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Those in the autism community are not exempt from the biblical command to forgive those who offend them. This includes parents of children on the autistic spectrum and those who are on the autistic spectrum themselves.

Peter asked Jesus how many times should I forgive my brother who sins against me? Seven times? Jesus answered, No, seventy times seven.  (Matthew 18:21-22) 490 is a concrete number, but the implication is that we should forgive those who offend us.

Why? Don’t they deserve our condemnation? Don’t those who judge us, deserve to be judged? Don’t we have a right to our grudges? After all, “they” shouldn’t have said what they said or done what they did.

The problem is that, as someone has accurately noted, “Bitterness is taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Our anger and our grudges cost us far more than the ignorance of some, and even the refusal to understand from others.

Frankly, holding others accountable to my hurt and pain is incredibly draining. I don’t have enough energy to keep a grudge, but I will admit to you that I have done it.

When Mary was a young child, we kept asking our pediatrician if there was a reason that we could not get her potty trained, if there was a reason that no one could understand her, if there was a reason that she fell down frequently. When she was tested for young fives kindergarten, she was found to be at 2.5 years of development at the age of five. I asked our pediatrician why he had not told us that she had very significant developmental delays in the face of direct and frequent questioning. He said to me that he did not believe in early intervention. For years, I held a grudge against him. Every time I thought of that offense, fury would rise up within me. My voice shook when I would relate this story to others.

Finally, I realized this grudge was poisoning my soul. I began the process of forgiving him. Forgiveness did not immediately release me from the chains of this grudge. Instead, I decided that every time I thought of it, I would forgive him. Each time. The power of that grudge slowly lost its power over me.

I have seen a lot of lists which begin, “5/10/15/20 things never to say to an parents of children with disabilities, single women, pregnant women, senior citizens, etc.” These lists frequently indicate in advance the traps which the writer has set for those who interact with them. Then people unwittingly stumble into them, triggering the wrath of the list keeper.

Wouldn’t it be better to decide in advance that we will forgive them?

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

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