Thursday, March 6, 2014

Learning How to Forgive

The words "forgiving" and "forgetting" were the focus of an article in a Pastoral Bulletin recently, using the example of a woman who, after the marriage of her children and living alone, began to feel depressed. This caused enough of a problem for her to seek professional help.

She remembered the beatings she had received as a child at the hands of her stepfather. And with counseling, she was able to bring this period back to her memory and felt prepared to resolve it.

She asked herself if her remembering was a way for her to reflect on the beatings, to get angry. lose her peace of mind, and not to forgive. Or was it a way for her to open to the grace of God, find the strength to forgive and find peace? This was the decision she had to make, and not an easy decision. Though the person who caused the problem was dead, the point of the story was to stop being a victim and look forward to the future with a healthy, positive  attitude.

There are, of course, many who make matters worse by the way they handle such problems. They continue to deepen their pent up feelings of anger, which further damages their personality. Even when one forgets the past hurts, the pent up feelings that remain have to be dealt with. Otherwise, we will hurt others and continually have need for repentance.

To get rid of these feelings is to look deeply into ourselves and realize the damage they are doing to us. The goal is not to forget the event but the hurt that surrounds the event, and this is done by forgiving. Many find the forgetting difficult and the forgiving impossible. Forgiving is the crucial decision, an act of the will which is motivated by our decision to love.

A proverb from England says we are all in the same boat and suffering from seasickness. We are inflicting our emotional scars on others and receiving them back from them. There is no need to overlook the hurt we have felt but to look for the motives that caused the harm.  A person trying to live the Christian life fully, when faced with these difficulties would look at the cross, at the one who suffered much though having no guilt of his own. His response was to ask God to forgive those who were killing him, for they did not know what they were doing. 

Jesus understood their lack of knowledge, their limited sight, their damaged personalities. And understood also that the hurt they had received in the past was showing itself. He understood all these things. If we also try to understand the other, the pain we feel will be lightened in the some way. This can be done by looking at the cross, and bringing these things to mind. We will be doing this often during Lent.

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