Forgiving: a work in progress

Today’s thoughts were occasioned by a Mass for the school children of St. Francis of Assisi School in Triangle, VA

Forgive us our sins as we forgive others” – that’s what it says in the Gospel. Those are the words of the Lord’s prayer, also called the “Our Father.”  In the first reading St. Paul says, “Forgive anyone who does you wrong just as Christ has forgiven you.” Let’s review… Christ has forgiven us and so we forgive others… pretty straight forward … this should be easy!

So… if someone asks you to forgive them, how do you forgive them?

But wait… What do you say if you think the person is only apologizing because they’ll be in trouble if they don’t – that they might be grounded or not be able to go online for games or chat? Are they really asking for forgiveness? Does that even count? Do they have to feel really sorry before you can forgive? Lots of “what ifs” – what are you supposed to do?

While you are figuring that out, they come and apologize. What do you say then? Do you just say “OK” or “Don’t worry about”?

Can you say “No?”

What are we supposed to do?

…and what is forgiveness anyway.

That’s a complicated question, but here is as short an answer as I can give: to let go of resentment, and grant relief to an offender. Did you notice, all the really hard work is on you.

We forgive them because we are Christian, and we are called to forgive. But are we really at peace with our response?

Here are somethings to think about.

Forgiveness isn’t pretending that an offense didn’t hurt us, perhaps to the core. What if they said some really bad gossip about you, things that were untrue and now everyone is talking about you behind your back. There are all kinds of things that are hurtful. We should not brush it off as though it does not matter. Wounds hurt and we don’t forget – the memory will come back … but will it return in a resentful way?

And even it comes back with some resentment, can you be Charitable to the other, regardless of how you feel?

But what if you don’t feel like forgiving?  Forgiveness has no shortcuts.  Maybe it was minor thing and them saying “Sorry” is all that is needed. Lots of time, having a friendship restored takes time. Learning to remember the good things about the person takes some effort when the one thing they have done was so hurtful. Don’t confuse how you feel at a particular moment with the way of forgiveness.

Can you say “no?” That is an interesting one. The hurt might be too much, too recent. Is there any sense in saying “Ok, no problem” when what you really want to is hurt them in return?  May be better response is: “No, I am not ready right now, but I will be.”

And finally, real forgiveness is not quick and easy.  Its more about working on you and your stuff than fixing the other person.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive others

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