Wednesday, September 1, 2010
What does forgiveness really mean?
I've never really thought much about forgiveness. I don't have a problem asking for forgiveness and haven't ever really had a time where I couldn't give forgiveness. It wasn't really something that was a big deal to me.
Yet now we have come to a place where we're truly struggling to forgive someone. And it's not pretty. It's knowing in your head that it has to be done, but only being able to pray for the desire to want to forgive, before even being able to ask for assistance in actually forgiving.
Last night we were discussing this situation and my husband asked "What does forgiveness even mean?" And I was stunned to realize I didn't have an answer.
To another person involved in this situation, forgiveness seems to mean saying "I love you and I'll support whatever choice you make." But when an action is objectively wrong, it's not really loving to say that it's okay. Of course the person should be forgiven for it, but I don't think forgiveness necessarily entails confirming bad choices.
At least that's the message we got when we were flipping through the mass book on Sunday and the passages from the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time for next year jumped off the page at us. Ezekiel 33:7-9 "[When] you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood" and Matthew 18:15-20 "If a brother sins against you, go and show him his fault... If he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan."
I might be conflating loving in truth and forgiving, but right now they're kind of all meshed together around here.
And then of course there's the plank in my own eye.
My husband pointed out that there's a reason that you have to go to confession, to actually be sorry and ask for forgiveness and not just leave it at that but make some sort of reparation. But we're not priests administering the Sacrament of Reconciliation here; we're just laypeople desiring reconciliation.
The question remained: What does forgiveness really mean?
I turned to the catechism for help, only to discover that "Forgiveness" was nowhere in the index. I opened my Bible, but while I knew of all kinds of passages about how important it is to forgive (Matthew 18:21-35 and Ephesians 4:32, for two examples among many), I still didn't have a good response for how to go actually about that.
What does it mean to forgive someone?
At this point, I do actually believe I've forgiven this person. For a while I struggled to know whether I actually had or only thought I had (if that makes any sense), but what made me sure of it was that this previous situation no longer makes me really angry - it just makes me really sad. Yet my forgiveness is questioned because I can no longer act exactly as I had around this person. But that insinuates that forgiveness is nothing more than pretending something never happened, and that doesn't seem right either.
Okay, I'm not sure if I'm even making sense anymore, so I'm going to stop and just ask you all. What does forgiveness mean to you? What does it entail? Have you ever had a difficult time in forgiving someone, and was there anything that made it easier?