Forgiveness

I remember reading somewhere that forgiveness is opening the door to the prison cell to set the prisoner free, only to discover that it was you locked inside all along. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

Note that I did not say that forgiveness is an easy thing. It is not. People you love have and will hurt you deeply, so much that you feel like your wounds will never heal.

Still the choice to forgive is the best one. Forgiveness releases that person’s hold over you and releases you from the slow death of bitterness and anger. Forgiveness means relinquishing the right to expect the person to ever make it right and realizing that only God can truly ever make it right.

I choose to forgive because I know I need it. When I was most in need of forgiveness and least deserving of it, I received it in abundance, more than I ever dreamed possible. Jesus didn’t forgive me in a miserly way, but prodigally and scandalously.

I’m called to forgive others the way Jesus forgave me. In the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, it says “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” That says to me that God will forgive us as much or little as we forgive others.

I know that forgiveness is hard. Humanly speaking, it’s impossible. “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” In other words, true forgiveness only comes from the heart of God. I don’t have it in myself. I can only ask God to open and enlarge my heart to receive God’s forgiveness. Then, as if pouring the ocean into a thimble, that forgiveness flows out and spills on to every person near me.

So, I choose by the power of the risen Christ and with the forgiveness I myself have received to forgive others. I choose not to be a victim or to be bound to my pain, carrying it around like a twisted trophy or adornment. I choose to be free and to set the other person free to receive forgiveness.

I love how Henri Nouwen speaks of forgiveness: “Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.” (Henri Nouwen)