to us, can it begin to flow through us. Let’s be open about it with our children. Let’s tell them what we’re going through emotionally. As they see us tear down the dam that has forbidden forgiveness to flow in our lives, and see love, peace and joy return to us; they’ll be more likely to do the same.