Forgive. It’s a very big word. Perhaps one of the biggest in any language spoken. I, of course, am not talking about the number of letters in it, but the meaning behind it.
I thought about forgiveness a lot last Thursday, September 11, and I almost wrote this blog on that notable day. But I had to think about it all and I came to the conclusion that it would make an appropriate Sunday Scripture blog, so here it is.
For many, the motto of September 11 is “Never Forget.” That’s a given, but what about “Never Forgive?” My knee jerk reply is “no.” “No way.” The day was too monumental, the actions too horrific, and the pain too immense.
In day to day living however, we are called to forgive. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” is what Jesus himself taught us to pray. We are reminded to forgive others because we all need forgiveness ourselves. How can we receive something we are not willing to give?
It is so very hard sometimes though, right? Forgiving someone who has betrayed you, lied to you, cheated you, or hurt you in any way is downright nearly impossible. The heart hurts and the head remembers. Asking for forgiveness is one thing, but forgiving someone else is another. But, to love is to forgive. Forgiving can also prove very freeing.
“To worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish, senseless thing to do.” Job 5:2
On the other hand, holding onto resentments can be paralyzing, counterproductive, and self-destructive. That’s when we need to turn not only to the person we are feeling resentful towards, but to God. It’s at those times, when we feel the most hurt and the most vulnerable, that we should ask God for healing. We need to ask Him to help us make peace with our anger, our hurt, and our broken spirit.
I am a very emotional and sensitive person. My feelings are hurt very easily and I often take things way too personally. When I’m hurt by someone, I’m hurt bad and have a hard time getting over it. I’m getting better and better at thinking “it’s not as bad as you think it is” but saying that and believing that wrestle in my head. Sometimes I just have to say “so what” and get on with life.
I also like to remember that I can either let a hurt make me bitter or make me better and that holding onto resentment ultimately hurts me more than the other person. More than likely, he or she has moved on and so must I. It’s the healthy thing to do and it’s the right thing to do, even if I haven’t received the apology I was hoping and waiting for.
Forgiving doesn’t have to mean minimizing the seriousness of the offense. That’s the problem many of us, including me, have with forgiving. We think that by forgiving, we are justifying the hurt. That is not the case. Don’t ever say it doesn’t matter when it does and don’t ever let someone keep hurting you again and again. Forgiving someone also doesn’t necessarily mean a relationship reverts to its original state. It just means you are bigger than the hurt caused you. Being forgiving and being tolerant are two different things. Forgiveness is something you can do privately and not involve the other person. Reconciliation, however, takes two. Both sides need to be open to apologizing and open to forgiving.
“Apologizing doesn’t always mean you are wrong and the other person is right. It just means you value your relationship more than your ego.”
Apologizing. Yet another big word and one whose meaning we long to avoid for life. Don’t fool yourself though. You will need to apologize many, many times so you might as well do it right. Never ruin an apology with any type of excuse. “I’m sorry I lied, but…” just won’t cut it. Sincerely and honestly own up to your mistakes and transgressions. Whoever you’re apologizing to will see right through any transferring of blame and disingenuousness. If you don’t mean it and have no plans to make true and effort-filled amends, don’t say it at all.
When offering an apology, you must show genuine repentance, offer to make up for the hurt you’ve caused, and then work on rebuilding trust, which is sometimes as easy as forgiving. Once trust is lost, it’s difficult to get it back but, it’s not impossible.
“It is an insult to Go to think your sins are greater than His mercy,” Mother Angelica
If no sin is too big for even God to forgive upon reconciliation, we should all find a way to forgive others and even ourselves. As Pope Francis said, “we are all sinners. The problem isn’t being a sinner. The problem is not repenting of our sins. Not being ashamed of what we have done, that’s the problem. “
Shame. Another short yet very big word. We don’t like shame and we certainly don’t like to admit being ashamed of our actions. We also don’t like to ask for forgiveness for those actions. But, just like letting go of resentments is freeing, so is asking for forgiveness.
Forgiveness. Do it and ask for it. Others and God are waiting.