What is forgiveness?
Happy Holy Thursday Ladies!
As Lent comes to a close, we enter into the most monumental moment of our faith, the Holy Triduum of Christ’s Passion and Death, leading up to his Resurrection on the third day. Our final virtue could not be more fitting for this time.
I want to start with a beautiful quote by St. John Paul 2 who described forgiveness as “a personal choice, a decision of the heart to go against the natural instinct to pay back evil with evil.”
Now, many of us may think that this may seem impossible to do at times, especially within our own strength.
Let us take a look at what forgiveness is first and foremost. Many times we think forgiveness is just forgetting someone’s wrongdoing, or that by forgiving someone we are simply allowing them to keep doing it again because all we are doing is excusing their act. RED FLAG HERE LADIES! That could not be further from the truth!
The best definition I heard was from a book called “The Book of Forgiving” by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu, where they described forgiveness as releasing our hold of responsibility over the other person of their debt.
What does this mean?
In simple terms, we no longer hold onto that debt that they owe over their heads. If you think about it, who is the person carrying the weight in this scenario? We are! We are the ones holding that weight of a debt a person owes, and many times we don’t want to let it go because in our eyes it is never satisfied.
This does not mean that we approve of their action, or that we forget what happened, or that we no longer feel the hurt of the consequences of their action. Those are still very real feelings and should be acknowledged. When we forgive, we make a choice to let go of our hold on the other person, but we can also make a choice as to whether we want to restore our relationship with them or if it’s time to release that relationship with them.
St. Augustine puts this so bluntly and simply, “to withhold forgiveness is to take poison and expect the [other] person to die.”
Think about Christ on the cross. He died for our sins, a debt that was so great that we were unable in our human capability to pay it. Through His death He released us from owing that debt, but that does not mean that we don’t still feel the consequences of what that original sin caused, and what our daily sins cause. This is what Christ calls us to do to one another everyday, to “forgive those who trespass against us.”
As we reflect these next days on Christ’s Passion, I want you to invite the Holy Spirit to bring to your attention someone in your life that you struggle to forgive. Pray for that grace. Yes forgiveness is a personal choice, but it is a choice to receive the GRACE needed to forgive. The Catechism reminds us how “The first movement of [prayer] is asking forgiveness…” (CCC 2631). Make the choice to release any weight of unforgiveness that you still hold in your heart.
Come Holy Spirit, teach us how to forgive.
Walking Together, Sandra