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Forgiving Ourselves and Others

All of us are so imperfect and for us to always maintain contact and for our love to grow in the family or at work, we must endlessly forgive. Mother Teresa said:

“We know that if we really want to love we must learn how to forgive. (“A Gift for God”, 42)

Whatever our religion, we know that if we really want to love, we must learn to forgive before anything else.” (One heart full of love, 113) 

“Every human being comes from God. We all know what is the love of God for us. Whatever we believe, we know that if we really want to love, we must learn to forgive. We must radiate God’s love.” (The Joy in Loving, 23 May)

We know that if we really want to love, we must learn to forgive. Forgive and ask to be forgiven, excuse rather than accuse. Reconciliation begins first, not with others but ourselves. It starts with having a clean heart within. A clean heart is able to see God in others. We must radiate God’s love.” (The Joy in Loving, 4 March)

“We must make our homes centers of compassion and forgive endlessly.” (“A Gift for God”, 18)

 

     We need to forgive and to be forgiven every day. Yet why don’t we forgive readily? Because before we forgive we want to hear from the other person that we were right after all. Then we want to hear apology after apology. We also want to hear excuses as to why he has said or done such a thing to us. Finally, we want to be praised for being a forgiving person. For these very reasons we are reluctant to ask for forgiveness from others for fear that such demands will be asked from us. But there is no such demand from God. All God asks of us is that we rise up and return to Him and He forgives us as shown in the parable of the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). God’s forgiveness is unconditional. It is this divine forgiveness that we are asked to practice in our daily life. It challenges us to step over our hurt and resentment and to forgive “seventy times seven” times. When we are able to forgive we will no longer be under the clutches of our demons of anger, pride and resentment. The more we feel the forgiving love of God, the more likely we will be able to forgive. We must really know that we are forgiven, for it is more likely that a forgiven person forgives. Unless we fully believe that we are forgiven by God and we have forgiven ourselves, it would be extremely difficult for us to forgive others. As Henri J. M. Nouwen said:

     “This morning I meditated on God’s eagerness to forgive me, revealed in the words of the One Hundred Third Psalm: ‘As far as the East is from the West, so far does God remove my sin.’ In the midst of all my distractions, I was touched by God’s desire to forgive me again and again. If I return to God with a repentant heart after I have sinned, God is always there to embrace me and let me start afresh. ‘The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.’

     It is hard for me to forgive someone who has really offended me, especially when it happens more than once. I begin to doubt the sincerity of the one who asks forgiveness for a second, third, or fourth time. But God does not keep count. God just waits for our return, without resentment or desire for revenge. God wants us home. ‘The love of the Lord is everlasting.’

Maybe the reason it seems hard for me to forgive others is that I do not fully believe that I am a forgiven person. If I could fully accept the truth that I am forgiven and do not have to live in guilt or shame, I would really be free. By not forgiving, I chain myself to a desire to get even, thereby losing my freedom. A forgiven person forgives. This is what we proclaim when we pray, ‘and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.’

     This lifelong struggle lies at the heart of the Christian life.” (The Road to Daybreak, Nov 11, 1985)

    

Mother Teresa advises us how to go about asking for forgiveness from God: “If we have sinned or made a mistake, let us go to Him and say, ‘I’m sorry! I repent.’ God is a forgiving Father. His mercy is greater than our sins. He will forgive us. This is humility: to have the courage to accept such humiliation and receive God’s forgiveness.” (A Life for God, 169)

“The other day, a man, a journalist, asked me a strange question He asked me, ‘Even you, do you have to go to confession?’

I said, ‘Yes, I go to confession every week.’

And he said, ‘Then God must be very demanding if you all have to go to confession.’

And I said, ‘Your own child sometimes does something wrong. What happens when your child comes to you and says, ‘Daddy, I’m sorry’? What do you do? You put both of your arms around your child and kiss him. Why? Because that’s your way of telling him that you love him. God does the same thing. He loves you tenderly.

Even when we sin or make a mistake, let’s allow that to help us grow closer to God. Let’s tell Him humbly, ‘I know I shouldn’t have done this, but even this failure I offer to You.’” (A Life for God, 168)

 

What, then, does it mean to forgive others? To forgive means I choose:

·        not to harden my heart

·        not to harbor grudges

·        not to hold resentment

·        not to get even

·        not to be bitter

·        not to wish him harm

·        not to remember the hurt

·        not to plot revenge

·        not to record the wrong

·        not to hit back

·        not to get even

·        not to punish

·        not to be mean

·        not to be vindictive

·        not to collect the debts

·        not to recount the hurt

·        not to speak ill

·        not to gossip about him

·        to cancel the debts

·        to excuse the fault

·        to absolve from payment

·        to pardon

·        to bestow favor unconditionally  

·        to love  

 

