“Why should I forgive?”

A changed will divided my family for decades


3 min read
L. M., New Jersey

I always knew that when one of my parents died, I would be left a substantial amount of money. My parent told me about it and gave me the name of a lawyer who knew the details. Of course, as the years passed by, I would often forget this inheritance, but when I thought of it, I felt secure about my future needs and never worried at all about finances.

After decades, my parent died, and amidst the sorrow of the loss and all that goes along with the death of a parent, there was a small voice in the back of my head wondering, “Why hasn’t the lawyer gotten in touch with us?” My sibling, of course, was beginning to ask the same question as well.

I began to feel very uneasy; I had never been attached to money, but I began to sense that we might have to face a great injustice or even a dubious situation regarding the will. 

My sibling began to remind me of some distant relatives who often joked in a disparaging way about money and were at times highly insulting because they thought that my parent’s money partly belonged to them in repayment for services they had rendered, even though they had already been paid.

I contacted the lawyer, and he told me he would send me a copy of the will, although I had no right to any inheritance since the will had been changed! “What?” I thought, “Who changed it?”

This change caused a lot of mistrust, division and concern. It began to break the family apart, especially because of the variety of opinions about how to handle the situation. 

Eventually, we decided that unity in our family was the most important value, and with a heavy heart we agreed to drop the possible case of fraud in regard to the will, and the possibility of pressing charges against those relatives who most likely had a “finger in the pie.” 

Time passed, but in my soul, there remained that dark shadow caused by my unwillingness to forgive. After all, why should I forgive? Hadn’t I already done the right thing by choosing to maintain peace and letting go of my part of the inheritance?

Not long afterwards, we heard that the person who most likely was behind the fraud was very ill. I could not remain indifferent, and this time I had no doubt. I knew I had to forgive him and tell him about it. This was not easy, but I had to act.

I let my immediate family know about my plans. They wished me luck, but doubted that the other side of the family would talk to me.

I dialed the number, and luckily his wife answered the phone. She was clearly shocked and almost mute when I told her that I wanted to talk to her husband. She agreed and was holding the phone next to his ear.

I told him who I was, and he remained silent. I told him that I had heard that he was sick, that I was praying for him and hoped he would get better. Then I took courage and went on, “I wanted to tell you I have forgiven you.” 

With a whisper of a voice, he said, “Thank you!” 

In that moment, I realized that I was freed, and so was the person I called. Decades of disappointment and anger disappeared forever from my soul. Finally, I understood the words of Jesus about the importance of forgiveness, and I decided to never let a day go by without forgiving.

Join the conversation. Send your thoughts to the editor Jon Sweeney.