09-13-2020Gospel Meditation

What right do we have to limit the amount and degree of forgiveness we show to others when we are so desperately in need of it ourselves? In not wanting someone who hurt us to downplay or forget the gravity of their wrong, we cling to anger, resentment, and wrath as a way of maintaining control. It is a way to acknowledge and express our deep hurt. We fail to realize that in doing so we hold ourselves hostage to these destructive feelings and actually become mired in the bondage of sin. All we gain is further alienation from ourselves, others, and especially God. We are no longer free but tethered to all of this unresolved negativity. Don’t we really want to let it go? The fact is that we need to.

A good self-reflective posture will quickly show us that when the shoe is on the other foot and we are the ones in need of forgiveness, we desire it above anything else. This is especially true with our relationship with God. It is hypocritical to want one thing for ourselves and something else for another. Yet, many act in precisely this way.

Perhaps we think that in offering forgiveness, even for the most grievous of wrongs, somehow excuses the person of their wrong and makes it almost acceptable. This is what makes revenge, retaliation, and punishment so attractive. We see forgiveness as being an eraser that easily wipes away the offense without consequence. Or, we may believe that in offering forgiveness I must somehow forget the wrong and open myself as a victim of even greater possible hurts in the future. In fact, forgiving my sister or brother of their wrongful actions or attitudes involves none of this. It does not erase anything or position me vulnerably as a doormat to be walked on.

Forgiveness is an act of freedom that restores honest dialogue, shares true, and heartfelt feelings and acknowledges the consequences of an action. It admits that the wrong has caused a hurt that must be healed and squarely positions responsibility on the offender. The act of forgiveness recognizes our sinfulness and brokenness. It also admits that the most saintly among us is capable of doing very grave and deep harm to another person. It sees that we all can be victims of our passions and works in progress that deserve unlimited chances to get it right. With forgiveness, I release myself from the bonds of negativity and pursue a path of restoration, wholeness, and healing. I do not forget the wrong nor do I dismiss it. Sometimes, we have to stay far away from the one who hurt us. But we can still heal internally and be free.

For the one who wants to be forgiven and the one who needs offer forgiveness, the journey can be an adventure in learning what brought us to this place and what is needed to move forward. This is exactly how God treats us. Why would we not want to do the same for others?