If you have been following my blog you have noticed that I talk a fair bit about forgiveness. It's because I'm really bad at it. Or, should I say, I'm really bad at the 'forgive and forget' attitude. I don't believe that bad things happen 'to help us grow' or because they are 'God's will'. Sometimes people decide to hurt others. Sometimes people just don't care about the consequences of their actions. Some people are, to put it politely, jerks. And in no way are some of their actions ok. Sometimes it is not a question of misunderstanding. Some actions are truly evil. God did not put them in our path. God does not condone them. We do not deserve them. But still, bad things happen to good people. Or, in my case, a mediocre person.
And yet, we are called to forgive. WHY??? It is not enough for me to hear 'forgive so you will be forgiven'. I simply don't like myself that much. There are a whole host of things I have not forgiven myself for. Nor do I believe that I should be forgiven. (No, nothing dire. Just for part of my life I was a bit of a bitch. I didn't want to be but looking back there is no other word to describe me.)
So if I'm not willing to change on my own account, why should I change at all?
Because I love Jesus. There you go - I have become a Jesus freak!
Let me explain the only way I can understand forgiveness. When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, he did NOT want to suffer and die. He really struggled with this one. But listen carefully: He did NOT say that his feelings and fear did not matter. He did NOT say that he 'deserved it'. Jesus did NOT squash his feelings, pretending that they were wrong or bad. Instead, he placed them in the hands of God. Jesus accepted torture and death because he asked God if it was truly His will. I wonder how many of us do that?
When Jesus died, he forgave his attackers. He was innocent. He knew he was innocent. And yet he went to his death like a lamb going to slaughter. He forgave them because "they know not what they do". Jesus took the time to discern God's will. In so doing he discovered that it is God's will that we should be more God-like. God is forgiving. We must be forgiving.
This was a total a-ha! moment for me. Instead of believing that my feelings don't matter, that I'm some sort of cosmic punching bag existing so that others could learn their lessons, I realize that God wants me to be more like Him!! What a difference!!
Forgiveness is a process. It's not an act of will. It begins with gratitude for the mercy God has shown me. With that gratitude comes the desire to live the life God wishes for me. And believe me, God has a lot more compassion towards me than I do for myself. So I spend time with God. If a situation really brings me down then I ask God if the situation needs to change or if I need to change. Probably both. Because really, even if I behave properly, my thoughts can be rather snarky. Again, not what God wants for me.
But how can I let go? A pries, Fr. William, taught this in a homily the other week. I call it the litany of forgiveness.
Think of the person/ situation that needs healing. Include yourself.
Speak the following words:
I have wronged you.
I love you.
Please forgive me.
Now I know it's hard when a certain person has intentionally hurt you or somebody that you love. They were wrong! It's also easy for me to let my anger for another affect my relationship with God. Yet I firmly believe true forgiveness is like relinquishing a rotten apple in order to enter a feast. We are called to be more like God.
There have been times these past few weeks when I've literally stopped what I was doing, bowed my head, and recited this litany in my heart. (My husband thinks I'm slightly nuts when I do this but he's used to me being slightly nuts.) And you know what? I feel better after saying it. I feel a tiny bit of healing. The warm feeling might last only a few moments but it's a few moments without bitterness. It also keeps my anger and feelings of inadequacy from spilling over to my husband and children. Mostly though, I feel loved when I say this. Yes, loved. Because I feel like I'm participating in something beautiful and divine.
May God Continue to Bless You!!