In my last blog, I addressed compassion. On the heels of compassion is forgiveness.
Meaning of Forgiveness
One of the Proto-Germanic meanings of the word forgiveness is “to release”.
In the New Testament, one of the Greek words for forgiveness is “apheimi.” It implies letting go, to release, to cancel a debt, to discharge, to liberate, to liberate. In Luke 7:47, Jesus says that the woman’s sins are forgiven. Apheimi is used in the sense of release, letting go, setting free. This Greek word is also used in 1John 1:9, “If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive (apheimi) our sins and cleanse us from every wrong doing” (NABR).
Jesus stresses the importance and necessity of forgiveness is various places in the Gospels such as Matthew 18:21-22. Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive another for sinning against him. Jesus’ response is seventy times seventy.
A Challenge and Process
The Lord exhorts us to forgive. It takes courage to forgive and also to ask for forgiveness.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong” (Mahatma Gandhi).
“Forgiveness is above all a personal choice, a decision of the heart to go against the natural instinct to pay back evil with evil” (Pope John Paul II).
I think of Pope St. John Paul II who practiced what he preached regarding forgiveness. He visited his assailant in prison and offered forgiveness.”
Forgiveness is not easy. The ability to forgive cannot be rushed. It is a process of healing and letting go of resentment and anger.
What Forgiveness is Not
• Have you heard the phrase” If you have really forgiven, you will forget the incident.” It is only natural for us to remember. But as we heal, the pain of resentment and anger diminishes and will not control our lives. The power of the hurt lessens.
• Forgiveness is not denying the hurt took place. It is recognizing the hurt and releasing it.
• Forgiveness is not letting the guilty “off the hook”
• Forgiveness is not a feeling. It is an intentional choice.
• Forgiveness is not excusing the behavior.
• When asking for forgiveness, it doesn’t mean the person will accept your apology.
Forgiveness does not have to be reciprocal to be real to you.
Sometimes it is harder for us for forgive ourselves than to forgive another. The challenge is to “let go” and “move on” and not let whatever we have done or failed to do control our lives.
Pray for forgiveness. Pray for the strength to forgive and be forgiven and allow God to work in you.
By Sister Marie Leonard, OSB