       Incidentally, when God forgives us, He makes a very important promise to us that we must also make when we forgive others. God says, “I will forgive their sins and will no longer remember their wrongs.” (Hebrews 8:12 TEV) “I will not remember their sins and evil deeds any longer.” (Hebrews 10:17 TEV) We are to follow God’s example when we forgive “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”(Hebrews 8:12 NKJV) “God did not keep an account of their sins” (2 Corinthians 5:19 TEV) "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.”(Isaiah 43:25 NKJV) “I will forgive their sins and I will no longer remember their wrongs. I, the LORD, have spoken.” (Jeremiah 31:34 TEV) When God forgives He does not keep count. He does not keep a record of our sins. He chooses not to remember our sins. He lets us start afresh. Similarly, when we forgive others, we must consciously choose not to remember all the past hurt and wrongs they have done to us. But, most of us find this extremely difficult to put into practice. Why? because our human nature is such that we tend to recount the hurt every now and again and thus reinforced the hurt and the painful memory.

     So, the practical way to forgive others is to deliberately choose:

1)     not to dwell and brood in our mind the wrongs he has done to us as that would be recording

2)     not to recount again and again his past faults to him as that would be bashing him

3)     not to mention his wrongs to anyone else as that would be gossiping

 

  In effect, to forgive actually means:

·        To forgo-----revenge, resentment, being judgmental.

·        To forbear---to bear, to endure the pain. “Love bears all things . . .endures all things.”(1 Corinthians 13:7 NKJV)

·        To forgive---asking God to help, “In the name of Jesus Christ, you   are forgiven”

·        To forget----not to recall to ourselves, not to remind him and not to repeat to others.

 

However, it is not easy to forgive, as it is so alien to our human nature. Forgiveness is not natural. So all of us need to repent and pray for the grace to forgive, as Henri Nouwen said:

“We are all wounded people. Who wounds us? Often those whom we love and those who love us. When we feel rejected, abandoned, abused, manipulated or violated, it is mostly by people very close to us: our parents, our friends, our spouses, our lovers, our children, our neighbours, our teachers, our pastors. Those who love us wound us too. That’s the tragedy of our lives. This is what makes forgiveness from the heart so difficult. It is precisely our hearts that are wounded. We cry out, ‘You, who I expected to be there for me, you have abandoned me. How can I ever forgive you for that?’

Forgiveness often seems impossible, but nothing is impossible for God. The God who lives within us will give us the grace to go beyond our wounded selves and say, ‘In the Name of God you are forgiven.’ Let’s pray for that grace.” (Bread for the Journey, Jan 28)

“One of the hardest things to do in life is to let go of old hurts. We often say, or at least think, ‘What you did to me and my family, my ancestors, or my friends I cannot forget or forgive. . . One day you will have to pay for it.’ Sometimes our memories are decades, even centuries, old and asking for revenge.

     Holding people’s faults against them often creates an impenetrable wall. But listen to Paul, ‘For anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old order is gone and a new being is there to see. It is all God’s work’ (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). Indeed, we cannot let go of old hurts, but God can. Paul says, ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not holding anyone’s faults against them’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). It is God’s work, but we are God’s ministers, because the God who reconciled the world to God entrusted to us ‘the message of reconciliation’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). This message calls us to let go of old hurts in the Name of God. This is the message our world most needs to hear.” (“Bread for the Journey”, Dec 30)

 

Remember, Jesus reminds us that, “if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.” (Matthew 6:15 TEV) In the parable of the unforgiving servant, Jesus reminded us that the master turned over the unforgiving servant to the jailers to be tortured: “That is how My Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35 TEV)Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37 NJB) In the Lord’s Prayer we are told to pray thus: “Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.” (Matthews 6:12 TEV) St Paul says, “You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you.”(Colossians 3:13 TEV) Jesus reminded Peter the numbers of times he has to forgive his brother, “’Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ answered Jesus, ‘but seventy times seven’” (Matthew 18:21-22 TEV). In another word, forgive endlessly.

 

One practical way of forgiving is to pray for the one who hurts us, who causes us pain, frustration or even harm. Jesus tells us to:pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28 TEV), “pray for those who treat you badly” (Luke 6:26 NJB), “pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luke 6:28 NKJV). “I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 NJB). When we pray for people, we want the best for them. When we really and truly pray, continually, for the grace to forgive our family members and others, we will slowly discover that we can no longer remain angry with them. It is impossible to lift our family members and others up in the presence of God and at the same time continue to be angry with them. Jesus promises, “And if you have faith, everything you ask for in prayer you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22 NJB)

So, every day, we are all challenged and called to be like saints for one another in forgiving ourselves and others.

 

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