fr forgive them

The title has a catchy ring to it. But, what does it actually mean? To understand that phrase, we have to take a look at forgiveness. What is it? How does it happen? Why does it happen? Each of these questions we will investigate. Maybe by the end of this brief discussion, we might have a better understanding not only of forgiveness, but its relationship to mercy and love.

Simplistically, forgiveness can be defined as letting go of the wrongs done to us by others. Questions arising from that one, simple statement:
1) What does letting go actually mean?
2) How severe are those wrongs?
3) Do we just forget that they ever happened?

I believe the list could go way beyond these three questions. But they will be sufficient for our purposes.

#1) Letting go. To experience a wrong, and be hurt by it, is one thing, but to let go of it, altogether, is to live as if it never happened. No condemnation is aimed at the other. No ill feelings towards the other. No remembrance of the hurt that we felt. If we could let go like that, we would be well on our way to forgiveness. Can we do that? Do we do that? Is it even possible to do that? We will come back to these thoughts momentarily.

#2) Severity. Minor things that bother us might easily be forgotten. But at what point does the severity of the action, itself, prove to be a major obstacle? Can we really overlook the hurting of our child? The killing of a loved one? Surely there is a limit to what is forgiven. We will come back to these thoughts again.

#3) Forget they happened. How many times do we have a disagreement with someone, and then “mend the fences” so to speak? Ostensibly, we treat them as if nothing had happened. But, down deep, the hurt, the anger, the feeling of betrayal is still there. And, it keeps reminding us of the incident, of the other person’s shallowness, betrayal. Every time we see the person…we remember. We will come back to all of these very shortly.

Is it possible to let go of a wrong against us? How could we overlook severe hurts and losses? Can we really wipe away something totally from our memory, so that we never think of them again? The answer to all of these is an unqualified “YES”. The answer to all of these is found in “JESUS”. He has forgiven all of us, of everything we have done, regardless of the ugliness. He has forgiven us, so completely, that He does not remember them. See “Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque…”

“But this is Jesus”, you say? “Surely, we can’t be expected to act that way”. Does He not tell us to be Him? From the cross, this dying Man urges His Father to forgive us. He excuses us, saying, “…they don’t know what they are doing.” Does He not urge us to follow Him? “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. These are not pretty nosegays. They are not strewn around to pretty up the place. Jesus’ hand is extended to each of us. He waits for us to take hold and walk with Him. Think about it! If we have been forgiven so freely, so totally, of all of our harshness and doubts, our murky thoughts, our desires, our pride, our ill will towards others, can we not at least try to do likewise?

Once we totally forgive someone, once we recognize that they, like ourselves, are struggling, and, like ourselves, also don’t know what they are doing either, we can sympathize and understand them. But, if we set ourselves up as someone who is owed something, who is totally lovable, who is never wrong, then we prevent ourselves from . . . forgiving. Moreover, with that outlook we feel that others “think” they are owed something; “think” they are totally lovable; and “think” that they are never wrong. Under this false impression we withhold our forgiveness to other people. We must truly understand our need for forgiveness, before we can forgive others. And, everyone we meet is in need of . . . forgiveness. Thankfully, Jesus has already forgiven us.

Now we are free to look at people passing by, not as obstacles, not as persons vying for something that we want, but as people sharing life together, sharing hardships together, tripping, falling and getting up all over again. As Jesus extends His hand to us, we realize that we too need to extend our hand to our fellow man. Help them get up. Help them over their difficulties. Let them lean on us for a while. Forgiveness holds the key to Mercy and Love.