Let’s be honest. Forgiving somebody who has hurt us may be the hardest thing we ever do. We may have suffered a serious offense, but often it is the daily grievances or misplaced words that are the sticking point in our hearts and minds. We can struggle for days, even years, with anger, confusion, sorrow, and bitterness after someone has wounded us, offended us, or betrayed our trust.
Jesus knows and understands. Jesus knows our struggle, so much that he entered into the pain of our wounds as He hung crucified on the Cross. Yet, He doesn’t want us to remain there in the darkness – He desires us to experience the glory of His Resurrection, where His wounds are transformed into marks of victory and our sins are redeemed into channels of grace. Jesus taught us to pray to the Father: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”
Forgiveness doesn’t mean being a doormat. It doesn’t mean justifying or ignoring an offense, excusing the offender of responsibility, or taking the blame upon ourselves. We need to acknowledge the wrong- doing and to live in accordance with our dignity in order to truly forgive the other.
Forgiveness is letting go. Forgiveness is choosing not to hold the offense against the one who has hurt us. It means letting go of resentment and revenge — not lowering ourselves to the level of retaliation, but rising to the level of merciful love, in imitation of the God who forgives us “seventy-times-seven times.”
Forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a decision. It is intentional and voluntary. Of course, “it is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense, [but if we give our hearts to the Holy Spirit], He can turn injury into compassion and purify the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.” (CCC 2803) Forgiveness may not take away the pain, but it will transform it. Every time the memory of the offense comes to our minds, and every time we choose to forgive, we become freer, more whole, and more like our Heavenly Father.
THE GOAL: The goal of forgiveness is that of restoring, or reconciling, man to God and to himself. The scar might still be there, but forgiveness gives freedom. We no longer let our hurts define our identity or the identity of those who have hurt us. To forgive another is a mercy to that person, but also to ourselves.
Originally printed in IMPRINT Magazine Spring 2015.